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Yankees lose pair of relievers to 2022 Rule 5 Draft

Other MLB teams decided to take a flyer on two of the team’s pitchers, as well as a number of prospects in the minor-league portion.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The annual endcap to the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, where teams from around the league get to take a chance on some of the prospects blocked from advancing through other organizations. The Yankees routinely have a player or two taken in this process, and this year that trend held true.

Before we go over the draft itself, a quick reminder on how the whole thing works. Prospects signed when they are 18 years old or younger who have played five or more years without being added to their teams active 40-man roster are eligible to be selected, and players who are 19 or older when they became pros have four years of protection before they need to be added to the roster. If taken, teams have to roster the player for the entire season, or else the player is returned to the original club. Simple enough, right? Then let’s get into it.

Two Yankees were taken in the first run-through of the Rule 5 Draft, and the biggest prospect they lost here is 26-year-old Zach Greene, a pitcher for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. Greene served as a mainstay in the RailRiders’ bullpen, pitching 68.1 innings in 48 games with a 3.48 ERA and 96 strikeouts. The long ball was a problem for Greene this year, who served up 11 home runs to batters but otherwise was effective in shutting hitters down. 2022 was Greene’s first year in Triple-A, which is probably why the Yankees didn’t want to add him to the 40-man just yet, but he became an obvious Rule 5 candidate and he was not missed — the Mets took him with the 22nd pick.

Just before Greene’s selection a more curious move was made. With the 21st pick, the Cardinals snagged Wilking Rodríguez from the Yankees as well. Rodríguez hadn’t pitched with the Yankees organization this year, however, signing at the end of August as a potential depth move, and hasn’t pitched in minor league ball since the last time he was with the Yankees way back in 2015. He has instead been working on his craft in the independent leagues, most recently pitching for Dos Laredos in the Mexican League. For what it’s worth he was excellent there, throwing 44.2 innings of 2.01 ERA ball with 73 strikeouts, but considering how much time he spent in the organization I doubt the Yankees will be upset about this pick.

That concluded the major league portion of the draft, but there is also a minor league portion as well. This one was more active for the Yankees — they selected a player and lost another six during this section. The lone name that they added was Pablo Mujica from the Royals organization, a 21-year-old left-hander who has just two years of professional ball under his belt. Mujica pitched in the rookie league this year, throwing 31.2 innings with a 3.13 ERA and 44 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, there was a run on the Yankees’ lower pitching prospects. The Orioles claimed right-hander Alfred Vega, the Dodgers selected right-hander Yon Castro, the Diamondbacks took right-hander Denny Larronado, the Red Sox took right-hander Ryan Miller, and the Rays took right-hander Nelson L. Alvarez. There was one batter taken as well, infielder Oliver Dunn, who went to the Phillies.

That concludes the 2022 Rule 5 Draft for the Yankees. We’ll have to wait and see if any of the names selected here tonight end up sticking with their respective teams, and if the Yankees will regret not protecting any of the players that were taken. Such is the process, but for all the Garrett Whitlocks of the world there’s vastly more who simply don’t come back to haunt their former teams.