Yankees Rule 5 Draft Eligible Prospects of Interest

Garrett Whitlock, June 23, 2018 - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

With the upcoming MLB Rule 5 Draft the Yankees added RHP Roansy Contreras, RHP Yoendrys Gomez, INF Oswald Peraza and RHP Alexander Vizcaino to the 40-man roster to protect them from being selected by another organization in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. In this article I will cover a group of other prospects that they did not protect and the odds of those players being selected by another team.

Addison Russ, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 85%
Phillies 2020 Preseason: #33 on Tony Bps list

After being the Phillies 19th round pick in the 2017 draft, Russ was acquired from the Phillies for journeyman middle-reliever David Hale in 2020. He put up solid numbers during his time with the Phillies organization, averaging almost 12 K/9 with a 1.087 WHIP during his 3 seasons in the minors. In 2019 he registered a 2.54 ERA, striking out 81 while saving 22 games in 56.2 innings. He features a fastball that touches 96 and a good splitter. The Yankees have a lot of up-and-coming right-handed relievers in their system so there was no need to protect him. He also lacks command sometimes which may be another reason he was left unprotected. I think a team takes a flier on him and sticks him in the bullpen where he will be used in low leverage situations to start with to see if he can improve his command and control. Thank you to Tony Bps for the information on Russ.

Trevor Stephan, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 75%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #24

Stephan relies on his fastball, which gets a heavy dose of swings and misses within the strike zone. It sits between 90-95 mph and touches 97 with significant running action that comes from his deceptive crossfire and uphill delivery. After struggling to develop a curveball, he scrapped it and had more success with a slider/cutter that has high spin rates. His changeup is more of a work in progress after he relied mostly on his fastball in college and the lower levels, and it was effective in Double-A in 2019. He usually throws strikes and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate, though he struggled more than usual to locate his pitches after his promotion. There are some questions as to whether his delivery and arm action are suitable for starting every fifth day. I believe he was left unprotected because the Yankees have too many young arms already close to big league ready or had better quality arms to protect. I envision him being selected in the Draft and being a middle of rotation starter or long reliever/spot starter.

Garrett Whitlock, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 50%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #28

The Yankees selected Whitlock in the 18th round in 2017. He went late in the draft due to back issues and questionable signability. Whitlock underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. His low-three-quarters delivery produces 91-94 mph two-seam fastballs with tremendous sink, leading to a ton of ground balls. His number 2 pitch is low-80s slider with two-plane depth and he uses a decent changeup to keep left-handers in check. Hitters have a tough time picking up Whitlock’s pitches because he uses his 6-foot-5 frame to create impressive extension and unusual angle. He could also be valuable as a multi-inning reliever. I believe he was left unprotected because the Yankees had a RHP numbers crunch. I suspect he’s about 50/50 of being selected because of having Tommy John in 2019 but he should be ready to go in 2021.

Nolan Martinez, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 40%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #32

The Yankees took Martinez in the third round of the 2016 Draft, signing him for an above-slot $1.15 million. He totaled just 20 2/3 innings in his first two years as a pro because he was not developed physically and had some minor shoulder issues in 2017. New York puts a lot of emphasis on spin rates, and Martinez had the highest (2,685 rpm) on his fastball at the 2015 World Wood Bat Association World Championship. However, working with an 89-92 mph heater he should gain velocity as he adds strength and has flashed a mid-90s heater during offseason workouts. His spin gives his fastball deceptive riding life that keeps it off barrels. Martinez also has good feel for spinning a curveball, but his changeup requires a lot of work because he didn’t use it much in high school. He repeats his clean delivery well and shouldn’t have any issues throwing strikes. He has the upside of a mid-rotation starter. Pitching a total of 115 innings in 29 games (24 starts) since 2016 just wasn’t enough time for Martinez to prove he was worth a spot on the 40-man roster. I think someone may select him but in the end he likely ends up back in the Yankees system.

Kyle Holder, SS
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 70%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #37

Holder is a Gold Glover waiting to happen. He has a solid arm and had a .973 fielding percentage in Trenton in 2019. Concerns about Holder’s offense prevented him from being higher on this list. There is question about his bat speed and he might not be more than a contact hitter who drives the ball for doubles and draws a decent amount of walks. The Yankees have worked to improve his load and if you look at Holder’s season numbers in 2019, he hit a respectable .265/.336/.405 with 25 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 40 RBI. When you drill down you see he had a great 2019 season after a very bad first month. In April, he hit just.175/.246/.206 in 16 games. Holder then went on to hit .281/.352/.441 over the next 96 games with 23 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 35 RBI. That includes an incredible June when he hit .337/.385/.566 in 23 games with a .362 BABIP. The potential for the bat to come around is here so I think another team takes a chance on him for the potential bat and amazing defense.

Glenn Otto, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 80%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #42

Otto sits between 92-95 mph with his fastball and peaks at 97. His spike curveball can be devastating and also hard to control, since it combines power and 12-to-6 break. Otto rarely employed a changeup in college, so adding a reliable third pitch will be a focal point of his development. Improving his control and command are also on his to-do list, after he averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings at Rice. In the AZFL in 2019 in 6 starts he posted a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings, striking out 26 while walking 13. He has a strong frame and his arm works well, so he should have the durability required to start. I think a team takes him in the Rule 5 Draft and lets him try to improve his control and command.

Chris Gittens, 1B
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 60%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #43

Gittens wasn’t selected in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft and I suspect that to change in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. In 2019 Gittens went on to be named the Trenton Thunder Player of the Year and the 2019 Eastern League Most Valuable Player. He was a non-roster invite in Spring Training but didn’t make the player pool in Scranton. I found that to be a bit surprising, but the Yankees were pretty much healthy at first base this past year. He was a minor league free agent and just re-signed with the Yankees. I would like to think he is well liked within the organization for this reason alone, but again he is left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. Gittens is a patient hitter that goes deep in the count. He led the EL in home runs (23), RBI (77), on-base percentage (.393), slugging percentage (.500), and OPS (.893), while hitting .281 which was good for fourth in the league in 2019. Gittens also hit 16 doubles and walked 71 times while striking out 139 times. Baseball America also polled the Eastern League managers towards the end of the season and Gittens was voted best defensive first baseman by them as well. For these few reasons alone between his offensive potential and great defense I think this year someone takes him even though I was surprised me no other organization signed him while he was a free agent.

Harold Cortijo, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 20%
Yankees 2020 Preseason #48

The Yankees selected Cortijo in the 14th round of the 2017 draft (422nd overall). He has a great command of low 90s fastball and also owns a mid 80s slider that flashes quality bite. With his mid 80s changeup and a high 70s hook he could definitely be a mid-round steal for the Yankees or another team. He has the potential to be a mid-rotation pitcher or 7th-8th inning arm. I think a few teams will think about Cortijo, but since he has never pitched above A level Charleston he probably isn’t ready to help any big league team right now.

Oswaldo Cabrera, INF
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 50%
Yankees 2020 Preseason – N/A
Oswaldo is a line drive hitter who doesn’t strike out a lot. He doesn’t have a whole lot of power and is an average runner. Cabrera is an excellent defender. He has the look of a useful utility infielder. I don’t think he is taken in the Rule 5 Draft but I do think a team may think about him since he’s only 21 and is an excellent defender.

Steven Sensley, 1B/OF
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 20%
Yankees 2020 Preseason – N/A

Sensley can change the game in one swing with his major raw power. He could grow into a 20 homer bat with a decent average. He profiles as a 4th outfielder and is a player with decent pop off the bench that won’t hurt you in any facet of the game. There’s too much swing and miss here for a team to take a chance on but it only takes one team to be enticed by his massive power. This is why I still give him a chance at getting selected.

Kaleb Ort, RHP
Odds of being selected in Rule 5 Draft : 40%
Yankees 2020 Preseason – N/A

Ort is a lot older than your average prospect at 28 years old. He’s worked his way up through independent league ball and slowly though the Yankees farm system. He fanned 36.6 percent of the batters he faced while walking 13.1 percent in 2019 while with Scranton. In three levels he struck out 78 batters over 50.1 innings while walking 28. His strike out total alone could attract a team to put him in their bullpen in hopes to harness his control.

Paul Woodin is a huge sports fan who leads the New York Yankees minor league farm system coverage for the Prospects1500 team. Growing up playing and watching baseball while collecting baseball cards, Paul developed a love for the game. Born and raised in Connecticut between Yankees and Red Sox territory, Paul become a Yankees fan because of Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. An avid sports card, memorabilia and autograph collector, he participates in redraft, dynasty and prospect-only fantasy baseball formats during each season. Feel free to reach out on Twitter

1 Comment

  1. Teams had until last Friday at 6 p.m. ET to decide which of their prospects would be added to the 40-man roster and protected from being taken by another team in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10.

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