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ST PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 23: Detail of the Boston Red Sox logo on a jersey during the baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 23, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. The Red Sox won 4-1. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

While the Red Sox usually pass on the Rule 5 Draft, this year they made a move. During Thursday’s selection process, the team took Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock with the fourth overall pick.

Unlike the Entry Draft held in June, baseball’s Rule 5 Draft consists of minor league players under contract who meet certain age and tenue checkmarks, but are not on their club’s 40-man roster. When a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, they must be kept on the Major League roster (or the Injured List) for the duration of the season. If the drafting team were to designate the player for assignment, they’d revert to their previous organization. Those limitations only last for one year, and the player can be sent to the minors the season after being drafted.

That means there is a good chance Red Sox will see Whitlock with the big-league club at some point this season. The 24-year-old was an 18th round pick by the Yankees in 2017 out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He also pitched in the Cape Cod League in 2016, throwing six scoreless innings for the Chatham Anglers.

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Once he reached professional baseball, Whitlock shot up through the minor leagues. He spent most of 2019 with the Class-AA Trenton Thunder, where he posted a 3.07 ERA in 14 starts. However, an elbow injury ended his season prematurely and he spent 2020 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

According to Baseball America, Whitlock’s two best pitches are a sinking fastball – which sits in the mid 90’s – and his slider. Whether or not the righty still has that kind of velocity after his surgery will be the big question to monitor with him going forwards.

So will Whitlock start the season making his major league debut with the big league club, or end up on IL as his rehab continues? Red Sox pro scouting director Gus Quattlebaum told reporters after the draft the team sees Whitlock “as a potential starter” and that they expect him to be ready for spring training.

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If he is indeed fully healthy come February, there’s a real chance Whitlock will make his Red Sox – and MLB – debut early in the season at the back end of the team’s starting rotation. In that sense, taking Whitlock is a smart, low-risk high-reward move for Chaim Bloom as his team looks to rebuild the rotation. Whitlock won’t cost much, and if he does not work out the team can ship him right back to New York.

Whitlock is the third Red Sox Rule 5 pick in the last five years. The team took infielder Jonathan Arauz last season, and infielder Josh Rutledge in 2016. It’s the first time they’ve taken a pitcher since 2012, when they drafted Jandel Gustave, only to trade him to the Royals later that day for cash considerations.

The Red Sox made two selections in the minor league portion of this year’s Rule 5 Draft as well, taking another Yankees pitcher in 28-year-old reliever Kaleb Ort, and Tyreque Reed, a 21-year-old first baseman from the Rangers. Unlike Whitlock, there is no roster restrictions for those picks, and they’ll likely start the season in the minor leagues.

Boston did not lose any players in either part of this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.