Infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph, outfielder Zoilo Almonte and pitchers David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell are all officially on New York's 40-man roster and ineligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft, which occurs next month at baseball's annual Winter Meetings.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on the list is Phelps, 25, who posted a 3.19 ERA in 18 starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. Ranked eighth on MLB.com's Top 10 Yankees prospects list, Phelps has done nothing but excel in four Minor League seasons, producing a career 2.61 ERA with nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks.
The Yankees also chose to protect Adams, 24, despite two consecutive injury-riddled seasons. When healthy, Adams has produced. He hit .370 in 29 games split between Class A Tampa and the Gulf Coast Yankees this season, and .309 in 39 games for Double-A Trenton last year.
Mitchell, 24, stands within spitting distance of the big leagues after producing a 13-9 record and 3.18 ERA in 28 appearances with Scranton in 2011. He could find his way to New York as a spot starter or long reliever as soon as next year.
Joseph, 23, submitted a strong-but-not-spectacular season for Trenton in 2011, hitting .284 with five home runs and 38 doubles. The lack of home run pop may ultimately keep Joseph from thriving in the big leagues, but the consistent gap power is encouraging.
Almonte, 22, enjoyed a bit of a breakout in 2011, hitting .293 with 12 home runs in half a season at Tampa. He should begin next season at Trenton, where he struggled following a midsummer promotion.
In protecting five players, the Yankees left few notables exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte and third baseman Brad Suttle lead the list of available players.
Major League regulations stipulate that any player who signed his first professional contract before age 19 and has been in the organization for five years, or who signed after age 19 and has been in the organization for four years, is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected.
If drafted, a player must remain on his new team's active roster or disabled list all season, or be offered back to his original club at a discounted price.