Boston selects RHP Whitlock in Rule 5 Draft

December 10th, 2020

BOSTON -- The Red Sox hope to maximize the potential of a righty starter who their rivals decided to keep unprotected with the selection of Yankees prospect Garrett Whitlock in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.

Whitlock missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and there was no Minor League season in ’20.

The expectation is that Whitlock will be ready for Spring Training, and the Red Sox view the righty as someone who might help as a starter or reliever.

“He's on a normal progression leading into this upcoming season,” said Red Sox vice president of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum. “We're really excited to land someone that we think has upside as a potential starter, or at a minimum can assume some volume either out of the 'pen or as a starter.

“Hats tipped off to a lot of different members of the organization who have spoken up on Whitlock's behalf, both from a makeup standpoint, an objective standpoint and from a scouting standpoint. Even guys who aren't in the organization anymore have played a role in helping us land on this player, so we're excited.”

The Yankees selected Whitlock out of Alabama-Birmingham in the 18th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

The 24-year-old has a 12-8 record and a 2.41 ERA in 42 Minor League appearances (38 starts). Whitlock was particularly impressive in 2018, notching a 1.86 ERA over 23 appearances for three affiliates.

As per the rules of the Rule 5 Draft, the Red Sox will have to keep Whitlock on their roster for the entirety of the 2021 season, otherwise they must offer him back to the Yankees.

“I think [his chances of making the team], they're legitimate,” said Quattlebaum. “We are willing to take this pick knowing we're going to have to carry him the entire year. We think now that he's healthy, he'll be able to carry a real load, whether it be out of the 'pen or in the rotation, if need be.”

What does Whitlock have in his arsenal that can make him effective as both a starter and as a reliever?

“He's a physical right-handed pitcher with real arm strength, and most importantly, a real feel to execute and change speeds. And I also think it's relevant and many of you probably noticed this looking at his track record, he keeps the ball on the ground,” said Quattlebaum. “So the way we defend, the way we shift, I think that can play well in our hands, where he can keep the ball on the ground, especially with the way balls are flying out at an alarming rate.”

In the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Red Sox took a right-handed hitter with some pop from the Rangers in Tyreque Reed and a righty reliever from the Yankees who has been known to miss bats in Kaleb Ort.

Reed, who hails from Mississippi, belted 18 homers and had an .852 OPS in 359 at-bats in the Rangers’ Minor League system in 2019.

“With Tyreque, a power bat, he’s going to enter his 24-year-old season,” said Quattlebaum. “He’s a big, physical right-handed-hitting first baseman with big power that you see not only with the scouts and the naked eye, but also with the batted-ball data. So there’s a propensity for some strikeouts. We know he’s not immune to that, but we really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization. He’s been someone we kept an eye on even outside of the Rule 5 [Draft] context.”

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With Ort, the Red Sox believe they have a 28-year-old late bloomer ready to come into his own. In 90 Minor League appearances, Ort has a 3.14 ERA with 186 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings.

“He started in the independent leagues, somebody we followed for a while. Big, big arm strength and he has a history of missing bats,” Quattlebaum said. “He’s always had high strikeout rates. I wouldn’t say he’s the most economical or the most precise with command, but it’s a big, big arm and we know he can strike out guys, so we’re excited to bring a power arm into the system as well.”