Despite a list of tempting options, the Cleveland Indians did not have any players taken in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft Thuesday.
Fans hoping to one day see Ka’ai Tom or Cam Hill in a Tribe uniform can breathe a sigh of relief.
Once the minor league portion of the draft rolled around, the ever-pesky Baltimore Orioles, who always seem to take Indians players in the Rule 5 draft, began to strike.
The Orioles took not one, but two Indians deep minor league players in Wilbis Santiago and Christopher Cespedes. The Oakland Athletics also took catcher Jose Colina.
The Indians got some revenge on the birds, drafting Orioles right-handed pitcher Jhon Peluffo and Blue Jays left-handed pitcher Daniel Young.
Unlike the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, the minor league portion does now allow players to be returned, so Santiago, Cespedes and Colina are all gone.
The 23-year-old Santiago had been in the Tribe system since 2015 and has hit at every level, never posting a wRC+ below 100 in his career. He was utilized as a super utility man, playing first base, second base, third base, shortstop, and the outfield throughout his career.
His issue was he spent the first four years of his career in rookie ball despite hitting well, finally getting a chance to play up to High-A this past season, where he slashed a solid .310/.340/.418 in 67 games. Santiago definitely could reach the big leagues yet.
Cespedes was in a similar boat. Standing 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds out of the Dominican Republic, he flashed power but the 21-year-old had yet to advance past rookie ball despite debuting in the DSL in 2015. According to FanGraphs, Cespedes had the second highest exit average velocity in all of the minor leagues in 2019 at 96 mph. His best season was this past year, when he powered the Indians Blue lineup with a .326/.386/.543 slash with six home runs and 18 doubles in 48 games.
The reason the name Jose Colina doesn’t sound familiar is because he was only in the Indians system for this past season, although he put up bananas numbers in the rookie league. The 21-year-old catcher also powered the Indians Blue lineup in the rookie league, slashing .372/.443/.744 with eight home runs in just 29 games. He spent the first four seasons of his career in the White Sox system, getting released in June 2019 before the Indians gave him a shot.
Now let’s look at the incoming players.
Jhon Peluffo is a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher out of Columbia. He stands 6-foot-3 but weighs a McKenzian 140 pounds. KATOH projected him as a super deep sleeper prospect back in 2017, although his career stalled out a bit at that point as he spent portions of 2016-2019 at regular Single-A. He has a fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 95. His best season was 2019 when he finally broke through the Single-A barrier with a 2.78 ERA and 3.54 FIP, posting a solid 0.87 ERA and 2.22 FIP in 10.1 innings at High-A as a multi-inning reliever.
Danny Young was an eight-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2015 out of Florida. The 25-year-old left-handed pitcher is coming off a strong season at Double-A for the Blue Jays where he sported a 1.79 ERA in 29 appearances out of the bullpen spanning 40.1 innings. One issue was he walked 20 batters in those 40 innings. He also got his first taste of Triple-A last season, getting knocked around, but also posting a career high strikeout rate of 10.4 K/9. Young has potential as a LOOGY as he reportedly put up excellent numbers against left-handed hitters, although that is going to be tougher to make work with the new rules in place.