The Cleveland Indians' Major League departure from this year's Rule 5 draft was right-handed pitcher Jordan Milbrath, who was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 8th overall pick of the Major League Phase. The Pirates will now be on the hook to keep Milbrath on their 25-man roster for the entire season and pay the Indians $100,000. If they do not, they will have to return Milbrath to the Tribe and receive only half of their payment back in return.
Milbrath, 26, spent his 2016 season split between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron with the Indians, hurling a combined 3.02 ERA in 56.2 innings pitched. He was dominant in High-A, holding a 2.03 ERA while striking out 34 batters in 26.2 innings, but struggled in Akron, striking out 29 batters in 30 innings and owning a 3.90 ERA. Milbrath walked 25 batters on the season, which averaged out to nearly four free passes per nine innings.
Personally, I expect Milbrath to return to the Tribe. Milbrath flashes decent strikeout stuff, but he hasn’t registered as a top prospect in the Indians system at any point in his MiLB career. Last year was the first season he’s held an ERA under 4.50. He was a 35th round pick out of Augustana in 2013.
The Indians only addition was left-handed reliever R.C. Orlan from the Washington Nationals in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. With elite reliever Andrew Miller and the surprising emergence of Tyler Olson in 2017, Orlan is a longshot to be a major contributor for the Indians in 2018, but stranger things have happened. No one thought much of Olson when the Indians picked him up as a minor league free agent. Like Milbrath, Orlan pitched well in High-A this past season (3.21 ERA, 9.3 K/9) but experienced some struggles against Double-A hitters (5.09 ERA, 9.4 K/9). Orlan adds some bullpen depth with the loss of Milbrath, and the Indians get to keep him as long as he stays in Triple-A or higher this year.
Recap of #Indians Rule 5 Draft— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) December 14, 2017
RHP Jordan Milbrath (MLB) phase to Pirates
OF Junior Soto (AAA) phase to Yankees
INF Ivan Castillo (AAA) phase to Blue Jays
LHP Robert Orlan (AAA) phase from Nationals
The other two players the Indians lost came in the Triple-A portions of the Rule 5 Draft, Ivan Castillo, and Junior Soto.
Castillo, an international signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, was primarily a utility infielder. Still just 22 years old, he briefly played in Triple-A in 2016, but spent a majority of this past season in High-A, where he carried a .315/.360/.402 slash line. He was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Soto, an international signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, never reached higher than Single-A in the Tribe system. He’s also young at 20 years old, and the 6’3” outfielder showcased a spike in power last season with nine home runs in 52 games, including a three-homer game. That being said, he also only slashed .172/.208/.408 for Lake County. He was selected by the New York Yankees.
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 players 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.