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Cleveland Indians prospects who could be taken in the Rule 5 draft

At least they will have James Ramsey?

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

With the 40-man rosters officially set in stone as of last Friday, MLB teams around the league are beginning to decide who they could take in December’s Rule 5 draft. The Cleveland Indians, who chose to protect Tyler Naquin, James Ramsey, Dylan Baker, and Shawn Morimondo right at the deadline, have several players who could potentially be chosen when the draft occurs during the Winter Meetings next month.

To be completely honest, any of these players being chosen is a relative longshot. Although all 30 Major League teams can compete in the Rule 5 draft, only roughly 10-15 players are chosen in any given year. Whether it is teams having a full 40-man roster (and thus not being able to participate in the draft for the year), or just no desire to add any minor league players directly to their Major League roster, not every team opts to choose a player.

In fact, you would need to go all the way back to 2012 to find the last time an Indians player was chosen in the Rule 5 draft. In that draft, the Chicago Cubs selected a relief pitcher by the name of Hector Rondon. You may know him as the closer that posted a 1.67 ERA, a 2.68 FIP  and recorded 30 saves in 2015. Rule 5 drafts will not always result in a player being plucked from every team’s farm system, but when it happens it can hurt.

This year, the Indians may be lucky enough to have all their prospects too far off the radar to grab other teams’ attention. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo does not have any Indians listed in his Top 10 players available for this year’s draft and at worst it will probably be a Major League-ready reliever.

Below is a full list of all Indians prospects who are exposed to the draft:

LEVEL PLAYER POSITION
AAA Jordan Cooper P
AAA Anthony Gallas OF
AAA Alex Lavisky C
AAA Toru Murata P
AAA Will Roberts P
AAA Enosil Tejeda P
AA Jordan Smith OF
AA Duke von Schamann P
AA Eric Stamets SS
AA Joe Sever 1B
AA Ronny Rodriguez 2B
AA Nicholas Pasquale P
AA Yonathan Mendoza 3B
AA Jeremy Lucas C
AA Jeff Johnson P
AA Todd Hankins 2B
AA D.J. Brown P
AA Louis Head P
AA Jacob Lee P
AA Jake Lowery C
AA Josh Martin P
AA Yhoxian Medina 2B
A+ Luigi Rodriguez* OF
A+ Michael Peoples P
A+ Luis Lugo P
A+ Eric Haase C
A+ Robbie Aviles P
A+ Claudio Bautista 2B
A+ Juan De La Cruz C
A+ Perci Garner P
A+ LeVon Washington OF
A+ Alex Monsalve C
A+ Dorssys Paulino SS
A+ Grant Sides P
A Martin Cervanka C
A Anderson Polanco P
A Ordomar Valdez 2B
ROOKIE Edward Estrella P

Bold indicates player's first year of Rule 5 eligibility
* = player on restricted list

The large majority of these players will remain on the Cleveland Indians, but a few stand out as players that another team could swoop in and take. For instance, a couple of relief pitchers, Jeff Johnson and Luis Lugo, could be taken by a club willing to add them directly to their 25-man roster.

Closer Jeff Johnson missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery but came back as one of the best relievers in the Double-A Eastern League in 2015. He finished the year with a 1.05 ERA, allowing only six earned runs over his 51 appearances on the season, and finishing second in the Eastern League in saves with 27. Normally, a pitcher needs a year after Tommy John surgery to return to 100%, but Johnson performed at such a high level in 2015 that 2016 and beyond looks only better at this point. He would have easily slotted into the back of the Indians bullpen, and will do so for any other team that decides to take him.

Luis Lugo was listed as the Indians No. 14 prospect coming into 2015 by FanGraphs. While not as much as a surefire winner as Johnson, 21-year-old Lugo has a powerful frame at 6’5", 200 pounds and his strikeouts in the minor leagues have always hovered somewhere between eight and ten strikeouts per nine innings. Leaving Lugo exposed could be a risk for the Indians, but they may be gambling that other teams are leery of Lugo’s young age and developing control. If he is around in the next couple of years, and still not on the Indians 25-man roster, he will surely be protected.

Other possible arms to be taken include Josh Martin, who was drafted in 2012, and is another large-framed pitcher at 6’5", 230 pounds who struck out 80 batters in 67.1 innings at Double-A in 2015, and 30-year-old Toru Murata who has appeared in only one game in the Majors in his six-year career.

Outside of Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, the Indians farm system is notoriously barren of position players, so not many are likely to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. The most likely, Luigi Rodriguez, has had enough off-the-field issues that it may prevent a team with taking a chance on him. Rodriguez was having the best year of his career at Double-A this season, before being banned 80 games for use of the banned PED substance, Stanozolol. Being that he was not banned until late August, Rodriguez will spend the start of 2016 still on the restricted list. Rodriguez was batting .293/.335/.492 with 12 home runs and 24 steals prior to the ban.

We will find out everything when the Rule 5 draft takes place during the Winter Meetings early next month.