KC Royals escape Rule 5 Draft unscathed ... and add intriguing minor-league prospect

The Kansas City Royals didn’t have their farm system pilfered during the major-league phase of MLB’s Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday afternoon. While they did lose a player in the Triple-A phase of the draft, they also added a high-upside, low-risk addition of their own.

The biggest perceived gamble for the Royals in the major-league phase had been leaving left-handed pitcher T.J. Sikkema unprotected. The Royals acquired Sikkema, rated by Baseball America as the 25th-best prospect in their farm system, this summer in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees.

But the gamble paid off as none of the other 29 MLB organizations snagged a Royals prospect during the major-league phase of the draft. Only 15 selections were made during the draft on Wednesday afternoon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California.

Players who signed at age 18-or-younger at least five years ago (before the end of the 2018 minor-league season) and aren’t on their club’s 40-man roster are eligible to be selected as well as players who signed at age 19-or-older at least four years ago (before the end of the 2019 minor-league season) and aren’t on their club’s 40-man roster.

The Royals do not have space on their 40-man roster, so they did not make a selection in the major-league phase of the draft.

Meanwhile, the Royals selected 6-foot-4 switch-hitting minor-league shortstop Shervyen Newton, originally from the Netherlands, in the Triple-A phase of the draft. They also lost left-handed pitcher Pablo Mujica to the New York Yankees in the Triple-A portion.

The Royals targeted Newton, originally signed by the New York Mets as an international free agent, after missing out on the chance to sign him as a minor-league free agent this offseason.

Instead, Newton signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. But the Phillies left him unprotected and available in the Triple-A phase of the draft. He’ll be with the Royals for this season.

“We’re excited to have him and work with him,” Royals director of player development/field coordinator Mitch Maier said.

Maier described Newton as “physical” with a major-league-caliber set of tools who had some things he needed to “fine tune.”

Newton, 23, has slashed .234/.343/.367 in 416 career games in the minors.

Mujica, 21, signed a minor-league contract in 2018. He pitched in the minors as an 18-year-old in 2019 (13 games, nine starts), but did not have a season due to the pandemic in 2020. He missed the 2021 season due to injury.

Mujica bounced back in 2022 pitching out of the bullpen for the Royals’ Arizona Complex League affiliate. He registered a strikeout rate of 12.51 per 9 innings and a WHIP of 1.17 in 11 appearances.

Maier said he was surprised and happy the Royals didn’t have more players selected in the Rule 5 Draft.