Yankees 2021 Rule 5 Draft Protection Preview

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The clock is ticking on the Yankees’ front office. Friday is the deadline for the team to protect Rule 5 draft eligible prospects by adding them to the team’s 40-man roster. Doing so will be a tad more challenging this season because the 40-man is currently full, so we could be in for a handful of roster moves over the next 48 hours.

Pinstriped Prospects has the list of all minor leaguers in the organization who are draft eligible. Today, I’ll briefly touch on a bunch of prospects who deserve the most consideration for a roster spot. I’ve included their position, age, highest level reached, and MLB Pipeline ranking if applicable. One final note before getting into the prospect snapshots: pitching prospect Randy Vasquez is not eligible, as we found out Monday.

Prospects

Everson Pereira | OF | 20 y/o | High-A | 13th-best team prospect per MLB Pipeline

Like many other position player prospects in the system, Pereira enjoyed a breakout season in 2021. His stat line is limited because he debuted in the Complex League, which started in late June. However, the Yankees bumped him up to Single-A after just three games and the outfielder never looked back. By season’s end, Pereira moved up to High-A Hudson Valley. All told, Pereira mashed to the tune of .303/.398/.686 (178 wRC+) in 221 PA.

Baseball Prospectus’s Ben Spanier saw Pereira this summer and came away impressed. He’s far from major league ready, but there’s a decent chance that another team stashes him on their bench in 2022, similar to the Luis Torrens situation a few years ago. Since Pereira has little utility to the 2022 Yankees, it may make sense to trade him now rather than protect him. At the same time, they could (and should, if it comes to it) protect him now and try to work out a trade later.

Oswaldo Cabrera | IF | 22 y/o | Triple-A | 16th

This isn’t Cabrera’s first Rule 5 rodeo. In fact, it’s the third time he’s eligible. The difference now is that he’s garnered a lot more attention from various publications now (8th in Baseball America’s latest top 10, a positive outlook from Spring Marie Cullen at Baseball Prospectus). Cabrera’s reportedly recorded some of the organization’s best exit velocities over the years, but it took until this year for it to translate into great results (130 wRC+, 29 HR).

Cabrera’s a switch-hitter and versatile defender around the diamond, which adds even more value. There’s no question that the Yankees will protect him by Friday. There may even be a case for him to be the team’s bench infielder given his bat and positional flexibility in 2022.

Josh Breaux | C | 24 y/o | Double-A | 18th

Will the Yankees carry four catchers on the 40-man? Now that Donny Sands has joined Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka, Breaux’s future with the club seems murky. The team’s second round pick in 2018 offers plenty of power (23 HR in 382 PA this year), but strikes out a lot (25.9 percent), and isn’t reputed to be a good defender.

Considering that Breaux only just reached Double-A (played 26 games there), I could see the Yankees daring another team to draft him. There’s no reason to carry four catchers on the 40-man, especially one who’s not going to help the major league club in 2022.

Brandon Lockridge | OF | 24 y/o | Double-A | 19th

Lockridge enjoyed an unexpected power surge upon promotion to Double-A Somerset midseason. After swatting three dingers in 136 PA for Hudson Valley, the outfielder launched 10 in 191 PA for the Patriots. That home run barrage also came with a sharp uptick in strikeouts (30.4 percent in Double-A), which is a bit worrisome.

Odds are that Lockridge is a fourth outfielder long-term, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He has top of the line speed and can play center field well. Another club might take a flyer on him in the draft for a bench role, but I don’t think the Yankees would sweat losing him too much. The strikeout increase and inflated BABIP (.439) at Somerset indicate a bit of helium.

Matt Sauer | RHP | 22 y/o | High-A | 27th

Sauer hasn’t developed the way the Yankees hoped when they drafted him out of high school in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft. Tommy John surgery in 2019 and the 2020 canceled season really set back Sauer’s timeline. To top it off, his return this year was pretty lackluster, mainly due to poor control. In 111.1 innings, he walked 47, hit 11 batters, and uncorked 10 wild pitches.

The good news is that Sauer is now healthy, but that alone won’t be enough for another team to pop him in the Rule 5 next month. The Yankees should be able to leave him off the 40-man roster without any reason to worry.

Others of Note

Stephen Ridings | RHP | 26 y/o | MLB

The flame-throwing righty made a cameo for the Yankees as a COVID-19 IL replacement. He caught everyone’s eyes immediately thanks to a high octane fastball, allowing him to strike out 7 of 20 batters faced in the majors. In the minors, Ridings picked up 42 strikeouts in 29 innings and recorded a 1.24 ERA split between Somerset and Scranton. However, Ridings ended the season with an undisclosed elbow injury that sidelined him in mid-August. That could complicate the Yankees’ decision to protect him.

Ron Marinaccio | RHP | 26 y/o | Triple-A

As dominant as Ridings was, Marinaccio was arguably more impressive. He struck out just under 40 percent of hitters faced and improved his control as the season went on. Prior to a bump up to Triple-A, the righty walked 19 in 39.2 innings. Post-promotion, he issued 8 free passes in 26.2 frames. The 19th rounder from the 2017 possesses the organization’s best changeup per Baseball America.

JP Sears | LHP | 26 y/o | Triple-A

The Yankees acquired Sears from Seattle as part of the Nick Rumbelow trade a few years ago. Like Ridings and Marinaccio, he spent time with the Patriots and RailRiders in 2021 and struck out plenty of hitters (32.8 percent), albeit as a starter by season’s end. All ten of his appearances in Triple-A were out of the rotation, in fact. FanGraphs had eyes on him late in the year and called him a “perfectly fine spot starter candidate”.

Greg Weissert | RHP | 26 y/o | Triple-A

A Fordham product and the team’s 18th rounder in 2016, Weissert isn’t new to being Rule 5 eligible. He really impressed this season with a terrific slider, a pitch Baseball America called the best in the organization. Weissert started the year with Somerset but spent the majority of his campaign in the RailRiders’ bullpen.

Anthony García | OF | 21 y/o | Single-A

The 6-foot-5 outfielder has easy power but is a long ways away from any major league playing time. He swatted 14 homers and struck out 50 times in 153 PA between the Complex League and Single-A. Hard to imagine any team trying to stash the switch-hitter on its major league bench all season long given that he’s an all-or-nothing corner bat yet to surpass Single-A.

Jhony Brito | RHP | 23 y/o | Double-A

Brito’s numbers aren’t overly impressive. He recorded a 3.55 ERA in 116.2 innings between High-A and Double-A this season, but certainly wasn’t overpowering (24.1 percent strikeout rate). Rather, Brito makes his bones with terrific control (4.3 percent walk rate). He’s the organization’s best strike thrower, per Baseball America.

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2 Comments

  1. MikeD

    A bigger question: Who will the Yankees move via trade, cut or non-tender to make room on the roster.

  2. UnnamedSource

    I wonder if rhp Sean Boyle would be someone other teams would be interested in acquiring either in the Rule 5 draft, if the Yankees don’t protect him, or in a trade, if the Yankees don’t have room for him on the 40 man roster by November 19.

    Boyle, 25 years old and a 25th round selection out of Dallas Baptist in the 2018 Rule 4 draft, has done nothing but pitch extremely well in three years of light duty (2018, 2019, and 2021) in the Yankees farm system. In 140 professional career innings, he has a 2.51 ERA, has K’d more than 10 per 9, has walked less than 2 per 9, and opposing batters have averaged .208 against him. He has had no stints on the injured list.

    His career minor league WHIP over 3 seasons is 0.98. He seems to be getting better as he advances in the system. In 2021, he pitched a total of 86 innings at Low A, High A, AA, and AAA. His 2021 ERA was 1.99, his 2021 WHIP was 1.00, and opponents hit at a .206 rate against him. For the first time, he commenced getting starting assignments in 2021.

    He finished the 2021 season at SWB, where, in his first start there, on 8/19/2021, he pitched a 7 inning no-hitter. For the portion of his 2021 season at AAA, Boyle compiled a 1.07 ERA in 25.1 innings, with a 0.75 WHIP, and opposing batters averaged only .170 against him.

    Obviously small sample size precautions are advisable, but the consistent stats are over 3 seasons and all levels of the farm system, including 4 levels in 2021.

    I guess, like many 25th round draft selections, he doesn’t get much attention, but his 2021 showing in advance of his first Rule 5 draft eligibility opened my eyes.

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