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Players the Indians could target in the Rule 5 draft

If they leave a 40-man roster spot open, who might they pick?

MLB: Wild Card-New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Rule 5 Draft for Major League Baseball takes place on Thursday, Dec. 12. It isn’t yet clear whether or not the Indians plan to leave an open spot on their 40-man roster. If they do, here are some intriguing players eligible for the draft that the Tribe might consider.

OF Moises Gomez - RHB - 22-years-old - Rays

MLB.com Scouting Grades

OVERALL 45
OVERALL 45
HIT 40
POWER 60
ARM 55
FIELD 50
RUN 50

Moises Gomez is a high-risk, high-reward prospect in the Tampa system. He flashes elite power but inconsistent contact ability hampered him in 2019. A 33.5% strikeout rate is cause for concern and likely a main reason that the Rays elected to leave him unprotected.

That being said, he’s forecast to debut in 2021 and the Indians still desperately need answers in the outfield. Moving Josh Naylor to first base would help the Indians sort out some lineup questions, and Gomez could feature as a left field in an outfielder with center field Daniel Johnson and right fielders Tydan Lupquin or Nolan Jones.

The main reason the Indians wouldn’t consider Moises Gomez is that he essentially shares the same batting profile as Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers. The crucial difference is that Gomez hits from the right side of the plate and is projected to play decent defense in left. This is true of neither Bradley nor Bauers, both of whom have cloudy futures in Cleveland after the acquisitions of Franmil Reyes and Josh Naylor. There’s not really room for another 1B/DH type.

INF Omar Estevez - RHB - 22-years-old - Dodgers

MLB.com Scouting Grades

OVERALL 45
OVERALL 45
HIT 50
POWER 40
ARM 45
FIELD 50
RUN 40

The Dodgers signed Estevez for $6 million and paid the penalty for exceeding their bonus pool — that’s how excited they were at acquiring the youngster in 2015. The last time he got to play professional baseball he slashed .291/.352/.431 at Double-A Tulsa, and would have spent all of 2020 at the Triple-A level given his consistent year-over-year improvement as a hitter.

The loss of César Hernández and impending trade of Francisco Lindor leave a gaping yawn in the center of the Indians’ infield. Ernie Clement, Yu Chang, and Gabriel Arias are the current candidates on the 40-man roster to fill those role. Chang profiles best at third, Arias at short, and Clement at second. While I love Ernie Clement’s intangibles I don’t know whether the Indians really see him as a long-term player in the organization, and he certainly doesn’t share the prospect pedigree of a guy like Estevez. He’s also two years older, already.

The seemingly-guaranteed trade of Francisco Lindor may bring back someone that is already an everyday player, but if not a formerly hyped international signing like Estevez might be an option for Cleveland in 2021.

OF Brewer Hicklen - RHB - 24-years-old - Royals

MLB.com Scouting Grades

OVERALL 45
OVERALL 45
HIT 45
POWER 50
ARM 40
FIELD 50
RUN 65

First of all, the name: Brewer Hicklen. He sounds like he should be a Nebraska Quarterback who runs the wishbone and would have won the Heisman if not for his pesky wingback with breakaway speed stealing it from under his nose.

Name aside, Hicklen shows raw power, speed, and vision at the plate that led to a .368 on-base percentage in three seasons of minor league baseball. He’s an excellent athlete and has the agility and range to play center, but a weak arm might see him shifted into left. Given our familiarity with Tito Francona’s lineup construction tendencies it would likely be seen as a plus that he could fill in at either position if necessary.

The issue with Hicklen is his age and the aforementioned logjam in the outfield. One thing that might temper the Tribe’s apprehension about Hicklen being 24 is that he didn’t start focusing on baseball until 2015 — prior to that, he played football and baseball year-round. Regardless, the ceiling here is probably “competent corner outfielder” rather than potential Rule 5 heist. Give the state of the Indians’ outfield I would still consider that a massive win.

LHP Packy Naughton - 24-years-old - Angels

MLB.com Scouting Grades

OVERALL 45
OVERALL 45
FASTBALL 50
CHANGEUP 55
SLIDER 50
CONTROL 50
VELOCITY 90-94

No, I don’t think the Indians are really going to scoop up an arm in the Rule 5 Draft, but Packy Naughton is a former mid-round college draftee with improving command, middling velocity, and a three-pitch mix with some room for sculpting. He’s a lefty to boot, and his name is worth it alone just to hear Tom Hamilton say it during a game. I must also point out that Packy Naughton is an 80-grade name for a crafty lefty.

The fact that his route through baseball thus far mirrors that of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac is probably a red-herring. Or, maybe the Indians see another opportunity to turn a fringe-rotation arm into a surprising asset as a starter.

Even if it doesn’t pan out for Naughton as a starter, he still projects value as a left-handed reliever that can punch-out righties with his changeup.

It just feels like there should be a conclusion section

It does. Don’t argue with me.

That being said I don’t have much to conclude. If the Indians do decide to dip into the pool of overlooked talent next week it is an sure indication that the team sees something that they think can be fixed or developed. None of the players in the draft jump out to me as being excellent candidates for everyday roster spots next season. However, if the Indians signal a stronger rebuild with a large trade within the week, this strategy might change and more “Quadruple-A” types might get a chance to prove themselves in 2021.

There’s the conclusion. It is concluded.

Valedictory Phrase,

Gert Jurgens