Cleveland Indians 2016 Rule 5 Draft and Roster Decisions

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Could Luis Lugo be the next Danny Salazar? Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

On the Fence

Luis Lugo – LHSP (8-5, 26 games, 26 starts, 136.0 IP, 4.04 ERA, 4.25 FIP at A+)

Signed out of Venezuela in 2011 as an amateur free agent, Lugo spent his second straight season at Advanced-A Lynchburg in 2016. The 22-year-old lefty stands 6-foot-5, and has the build to be a big league starter.

He set a career high in starts and lowered his ERA for the second straight season. However, his strikeout rate also dropped for the second straight season. After posting an outstanding 27.1-percent strikeout rate in 2014, Lugo struck out just 19.8-percent in 2016, which was down from his 21.7-percent in 2015. He did lower his walk rate ever so slightly this season but still walked just over nine percent of hitters.

Lugo was a fringe top-30 prospect in the Indians system heading into the 2016 season and nothing much has changed. His size and stuff will be enticing to teams but not pitching above A-ball despite reaching Advanced-A on opening day in 2015 is a bit of a red flag.

A team may think they could stash him in the bullpen and see if his stuff plays up there. Lugo is one of the tougher decisions the Indians have today. He’s still a couple years away if left as a starter but perhaps he puts everything together in the bullpen and gets to the big leagues much quicker.

The Indians have added some surprise pitchers over the years with Danny Salazar and Dylan Baker coming to mind. Smart money is probably on the Indians leaving Lugo off the roster though without a lot of options this year they could feel a spot is warranted. A “coin-flip” decision for me here…

Prediction: Rostered

Jeremy Lucas – C/1B (95 games, 12 HR, 48 RBI, .252/.346/.420, 118 wRC+ at AA; 4 games, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .250/.250/313, 55 wRC+ at AAA)

Lucas was originally a 12th-round pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 draft. The 25-year-old right-hander was Rule 5 Draft eligible last year but was not rostered. He’s an offensive-minded catcher who has some power (.173 ISO in 2016) but his real value comes from his plate discipline as he posted a walk rate over 11 percent for the third time in four professional seasons.

He’s not a guy you want behind the plate every day as he spent time at first base and designated hitter, but he did throw out 32-percent of would-be base stealers in 2016.

I wouldn’t expect Lucas to be taken as it would be hard to see him sticking with a big league team all year. However, catchers that can hit have value and the Indians saw first-hand last season how lack of depth behind the plate can hurt. The Indians never really replaced Tony Wolters on the roster and perhaps Lucas could fill that role as the third catcher on the roster.

Prediction: Not Rostered