The Royals selected pitcher Matt Sauer from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft on Wednesday, adding him to the 40-man roster. He must remain on the active MLB roster all season or be offered back to the Yankees.
The 24-year-old California native was a second-round pick by the Yanks out of high school in 2017. He has consistently put up strong strikeout numbers in the minors as a starter, but has also battled injuries. This year he was limited to just 74 innings, posting a 3.42 ERA in Double-A with 10.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
Baseball America included Sauer in their Rule 5 draft preview coverage, writing:
Sauer ranked as high as 10th in the Yankees’ system at one point. While he’s not nearly as prominent a prospect at this point, there are still reasons to be intrigued. Sauer’s fastball/slider combination is effective as a starter and could play up further if he’s moved to the bullpen. He was an effective starter at Double-A Somerset last year, giving him a profile of a swingman who could help a team in the bullpen for multiple innings with an ability to spot start.
Fangraphs writes he has been “sitting mostly 92-93 with vulnerable shape. His secondaries (especially his mid-80s slider) are all pretty good, and he’s a fine emergency depth option.”
Matt Sauer is the only minor league pitcher since 2019 to have struck out 17 batters in a game pic.twitter.com/TjcaaLdYVD— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) December 6, 2023
MLB Pipeline ranks him #25 in the Yankees organization.
His best pitch is a tight low-80s slider that can get swings-and-misses in the strike zone and chases outside of it, while his upper-70s curveball no longer shows signs of becoming a hammer like it did in the past. After left-handed hitters batted him around in 2022, he needs to improve a mid-80s changeup that features fade but not enough velocity separation from his fastball.
Sauer was one of three Yankees selected, with pitcher Mitch Spence going first overall to the Athletics, and pitcher Carson Coleman going to the Rangers.
Rule 5 Draft results:— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 6, 2023
Oakland A’s: RHP Mitch Spence (NYY)
Kansas City Royals: RHP Matt Sauer (NYY)
Colorado Rockies: RHP Anthony Molina (TB)
Chicago White Sox: LHP Shane Drohan (BOS)
Washington Nationals: SS Nasim Nunez (MIA)
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Ryan Fernandez (BOS)
In the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, the Royals acquired centerfielder Joe Gray Jr. from the Brewers, left-handed pitcher Keylan Killgore from the Phillies, and second baseman Ryan Fitzgerald from the Red Sox. Gray is a 23-year-old former second round pick who hit .249/.305/.378 with 11 home runs and 16 steals in High-A, and shows good speed but strikes out a ton. Killgore is a Wichita native who played for the Shockers and posted a 5.20 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 28 walks in 55 1/3 innings as a 26-year-old in Double-A. Fitzgerald once played at Creighton, and was signed out of the indy leagues by the Red Sox. Last year the 29-year-old hit .261/.345/.485 with 12 home runs in 95 games at Triple-A.
The Royals also lost pitcher T.J. Sikkema to the Reds, infielder Clay Dungan to the Padres, and pitcher Wander Arias to the Nationals in the minor league portion. There are no roster requirements in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, and very few players selected ever reach the big leagues.