The Cleveland Indians' Major League departure from this year's Rule 5 draft was outfielder Anthony Santander, who was chosen by the Baltimore Orioles with the 18th overall pick of the Major League Phase. The Orioles will now be on the hook to keep Santander on their 25-man roster for the entire season and pay the Indians $100,000. If they do not, they will have to return Santander to the Tribe and receive only half of their payment back in return.
Santander spent his entire 2015 season in High-A Lynchburg with the Indians, batting .290 with 20 home runs and 95 runs batted in for the Hillcats in his first non-injury riddled season in four years. Santander was one of three top 30 prospects left exposed in the Rule 5 draft by the Indians, alongside first baseman Nellie Rodriguez and pitcher Luis Lugo, who went undrafted.
Personally, I think the odds that the Indians get Santander back are still reasonably high. Santander had offseason shoulder surgery on his throwing arm and has never competed at either the Double-A or Triple-A levels, whether alone the MLB. The Orioles can place him on the 60-Day DL to start the season if they want but at some point this year he's going to have to spend 90 days on the major league roster and that seems very difficult for a team that is hoping to contend for a playoff spot. We'll just have to wait and see on this one because it would be a real shame to lose Santander for good just as he was turning the corner as a rock solid prospect.
The Indians only addition was left-handed reliever Hoby Milner from the Philadelphia Phillies (more on him here). Outside of trading for Andrew Miller, the Indians did not get much production from left-handed pitchers in their bullpen in 2016 (cough cough, Kyle Crockett). If Milner can stick around, he adds some much-needed depth as a potential match-up lefty. Just like with Santander, Milner will need to stay on the Indians 25-man for the full 2017 MLB season or he'll have to be returned.
The real surprises came in the Triple-A portions of the Rule 5 Draft, and that's where the Indians were picked clean. In the Triple-A portion, teams are allowed to protect more players by adding them to their Triple-A rosters, and if left exposed, other teams can swoop in and pick them up. The players taken in the Triple-A portion are gone for good, and the Indians lost four of them: pitchers Grant Sides, Trevor Frank, Nick Maronde and Jon Fitzsimmons.
Sides, a 12th round pick in 2011, had become a pretty reliable option for Double-A, where he spent his full 2016 season. He had a 3.36 ERA, striking out just over 10 batters per nine innings. To me, he was the biggest surprise player that went unprotected in the minor league phase. He was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Frank, an eighth-round pick in 2013, has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, but he was excellent as the closer for High-A Lynchburg in 2016, with a 2.47 ERA. He struck out nine batters per nine innings and spent some time in the Arizona Fall League where he was knocked around pretty badly as the worst-performing pitcher from the Tribe system. He was selected by the San Diego Padres
Maronde, a third-round pick in 2011 by the ALos Angeles Angels, had been traded to the Indians in 2014 for cash considerations. He split time in 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A, something he's done the past three seasons. He was much more effective in Double-A (2.19 ERA) than in Triple-A (4.24) so perhaps the Indians felt he could use a new home with the Miami Marlins.
Last but not least, Jon Fitzsimmons won't be much of a loss. He was signed as organizational depth as a free agent after the Indians traded away six players at the deadline and released a few more. He spent 2016 in Lake County, where he held a 3.31 ERA. Fitzsimmons will join Grant Sides with the Diamondbacks.
One thing to remember, if the Indians did not protect a player from the Triple-A portion of the draft, that meant they didn't feel very highly about that specific player, so while it hurts to see a few of these bullpen arms go, just remember that they're getting better opportunities elsewhere from organizations that feel they could have a chance to contribute at the top level.