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2021 Rule 5 Draft: Looking At Second Time Eligible Yankees Prospects

JP Sears pitching for the Somerset Patriots on May 7, 2021. (Chris Jones)

In a few weeks, the New York Yankees will face a roster crunch as they determine who to add to their 40-man roster and protect from the annual Rule 5 draft in December. This year, the Yankees have several tough choices to make as so many of their top prospects will be eligible.

The looming roster crunch will force the Yankees to trade some interesting names away, or risk losing them for minimal return in December. We identified 57 prospects that will be eligible this year with many for the first time and several have come into their own.

Last year, the Yankees lost several prospects in the draft and that trend is likely to continue. Below we break down the players who will be eligible for the first time.

Jhony Brito – Double A Somerset Patriots

A native of Puerto Plata, D.R., Brito started his season in High-A Hudson Valley and posted a 2.57 ERA in 70 innings pitched and had a WHIP sitting right around 1.00 before getting promoted to Somerset in August. Brito threw in 46.2 innings and posted a 5.01 ERA after having a couple of rough outings at the end of August and through September.

Bryan Blanton – Low-A Tampa Tarpons (Missed 2021 season)

The Yankees’ 21st round pick in the 2017 draft didn’t pitch at all in 2021 and spent most of his 2019 season with Staten Island after bouncing around between then High-A Tampa and Low-A Charleston. Blanton posted a 2.91 ERA between the 3 teams in only 46.1 innings of work.

Evan Alexander – Low-A Tampa Tarpons

Alexander began the season in Low-A Tampa 4 games before being quickly promoted to Double A Somerset for another 4 games, then was sent down to High-A Hudson Valley before being finally sent down once again to Tampa where he stayed for the remainder of the season. The 23-year-old from Frisco, TX kept a .221 batting average in 2021 with a .725 OPS.

Pedro Diaz – Low-A Tampa Tarpons

Diaz was one of the most versatile players with the Low-A Tarpons in 2021 playing as 1B or C in a pinch as needed, and even as a pitcher in 2 games, but only played in 25 games with Tampa. The 23-year-old Puerto Rican only had 1 double, a triple and a home run out of his 17 hits in 73 at-bats in 2021, translating to a .233 batting average.

Ron Marinaccio – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Marinaccio dominated in 2021 having his best pro season yet as a reliever, with a 2.04 ERA over 66.1 innings and a WHIP of 0.93. The Toms River, NJ native was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in August after holding a 1.82 ERA and 0.91 WHIP through 39.2 innings pitched.

Harold Cortijo – Low-A Tampa Tarpons

Cortijo was injured for most of the year, going on the IL only 2 weeks into the season, but was reactivated in time for the Tarpons short playoff run. Not including the 2 innings he pitched as a rehab stint with the FCL Yankees, the 14th round pick in 2017 threw in 10.1 innings with Tampa and recorded a 6.10 ERA and a WHIP of 2.03.

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Addison Russ – Double-A Somerset Patriots

Acquired at the end of the 2020 season in a trade with the Phillies for RHP David Hale, Russ spent the first 6 weeks of the season with Triple-A Scranton where he posted an 8.74 ERA. After being sent down to AA Somerset on June 15th, Russ went 5.2 innings before giving up any earned runs. The reliever’s season with Somerset ended with a 1.91 ERA in 33 innings with a 1.09 WHIP and 4 saves out of 6 opportunities.

Wellington Diaz – Low-A Tampa Tarpons

Diaz missed 3 weeks in the beginning of the season but threw a 5.17 ERA over the course of 38.1 innings in 27 games with the Tarpons. 2021 had the least number of innings for the 24-year-old Dominican, where previously Diaz averaged 45 innings in 2017 & 2018 and threw in 70.2 innings in 2019.

Eric Wagaman – High-A Hudson Valley Renegades

Wagaman started the first half of the year and the last couple of weeks with High-A Hudson Valley before being sent to Low-A Tampa for 2 months. Wagaman earned Low-A Southeast Player of the Week for the week of June 21st while in Tampa. Wagaman batted .571 (8-for-14) with 5 extra-base hits including 2 homeruns and 9 RBI. For 2021, the 13th round JUCO pick in the 2017 draft batted .220 with a .679 OPS.

Eduardo Torrealba – High-A Hudson Valley Renegades

The 22-year-old Venezuela native, like Wagaman, started the 2021 season in High-A Hudson Valley before being sent down mid-way in the season to Low-A Tampa before being promoted to Hudson Valley again and spending a short stint in AA Somerset because of a shuffle with all the injuries the Yankees suffered in August. Torrealba batted .299 between the 3 clubs in 2021 and had an OPS of .751, both of which were brought down by batting 2-for-11 in the 3 games he spent in Somerset.

Shawn Semple – Double-A Somerset Patriots

The Jersey native spent the majority of his 2021 season in Somerset but was sent down for a month (6 starts) to High-A Hudson Valley in mid-June then was promoted again back to Somerset. Semple spent the end of the season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and had a rough start, going only 0.2 innings in his first AAA appearance and gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in that short outing. Semple’s season ERA was 3.91 in 106 innings pitched, with a 1.12 WHIP.

Aaron McGarity – High-A Hudson Valley Renegades (Missed 2021 season)

McGarity spent the entire 2021 season on the 60-day IL, with his last time playing with the Surprise Saguaros in 2019 for the Arizona Fall League. McGarity bounced around between Short-Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston in 2019 before getting promoted to then High-A Tampa for 4 games (5 innings) at the end of the 2019 season. McGarity had a 2.50 ERA in 57.2 innings of work in 2019, with a WHIP of 1.02.

Nolan Martinez – Low-A Tampa Tarpons (Missed 2021 season)

Martinez also missed most of the 2021 season due to injury, aside from a short rehab stint with the FCL Yankees in August consisting of 4 innings pitched. In that time, Martinez threw a 6.75 ERA after a rough 1 inning outing in his first game back from injury. The 3rd round pick in the 2016 draft had a good season in Low-A Charleston in 2019, throwing a 3.86 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.

Kyle Zurak – High-A Hudson Valley Renegades (Missed 2021 season)

Like Martinez, Zurak missed most of the year apart from a brief rehab assignment with the FCL Yankees in September, consisting of one inning in one game in September 2021. The 8th rounder in the 2017 draft was perfect in his outing and threw 13 pitches in his one inning appearance. In 2019, he was with then High-A Tampa all season and had a 2.93 ERA in 61.1 innings of work.

Saul Torres – High-A Hudson Valley Renegades

Torres didn’t get much playing time at “The Dutch” in 2021 with top prospects Breaux, Seigler and Wells ahead of him, but still managed a .235 average and .611 OPS over 27 games. Torres had a .980 fielding percentage behind the plate in 2021, with only 5 errors in 173 innings. The 22-year-old Dominican played 48 games with Short-Season Pulaski in 2019, batting .218 with a .736 OPS.

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JP Sears – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Acquired from Seattle with RHP Juan Then for RHP Nick Rumbelow in 2017, Sears split his 2021 season between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton. Sears threw a combined 3.46 ERA in 2021, with his 10 starts in Scranton at a 2.87 ERA with a WHIP under 1, and his 15 games in Somerset a 4.09 ERA. The South Carolinian spent an abbreviated 2019 with the then High-A Tampa Tarpons, missing two months due to injury.

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