Every year, the MLB Rule 5 Draft brings a conclusion to the winter meetings, and often, the Yankees lose a couple of prospects to other clubs. This year was no exception, as the Yankees saw a handful of interesting talents selected by their rivals.
As a refresher, players who signed at age 18 or earlier and haven’t been added to their team’s 40-man roster within five years are vulnerable in the Rule 5 Draft, while players who signed at age 19 or later must be added to the 40-man within four years to be protected. Teams like the Yankees, who hold a fairly deep farm system but also a packed 40-man roster, are prime targets to lose prospects in the Rule 5. The catch, of course, is that any player selected in the draft must remain on the selecting team’s active roster all season, or else be returned to the original club.
The Red Sox picked right-handed pitcher Garret Whitlock with the fourth pick. The Yankees took the 24-year-old in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but his ascent through the system was curtailed by Tommy John surgery in 2019. Whitlock had impressed previously, posting a 1.86 ERA in 120.2 innings across three levels in 2018.
Shortstop Kyle Holder got popped 11th overall by the Phillies. Holder has been around seemingly forever, working six years in the Yankees’ system. Now 26, Holder last ran a .742 OPS with Double-A Trenton in 2019, but is regarded as one of the best defensive infielders in Minor League Baseball.
Cleveland selected right-handed pitcher Trevor Stephan 15th overall. Stephan was the Yankees’ third-round pick in 2017. The 25-year-old possesses good stuff and can run his fastball into the upper 90s, but was inconsistent in the minors with the Yankees. He put up a 4.73 ERA in 80 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2019.
The Yankees did select a pair of players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft: 26-year-old left-handed pitcher Matthew Krook of the Rays, who last had a 4.50 ERA in 50 innings with Double-A Montgomery in 2019, and 28-year-old right-hander Reggie McClain of the Phillies, who made five appearances for them in 2020.
Four Yankees minor leaguers were lost in this phase, though. The Rangers took right-hander Matthew Wivinis, the Red Sox selected right-hander Kaleb Ort, the Angels drafted catcher Gustavo Campero, and the Padres took left fielder Ben Ruta. Players not on the 38-man Triple-A roster are eligible to be taken in the Triple-A phase, and any player selected simply joins his new organization with no strings attached. Most players taken in this phase are not high-level prospects.