The Rule V draft takes place the last day of the Winter Meetings every season. Any player who was signed or drafted at the age of 18 by his original team that is not on the 40 man roster after five years in the organization is subject to be drafted by a team with a vacancy on its 40 man roster. The same goes for any player who was signed or drafted at the age of 19 by his original team but needs to be protected on the 40 man roster after four years. The player selected must stay on the 25 man roster all season or be returned to his original team. Trades can be worked out and sometimes are.
Fangraphs has a full explanation of the process, including the Triple-A and Double-A phases where the same rules apply as far as ages of signing/draft years but if a player hasn’t been in Triple-A or Double-A first, he can be selected without needing to stay on the 25 man roster.
The Indians roster currently stands at 39 and the odds of them selecting a player in the Rule V draft are slim given the fact they have some names to add.
C Francisco Mejia – 21 – highest level High-A
Mejia famously authored a 50 game hitting streak and almost got traded to Milwaukee for Jonathan Lucroy. Despite a breakout year offensively and a highly graded defensive skills, Mejia hasn’t played above High-A and it would be unlikely that any team would keep him on their 25 man roster all season. He would be subject to the minor league portion of the draft, however, and the Indians won’t risk it.
OF Anthony Santander – 22 – highest level High-A
Finally healthy, Santander got 500 at bats and hit 20 homers, drove in 95 runs and had an OPS of .862 in 2016. He’s a switch hitter who has finally been healthy and tapped into hit power. He’s not a great outfielder and given his injury history and only being in High-A, chances are he wouldn’t get selected in the Major League portion, but possibly the minor league portion. He will probably be protected.
1B Nellie Rodriguez – 22 – highest level AA
The Indians as of now only have one spot open on the 40 man roster and would need to remove a few to add more than one to protect all these eligible players. Nellie did hit 26 homers at AA Akron but also struck out 186 times. Rodriguez has legitimate power and oddly enough, he was much better against right handers (.866 OPS) than left handers (.707). He’s also an average defensive first basemen at best so I would bet the Indians won’t add him to the 40 man roster unless he replaces Jesus Aguilar on it. Aguilar however, seems to have endless 40 man lives.
LHP Luis Lugo – 22 – highest level High-A
Lugo is 6’5″, left handed and posted decent strikeout rates in 2014 (10.40 K/9) and 2015 (8.52) even if it did slip again in 2016 (7.48). Left handed pitchers like Lugo are generally the most picked players in the Rule V draft because teams can stash them in the bullpen as a LOOGY and then option them the next year. Most pitchers taken and the ones who stick are generally more polished than Lugo, but given his size and pedigree there is a chance he could be selected. It seems likely the Indians would protect him, but he’s not a sure thing given their current roster situation.
RHP D.J. Brown – 25 – highest-level AA
Early in the year the Indians used Brown in sort of a long-relief, short start role. He responded with his best full season strikeout rate (8 K/9 at Akron). He’s 6-foot-6 and has racked up some innings in the minors already. He’s lower on the totem pole as far as depth, so he probably will not be added.
RHP Cole Sulser – 26 – highest level AA
Sulser missed all of 2015 with an injury and worked his way back in 2016. Despite 70 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings he still posted a 4.34 ERA. He’ll probably be left off and be safe from being chosen. But teams might look at his age and strikeout rate and see if they can make him stick in a bullpen somewhere.
RHP Mitch Brown –22 – highest level High-A
Brown’s 10.98 K/9 was the best of his career and the move to the bullpen seemed to benefit him. He has size, great makeup and a good repertoire. Something has just never clicked in overall performance for Brown. A move to the bullpen might have solved that but he doesn’t have enough success above a low level to be rostered or selected in Rule V.
LHP Thomas Pannone – 22 – highest level High-A
He posted a 9.28 K/9 in 116 innings at Low-A and 7.83 in 43.2 IP in high-A while allowing just one homer as well. Pannone is sort of a left handed Josh Tomlin. Given his lack of experience at a higher level it seems unlikely any team would select him but because he is left handed and has been a strike thrower, he could be a candidate for someone’s bullpen.
OF Dorssys Paulino – 21 – highest level High-A
Paulino was a big international free agent signing, getting over $1 million and moved from shortstop to outfield two seasons ago. He’s been an OK outfielder and his bat finally took a step in the right direction. Still, he’s not a great defender and his bat still has a ways to go. He won’t be rostered or selected.
RHP Josh Martin – 26 – highest level AAA
Martin was selected last year by the San Diego Padres but didn’t make it through spring training. The Indians bullpen is pretty crowded and their 40 man roster also has a few starting pitching depth options on it, so finding room for Martin again seems unlikely again.
Who’s on the bubble
Given their bullpen depth, his age and lack of footing, Adams seems to be very much on the bubble. Aguilar has survived a lot of roster moves but that may end soon. If the Indians need to create a roster spot, they only need two catchers and Gimenez seems like a sure bet for the Indians to try to get on a minor league deal. They love Martinez but if they manage to upgrade his spot, he’ll go. Baker had a third surgery this past year but the Indians did take the step to protect him last year. They’ll probably give him the year to recover, rebound and see if they made the right decision. But if they prefer to hang on to any of the other players on this list, they may remove him.