The Indians made a few moves with their 40 man roster yesterday with the upcoming Rule 5 draft coming during the Winter Meetings.
Basically the Rule 5 draft exists so teams don’t have talented players in a holding pen. If a team signs an 18 year old prospect, after he plays five minor league seasons for them, he either has to be added to their 40 man roster, or risk being exposed to the Rule 5 draft. For a player 19 years or older who signs a contract, they must be added to the 40 man roster after their fourth minor league season.
Any team with an open spot on their 40 man roster may participate in selecting one of these players that a team left off their protected roster. If they select a player (order goes by worst record like a normal draft), that player must stay on that team’s big league 25 man roster all season or be offered back to the original team for a fee of $25,000. There are cases where teams have worked out trades where the drafting team can keep that player and allow him to be sent to the minors, or the team just does not want the player back.
Now that the baseball jargon is out of the way, here’s a look at the players the Indians added to their 40 man roster.
LHP TJ House: You’ve seen me mention house in both of my previous posts here. He just finished the Arizona Fall League campaign with a 3-1 record and a 26/9 K/BB ratio in 27 innings of work. He was a 16th round draft choice in 2008 as a high schooler. He should tremendous makeup by having a very successful 2012 season after a rough 2011. The Indians love his ability to induce groundballs but also feel like his slider has developed enough to make him a threat to rack up strikeouts too.
RHP Trey Haley: Haley was a 2nd round pick in 2008 out of Central Heights high school in Texas. Blessed with a golden arm that helps him reach 95-100 on the radar gun with ease, the Indians gave Trey a $1.25 million signing bonus when he was drafted. Haley is now a reliever and is getting healthy. Over the last two seasons he was misdiagnosed with a groin strain, which turned out to be a sports hernia. Since that mess has been taken care of, Haley was someone any team would love to have. He has a pause in his delivery when he turns his back towards the hitter, which causes his arm to deliver the ball in a whip like motion His delivery is something scouts were concerned about in his stint in the Arizona Fall League. Still, arms like this don’t just fall into a team’s lap every day, and the Indians weren’t about to let that happen in a Rule 5 draft.
OF Tim Fedroff: I’ve been sort of on the fence with Fedroff. He’s always shown a knack for getting on base and excellent strikeout-to-walk numbers. He generally hits well, but not a ton of power. Defensively he’s solid at all three positions but has played mostly centerfield throughout most of his career. His 2012 numbers earned him a shot at a big league job and given who the Indians trotted out in left field in 2011 he is worth a look. For a player who doesn’t hit for a ton of power and likely won’t stick as a centerfielder in the majors, his speed isn’t exactly what you . hope for (14 stolen bases in 2012). His upside is likely a fourth outfielder who can draw a walk, will play solid to good defense and do some little things very well.
RHP Chen (CC) Lee: Lee was shut down in April and wound up having Tommy John surgery, so he probably won’t be ready to get out on the mound until May or June. Still, the 26 year old native of Taiwan has been impressive in the minors since the Indians signed him in 2008. He’s only 5’11 but can get his fastball into the mid-90s with ease. In 2011 he posted a 6-1 record with a 2.40 ERA, 99 strikeouts in just 71.1 innings pitched. Had the Indians left him exposed to the Rule 5, a team could have placed him on the 60 day DL and brought him along when he was ready without losing him. The Indians will likely do the same thing. He should make his debut at some point in 2013 if he recovers successfully.
A few interesting things of note about some of the Indians 40 man moves, 1B/OF Matt LaPorta was taken off the 40 man roster and cleared waivers unclaimed. He also cannot refuse his assignment to AAA Columbus because he doesn’t have enough major league service time.
The Indians also removed RHP Fabio Martinez from their 40 man. They claimed Martinez mid-season from the LA Angels. In 2010, Martinez went 7-3 at Low A Cedar Rapids and struck out 141 batters in 103.1 innings. Since then, he’s had Tommy John surgery and his control evaded him. He was dialing up 100 on the radar gun in Carolina this year but was more or less the Latin version of Rick Vaughn in spring training.
Also left unprotected was 1B Jesus Aguilar, a slightly risky move. Aguilar in 2011 led the Indians entire organization (majors and minors) in home runs (23) and RBIs (82). He hit .280 this year with 15 home runs between high-A Carolina and AA Akron. He improved his strikeout-to-walk numbers this year but still has a lot of work to do with breaking balls. Defensively, many Indians minor league coaches love his footwork and athleticism for a player who is listed 6’3 257. It’s roughly a 50/50 shot that anyone takes Aguilar, because he isn’t a major league ready hitter and a team may not be able to use a roster spot on him for an entire season. Then again, there are teams like Houston for example, who are moving to the American League and need power hitting potential at DH and 1st base who aren’t expected to win this year anyway and could take their lumps with him. The Indians haven’t exactly built a collection of players with power number potential over the years, so even taking a minimal risk in not exposing Aguilar, is still a strange move.
LHP Matt Packer was left exposed after an injury plagued 2012, but recovered well from the shoulder problems. He pitched well in the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League , but it would be a shock to see a team draft him. LHP TJ McFarland has the best chance as an Indians player to be picked up in the Rule 5. He’s a back end starter option who has shown he can take the ball every fifth day and compete. He made 17 starts at AAA Columbus last year so out of this list, he’s closest to being big league ready. Catcher turned 1st basemen, Chun Chen was also left off the 40 man roster. He’s still considered a prospect, but that term is starting to regress for Chen. He’s still a good hitter but doesn’t have a position and won’t hit enough in the majors to be a DH. He should go undrafted as well.
The Colorado Rockies also added RHP Joe Gardener to their 40 man roster. He was the third pitcher the Indians sent to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. He spent 2012 with the AA Tulsa Drillers and has a nice sinker-two seam fastball combination that makes him a good option in the air at Coors Field. The Rockies also removed former Indians farmhand, UT Matt McBride from the 40 man roster, also sent to Colorado in the Jimenez trade.
As for the Indians, their 40 man roster is currently full, meaning they will not be able to participate in the Rule 5 draft, so going into the Winter Meetings, expect some trades and a lot of trade rumors.
You can read more of Justin’s coverage of the Indians minor leagues at the LakeCounty-Sentinel.com