The KC Royals poach top Yankees prospect in Rule 5 Draft, lose three prospects

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals freed up a spot on the 40-man roster moments before Wednesday's Rule 5 Draft began. Trading Dylan Coleman to the Houston Astros gave Kansas City options ahead of the draft, and they selected righty Matt Sauer with the draft's second pick.

The KC Royals added another righty was the Winter Meetings concluded.

Sauer, formerly with the New York Yankees, was the team's 25th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The Yankees drafted him in the 2017 MLB Draft's second round, but he severely injured his elbow two starts into the 2019 season. He missed that season and then lost another due to the pandemic. That combination, like many other prospects, likely hindered his development.

Still, Sauer was ranked in the Yankees' farm system for a reason. He posted at least 10.27 K in each of his three minor league seasons, showcasing his ability to generate strikeouts. He made 13 starts in 2023, pitching in 74 innings for a 3.41 ERA. His numbers were not as dominant as his 2022 performance, but they were still better than most in the Royals' system.

Sauer will likely have a chance to stick as a starter in Kansas City's system, but he has potential in the MLB bullpen. Baseball America ($) wrote that "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 the ability to spot start."

MLB Pipeline ranked Sauder 22nd in the Royals' system following the draft results. As Kansas City selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, the team has to keep him on the active MLB roster all season or be offered back to the Yankees.

The KC Royals also lost several players to the draft.

In the minor-league portion of the draft, Kansas City lost three players and gained three others. The team selected outfielder Joe Gray Jr. from the Milwaukee Brewers, pitcher Keylan Killgore from the Philadelphia Phillies, and infielder Ryan Fitzgerald from the Boston Red Sox. On the flip side, the Cincinnati Reds selected pitcher T.J. Sikkema, the San Diego Padres selected Clay Dungan, and the Washington Nationals selected pitcher Wander Arias. There are no roster requirements in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, and this portion has a very small rate of producing future MLB players.