These Yankees prospects could be on the trade block with the upcoming Rule 5 draft

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In recent years, the Yankees have been hit by the Rule 5 draft as hard as any team in the game. Barring the unexpected returns of Garrett Whitlock or Trevor Stephan, the Yankees will have lost three Rule 5 pitchers in recent seasons.

As the Yankees review their roster, they must both add to the major league club while managing all 40 men heading into the offseason. No baseball franchise has seen its minor league affiliates win more games this season than the Yankees. The superb minor league record has been fueled by strong individual performances, and while Brian Cashman would love to keep all of those minor league players in small groups, that’s next to impossible – especially when there are serious holes to fill if this team is going to make a playoff run.

Throughout the season, Somerset Patriots starting pitchers have been head and shoulders above their Double-A Northeast peers. Backed by breakout arms Janson Junk and Glenn Otto, the team maintained their league’s best ERA by a wide margin.

Janson Junk struggled with his slider throughout the 2019 season. He constantly fiddled around and couldn’t find the consistency he was looking for. As he tinkered, hitters seemed to find his pitches much more frequently than he would have liked.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ending the 2020 minor league season, Junk went to work in his home state of Washington, revamping his court arsenal while preparing for the 2021 season. The results on the court have been incredible. , as Junk pitched 61.2 innings with just 1.46 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Now, the Yankees’ 2017 2017 draft class 22nd-round pick will almost certainly need to be protected in the next Rule 5 draft.

Glenn Otto excelled alongside Junk for much of the season. Otto was a fifth-round pick in 2017, but was held back by injuries for much of his time with the Yankees. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing nearly 240 pounds, Otto has the prototype starting frame, and the Yankees have sought to develop him into that position after serving as a reliever in college. This year, it exploded in a big way. In five of Otto’s first eleven outings, he pitched at least five innings without allowing a run.

Otto also paced the league in strikeouts, remaining among the all-minor league leaders with 107 strikeouts in 69.2 innings pitched. The 69.2 innings is also a career high for a season. (He has since been deservedly promoted to Triple-A Scranton.)

Behind Otto’s plate for most of 2021 was receiver Donny Sands. Drafted as a third baseman, Sands struggled on both sides of the ball as the team looked to convert him to catcher. During the second half of 2019, he impressed those around him, namely Yankees minor league hitting coach Joe Migliaccio, who told Pinstripe Alley that “from the first half to the second half, [Sands] went through a mechanical change and was able to hit the ball on a line in the air, hit the ball harder and produce much better.

This season, Sands has come out of the gate fast and has now reached the Triple-A level while slashing .265/.324/.495 – while already setting a career high with 12 homers. The 2015 draft pick was eligible for Rule 5 last season, but without the stats to generate much interest. With solid numbers at the top minor levels, he is sure to be noticed by other teams in the future.

Another receiver on teams’ radars is Josh Breaux. The Yankees’ 2018 second-round pick will be eligible for Rule 5 after this season. After a slow start to the year, Breaux caught fire for High-A Hudson Valley and is hitting .375/.437/.760 with 11 home runs over his last 27 games. There is a lot of speculation that he is set to be promoted to Double-A Somerset.

Second baseman Ezequiel Duran hits directly past Breaux most nights in the Hudson Valley. Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect in the system is having a particularly good season with 11 homers and 137 wRC+. He also showed his ability to slip to shortstop at times and play the position well. With huge physical tools and a very tough contact record, Duran could end the season at Double-A.

If Duran moves to Double-A, it will likely mean Diego Castillo got promoted to Scranton. A member of the Yankees’ 2014 International Free Agent Class, Castillo has worked his way up the system with steady but unspectacular performances along the way. That changed this season, as the versatile infielder hit .531, more than 200 points more than any season since his 2015 debut as a rookie pitcher. He also developed his power without sacrificing his high contact rate as he hit only 14.3% of the time this year.

The strong performance of the Yankees’ minor league system has been fueled by many players who will be eligible for Rule 5 at the end of the season. In addition to the players listed above, young pitchers like JP Sears and Randy Vasquez are also having stellar seasons at this point. No team wants to develop their prospects and then see them leave the organization via the Rule 5 Draft à la Whitlock. Now we’ll see if the Yankees can maximize the value of their emerging young prospects while balancing the needs of their future roster as the deadline approaches.

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