With the 40-man rosters officially set in stone as of two weeks ago (November 18), MLB teams around the league are beginning to decide who they could take in December’s Rule 5 draft. The Cleveland Indians, who only chose to protect top prospect Francisco Mejia at the deadline, have several players who could potentially be chosen when the draft occurs during the Winter Meetings next month.
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.
Last year, the Indians had pitcher Josh Martin selected by the San DIego Padres in the Rule 5 draft, but he was returned to the Tribe after failing to stay on the 25-man roster during the 2016 regular season.
This year, the Indians are slightly playing with fire, hoping teams aren't willing to bump a player multiple levels all at once in order to snatch someone in the Rule 5 draft. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo does have one Indian listed in his Top 10 players available for this year’s draft and that man is No. 23 ranked first base prospect Nellie Rodriguez, who is coming off his third straight season of hitting 20+ home runs.
Below is a full list of all Indians prospects who are exposed to the draft. Bold indicates player's first year of Rule 5 eligibility
|A+||Juan De La Cruz||C|
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 few relief pitchers, Jeff Johnson, Josh Martin and Louis Head, 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. Johnson's performance took a slight dip in 2016, but he still held his own as a solid middle relief option for Triple-A Columbus and appears to be Major League-ready.
Other possible arms to be taken include Thomas Pannone, who was drafted in 2012, and led all Indians full-season starting pitching prospects in ERA at 2.47, although he's only briefly pitched at the High-A level so I'm assuming the Indians were willing to risk a team wouldn't put him directly on their 25-man roster.
Pitchers aren't the only players with potential for being taken. The most likely position player who could be drafted other than Nellie Rodriguez would be Anthony Santander, who had a breakout 2016 in High-A Lynchburg with a .290 batting average, 20 home runs and 95 RBI, although that would be a huge jump in competition level.
We will find out everything when the Rule 5 draft takes place on December 10th during the Winter Meetings next week.