The Good Bets
Nellie Rodriguez – 1B (132 games, 26 HR, 85 RBI, .250/.352/.474, 129 wRC+ at AA)
Rodriguez was originally a 15th-round pick by the Cleveland Indians in 2012. The 22-year-old first baseman spent all of 2016 at Double-A Akron where he slugged a career-high 26 home runs, despite playing in pitcher-friendly Canal Park.
The big right-hander added 28 doubles and two triples, giving him 56 extra-base hits on the year, just one shy of his 2015 and 2014 totals (57 each year). Rodriguez is far from the best hitter in the Tribe system, but he’s been consistent if nothing else.
He showed enough in 2016 that if the Indians felt the need they could start him in Triple-A Columbus at the outset of the 2017 season, though a return trip to Akron isn’t out of the question either.
He is not the best defensive first baseman out there though he doesn’t embarrass himself. He does lack the ability to play any other position, which is why he falls in the “good bets” category and not the “near certainties” like Mejia. The Indians did choose to not roster Jesus Aguilar the first time he was Rule 5 Draft eligible and he was a similar profile player as Rodriguez.
However, Rodriguez has much quicker hands and the swing looks like it could play at the major league level more so than Aguilar’s. It would be a pretty big shock if Rodriguez wasn’t on the 40-man roster come this weekend.
Anthony Santander – OF (128 games, 20 HR, 95 RBI, .290/.368/.494, 137 wRC+ at A+)
Santander was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent back in July 2011 out of Venezuela. The 22-year-old switch-hitter spent the previous three seasons mostly at Class-A Lake County before a major breakout season in 2016 at Advanced-A Lynchburg vaulted him up prospect boards, making him a name Tribe fans should remember.
He built off his impressive, albeit short, 2015 season where he posted a .866 OPS in just 72 games between Lake County and Short-Season Mahoning Valley.
Always thought to have some raw power, Santander finally showed it off in greater detail in 2016 belting a career-high 20 home runs along with 42 doubles, which nearly doubled his previous career high of 22. Despite not playing above A-Ball, Santander appears a good bet to be rostered thanks to his upside with the bat.
He also has experience at both corner outfield spots and played nine games at first base in 2016. He is far from a defensive stalwart which could scare teams off but versatility and pop are things teams can crave this time of year. Santander could also start the year at Double-A Akron and a team really looking to rebuild could try to stash him on the bench all year.