The Rule 5 Draft takes place at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 and is one of the final big events of the annual Winter Meetings.
The Rule 5 Draft exists to prevent teams from hoarding top players in their minor league systems while other teams would be willing to give them an opportunity to compete on their major league clubs.
Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:
were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or
were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.
Each draftee costs $100,000. If the draftee does not stay on the selecting team’s 25-man (major league) roster all season, the player must be offered back to his original team at half-price ($50,000).
There also is a minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft where teams can protect a player on their Triple-A clubs, although this mostly involves lower level prospects and depth options.
An important new rule change this year is the addition of the 26th roster spot for MLB teams. That 26th spot could be used to add roster flexibility, or teams could exploit it to more easily hide a promising Rule 5 draft selection at the bottom of the depth chart.
This past November at the 40-man roster deadline, the Indians added OF Daniel Johnson, LHP Scott Moss and RHP Triston McKenzie to their 40-man roster to prevent those three players from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft this year.
Todd Paquette compiled a list of all Indians eligible Rule 5 draftees in their minor league system. There are 73 players listed, but it also includes Moss, Johnson, Mckenzie and Mark Mathias, who was traded to the Brewers in November.
#Indians minor league players eligible to be taken during the 2019 Rule 5 #MLB Draft. The Draft will take place December 12th in San Diego on the last day of the winter meetings.#Rule5 #SanDiego #WinterMeetings pic.twitter.com/u2lEOr1x9L— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) November 6, 2019
Players who have appeared in the Indians prospect rankings include Luis Oviedo, Oscar Gonzalez, Ka’ai Tom, Jose Fermin and Juan Hillman. Oviedo is the top-ranked Tribe prospect that’s available to be selected, but he should be safe considering he only played in Single-A Lake County last season and struggled with his command, finishing the season on the disabled list.
Tom had a breakout campaign at Double-A and Triple-A last year and could be taken. He was one of the only players with double digit home runs, doubles and triples, hitting a combined 60 extra base hits on his way to sporting an impressive OPS of over .900 on the season.
The players I’m most concerned about losing are relief pitchers Cam Hill and Jared Robinson. Hill returned from injury last season and was knocking on the door to make the Indians out of spring training back in 2018. He’s the most major league-ready arm that’s not on their 40-man roster. Robinson was Rule 5 eligible last year, but didn’t become interesting until he put up ridiculous numbers at High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron before coming back down to earth in Triple-A.
Henry Martinez and Dalbert Siri are both back-end bullpen arms who also were eligible in last year’s Rule 5 draft. Martinez took a step back in 2019, even getting demoted to Akron for a time, while Siri shined as the Akron closer for the majority of the 2019 season.
RHP Argenis Angulo also is coming off a spectacular season, striking out nearly two batters per inning with Akron and also earning a promotion to Triple-A. Also, after debuting in Double-A as an elite prospect in 2016, but getting hampered by a myriad of injuries, LHP Rob Kaminsky finally earned a promotion to Triple-A in 2019 after being converted to a reliever.
LHP Juan Hillman was selected out of high school in the second round out of 2015 draft and after a few ugly seasons in Lake County, he had his best statistical season in 2019 at High-A Lynchburg, where he sported a 3.85 ERA and was a mid-season All-Star in the Carolina League.
Two other position players to keep an eye on in the draft are Oscar Gonzalez and Jose Fermin. Gonzalez slashed 319/.342/.455 in High-A Akron last season, although he struggled mightily after being promoted to Akron. He’s perhaps best known for his poor plate discipline as he rarely draws walks, but all his other tools are sharp.
Fermin was the top Indians international signing in 2015. He has put up back-to-back impressive seasons at Mahoning Valley and Lake County, most recently doing it for full-season ball. Fermin walks at a double-digit rate, plays great defense, and can hit. Even though he’s never played above Single-A, a team might take a shot on him.
The Indians lost Kyle Dowdy last year in the Rule 5 Draft, although he finally returned to the organization near the end of the season.