The Rule 5 draft is scheduled for December 12th and this Wednesday (11/20) was the deadline to set a teams 40 man roster. In preparation, the Indians have added Jesus Aguilar, Austin Adams, Erik Gonzalez, Carlos Moncrief and Bryan Price to the 40 man roster. This was a necessary move, especially considering they lost two players in the draft in 2012. Hector Rondon was taken by the Cubs second overall and remained with Chicago all year, while T.J. McFarland was lost to Baltimore. It was very wasteful for the Indians to allow two top prospects, who were obviously able to play at the Major League level, to leave the team, especially considering that they protected Lou Marson, David Huff and other players who were obviously never going to make an impact at the major league level. In order to make room for the new additions, Cord Phelps was designated for assignment, effectively placing him on waivers, allowing the other Major League teams a shot at him without the need for a draft.
This year, the Indians are still protecting Lou Marson, who has been surpassed on the depth chart by Yan Gomes and in talent by Chun Chen and others in the minor league system. There are no other terrible players being protected, but that still means four more players could have been saved.
The purpose behind the Rule 5 draft is to end the indentured servitude that begins when a player is drafted. For three to four years, players are forced to do whatever their drafting team tells them to do. While this works out fine for those destined for the Majors in quick order, some players are stuck in a positional logjam and are simply never given the chance they deserve. The Rule 5 draft allows these players to join a different team, where they will immediately get a chance at the big leagues. With the ability to protect 40 players, there is no reason any player that a team really wants to keep needs to be let go. Here are a few players that the Cleveland Indians have decided not to protect that another team might consider drafting in December.
The first interesting prospect available for the draft is Tyler Sturdevant. He missed all of 2013 due to injury, but pitched in the Arizona Fall League and showed that he can still throw fire. Against prospects of all different ages, Sturdevant didn't allow a run in four innings, while striking out three. At 27, it is now or never for the right handed reliever and it would not be surprising for another team to take a shot at him. Pitchers, especially relievers, are much easier to keep on the 25 man roster all season than hitters, as they can be used in mop up roles and be kept hidden in the bullpen.
On the offensive side, Chun Chen is a big surprise not to be protected. While he hit just .223 in AAA, he was in the middle of a position change (from catcher to first base) and it was his first chance at that level. Since the Indians have already essentially given up on Price and Sturdevant, Chun was the most perplexing player left off the 40 man roster. If there is a saving grace, he is not quite Major League ready and any team that drafts him may decide they don't want to start the season with him on their 25 man roster.
Tim Fedroff was on the Indians 40 man roster at this point last season, but has since been exposed to waivers and made it through safely. If no other team was interested in signing him then, they will be unlikely to take him now, but he will be available. After hitting .325 and slugging .517 in Columbus in 2012, his 2013 season was a complete disappointment (.242 average in 136 games) and enough to protect him from being drafted. If he isn't taken this year, he will likely be relegated to being a career minor leaguer.
Finally, Adam Abraham is in an even worse situation than Fedroff. Like him, he seems to have hit a wall with his talent, but rather than this upper limit occurring in AAA, Abraham is stuck in Akron. While he did play 22 games for the Clippers last season, he batted just .253 and hit just a single home run. This is a far cry from his best seasons from 2010 through 2012 when he averaged more than 14 home runs a year. While eligible, it is unlikely that he will be drafted by any team as his chance at the pros seems to have come and gone.
Overall, the Indians look pretty safe right now. Terrible drafts before 2009 have left the Indians farm system barren of talent in the age range that would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year. If any of the players listed were taken, it would be exactly in the purpose of the draft, allowing them to get one final chance with another team. Sturdevant is the only legitimate player that could be taken and it wouldn't be surprising if he was, but if the Indians really wanted him, they could have kept him. In whole, the Indians are likely to be much less active in this year's draft than in 2012, when they lost two players and drafted Chris McGuiness.
Will another team grab #72 in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft? Probably Not.