The annual Rule 5 draft that marks the end of the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings results in numerous players switching teams. The major league portion of the event generates most of the news, but teams also find a way to take advantage of the Triple-A phase to add talent to their organization. Last December, the Yankees added two pitchers to their organization through the Triple-a process, so let’s take a look at how they did in their first season and if they appear to have a future in the organization.
After seeing three players selected in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft and another taken in the early part of the Triple-A phase, the Yankees used their selection on left-handed pitcher Matt Krook. Coming from the Tampa Bay Rays, system Krook has been known as a talented performer dating back to 2013, when Baseball America ranked him as the 42nd-best prospect in that years draft class.
Drafted in the supplemental first round that year, Krook failed the team physical and was not signed. His name was brought up as an example over the summer when the Mets ran into a similar situation with their 2021 first round pick Kumar Rocker. After several years at the University of Oregon that included a Tommy John surgery, Krook was still well-regarded when he was selected in the fourth round by the San Francisco Giants in 2016.
Krook was traded to the Rays as part of the Evan Longoria deal in December 2017, and battled injuries during his first two seasons in the organization. Despite being ranked as the team’s 29th-best prospect at the end of 2019, Krook was not protected by the organization heading into the most recent Rule 5 draft.
The Yankees took the opportunity to bring Krook into their system, and he put up strong numbers at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. In 24 games, Krook threw a career-high 106 innings with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He was especially impressive down the stretch, as he pitched to a 0.55 ERA over his last 33 innings with 37 strikeouts. He also showed more control over that stretch, walking just 12 batters in those last six games after walking 5.09 BB/9 for the entire season.
KKKKKKꓘKKKKrook. Is. Dealing. pic.twitter.com/guVoljIYPQ— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) August 8, 2021
Krook’s 2019 Baseball America scouting report compares his fastball movement to that of Yankees reliever Zack Britton. Britton is known for his high groundball rate and Krook has the numbers to back up that assessment as he has never posted a rate below 60 percent including this past season. The scouting report continued to say that “if Krook can throw strikes consistently, he has closer-caliber stuff.” Krook turned 27-years-old this past week and could have positioned himself for a 40-man roster spot with the team.
Also selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft was right-handed pitcher Reggie McClain from the Phillies. He had previously pitched in 19 games for Seattle and the Phillies in 2019 and 2020. The Yankees took the opportunity to add McClain as part of their organizational depth. He performed well for Triple-A Scranton, tossing 55.1 innings with a 1.79 ERA.
McClain is not a power pitcher, but has consistently gotten by without a heavy strikeout rate. He will also be 29-years-old by the start of next season, making him older for a minor league player who has yet to carve out a niche in the major leagues. The Yankees had several opportunities during the season to call McClain up, as he was pitching well and the bullpen needed an arm, but they passed him over, so it’s unclear if they’ll ultimately have interest in using a roster spot on him.
Both players the Yankees selected in the 2020 Rule 5 draft performed well during their initial season with the team. Matt Krook improved dramatically down the stretch and could have punched his ticket to the Yankees roster, but is also not a slam dunk for that distinction. Reggie McClain was solid all season, producing great numbers out of the Triple-A Scranton bullpen, but did not appear to catch the Yankees’ attention for a big league promotion even when the team had a need. The Yankees added talent, but we will shortly find out if either improved their stock enough to be part of the team’s long-term plans.