The Rule 5 draft takes place at 12 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10 and is one of the final big events of the annual Winter Meetings, which are being held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest challenge this year is the fact that there were no Minor League or Arizona Fall League seasons in 2020, so teams are really going to have to do their homework if they want to find a diamond in the rough.
This past November at the 40-man roster deadline, the Indians added Nolan Jones, Gabriel Arias, Ernie Clement, Eli Morgan and Carlos Vargas to their 40-man roster to prevent those five players from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft this year.
Todd Paquette compiled a list of all the Indians' eligible Rule 5 draftees in their minor league system. There are 56 players listed, excluding the five who were added to the 40-man roster in November.
Updated: #Indians minor league players eligible to be taken during the 2020 Rule 5 #MLB Draft. The Draft will take place this December on the last day of the winter meetings. Deadline to add players to the 40-man roster 11/20/20. pic.twitter.com/64T1yyCkjZ— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) October 28, 2020
Players who have appeared in the Indians prospect rankings include Will Benson, Luis Oviedo (current No. 25 on MLB Pipeline), Oscar Gonzalez, Ka’ai Tom, Jose Fermin, and Juan Hillman.
Oviedo has been ranked as high as the top 10 in the past and was exposed to the draft last year as well, but now has a full year of extra seasoning under his belt and the 21-year-old could be intriguing to teams that lack pitching depth.
Benson is a former first-round draft pick, taken in the now-famous Indians 2016 draft that netted three current members of their starting rotation, including the 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. He was not a participant in the Lake County site during the shortened 2020 season and instead was granted permission to play in the independent Constellation Energy League to help keep his skills sharp. He had a strong 2019 season with over 20 home runs and 20 steals but has not yet played above the High-A level.
The players I’m most concerned about losing are pitchers Juan Mota, Dalbert Siri and Francisco Perez and infielder Jose Fermin. Mota, 24, has lightning in his arm, reaching the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, although the right-handed starter has not yet reached Double-A (he would have if there had been a 2020 season). Siri, 25, is a flamethrowing bullpen arm with closing experience at pretty much every level in the Tribe organization, including Triple-A. Perez, 23, has stayed off the radar a bit, but also is an intriguing left-handed starting pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, although injuries limited him in 2019.
Fermin was the top Indians international signing in 2015. He put up back-to-back impressive seasons at Mahoning Valley and Lake County in 2018 and 2019. 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 did not lose any prospects in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2019, but they did lose three players in the minor league portion. 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.