Indians: Impending Rule 5 Draft decisions to be made

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Cleveland Indians
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On the Fence

Ka’ai Tom – OF

I wanted to put Ka’ai Tom in the “Good Bets” category but despite the great 2019, he still feels like a guy that could go either way for me. After a couple lackluster years, Blaze (yes, his first name is actually Blaze) had his best year in the minors hitting .290/.380/.532 between Double-A and Triple-A. That’s a .912 OPS for those non-math majors out there. He was an extra-base machine in 2019 as well slugging 23 home runs with 27 doubles and 10 triples.

He spent most of his time in the outfield corners but did start 35 games in center field too. He’s not the best defensive outfielder the Indians have in the minors but he’s solid at all three spots, which is one reason I’d be very worried leaving him off the roster. He’s the type of player that may not have the highest ceiling but has the type of skill set to be a solid fourth outfielder in the big leagues, playing all three spots and proving some speed and bat off the bench.

That power surge also pushes him into the “roster” category for me. Triple-A power numbers were crazy this year due to the ball change, but Tom did it with Akron as well. That .370 BABIP in Triple-A is a bit much and maybe he’s not the .290 hitter he was in 2019 but if he can be a .250 hitter that will play at the big league level.

If it were up to me, he’d be on the roster in a heartbeat with a real shot at seeing the big league club in 2020. But…I just feel he’s not quite as highly thought of by the Indians so I can’t put him higher, and I’m not even sure he’s at a 50-50 level.

Odds of being rostered: 40%

The Relievers

Jared Robinson – RHP
Cameron Hill – RHP
Argenis Angulo – RHP
Dalbert Siri – RHP
Ben Krauth – LHP

There are several relief pitchers that are eligible for the draft that one can make an argument for protecting. Chief among them are right-handers Jared Robinson and Cameron Hill. Robinson, in particular, may actually have a better shot than Ka’ai Tom depending on who you ask.

He had a real breakout year in 2019, starting the year at Advanced-A Lynchburg before moving up to Double-A Akron and finally finishing the season at Triple-A Columbus. Between the three clubs, he posted a 3.34 ERA while striking out 12.5 per nine innings in 70 innings of work, all out of the pen.

Robinson did have some issues with walks (4.5 BB/9) and he wasn’t the most unhittable guy (7.2 H/9). His 1.30 WHIP was merely adequate and he struggled once being promoted to Columbus. He did strike out a ton with 97 in those 70 innings. That alone could entice a team to take a gamble but for a guy that was in A-ball to start the year, it could be a bit much.

Cam Hill has seemingly been around forever and was eligible last year but some injuries have kept him from reaching his full potential. A 17th round pick back in 2014, Hill threw 32 2/3 innings this year mostly for Triple-A Columbus. Like Robinson, Hill struck out a ton, registering 48 punchouts on the year (13.2 K/9).

He had better control than Robinson too walking 3.6 per nine. However, he too wasn’t the most unhittable and his 1.22 WHIP was good though nothing out of the ordinary. Neither had the filthy stuff of a James Karinchak though each has shown enough to be considered big league options perhaps.

Argenis Angulo and Dalbert Siri are a pair of righties that have seen time in the Arizona Fall League and have arms that one can see as big-league caliber. Neither appears ready in my eyes but a team looking to the future maybe could take a chance.

Ben Krauth is one of the few left-handed relievers the Indians have in the upper levels that appears close to ready and that alone could maybe force the Indians’ hand. I like him more than the other two, partially for that reason.

Odds of Robinson being rostered: 40%
Odds of Hill being rostered: 30%
Odds of Krauth being rostered: 20%
Odds of Angulo/Siri being rostered: 10%

The Prospects

Jose Fermin – INF
Oscar Gonzalez – OF
Luis Oviedo – RHP

There are several prospects who have been in the Tribe’s top 20 (or even top 10) lists that are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year. The ones here are in the lower levels, however, so rostering them becomes very tricky. Do you risk adding them and having them run out of minor league options before they are big league ready? Does another team think they can hide them all year and then develop them in 2021 and beyond?

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There are no easy answers to these questions. The Tribe chose not to roster Anthony Santander a couple of years ago who was in a similar boat to a player like Oscar Gonzalez and he was drafted by the Orioles and has since made the jump many thought he could.

I actually like Gonzalez more than I liked Santander and have had Gonzalez as a top 10 prospect in the system at times. However, he doesn’t walk at all and has only had a cup of coffee at the Double-A level (and it was a terrible cup of coffee at that). I’d be pretty shocked if he was taken.

The same goes for Luis Oviedo. He was a former top five prospect in the Tribe system depending who you ask but he had a bad 2019 season, his first in full-season ball.

He still has the ability but you’re talking about a player that should probably repeat at Lake County, not be thrown into a big league bullpen. Crazier things have happened but this one would be a shock for me. He very likely would run out of options before he was ready if the Tribe rostered him now.

Jose Fermin is the one that probably gives me the most trouble here. He isn’t as high on many people’s prospect lists but he’s now had back-to-back great years at the plate. He can walk a ton (at or over 10% walk rate) and he plays solid defense up the middle. Some team could see the potential and try and hide him as that 26th man on the bench as a utility infielder. He’d be terrible at the plate but it’s possible.

Odds of Fermin being rostered: 20%
Odds of Gonzalez/Oviedo being rostered: 5%