In the last five months, the Indians have now added three first basemen to their 40 man roster and they also have interest in signing Kevin Youkilis. They also didn’t protect their top 1st base prospect, Jesus Aguilar. This list also still includes former prospect Matt LaPorta. The fifth addition to this spot was today in the MLB Rule 5 draft, picking up the left handed hitting Chris McGuiness.
McGuiness is 24 (will be 25 by opening day 2013) and hit .268/.366/.474 with 23 home runs with the Texas Rangers AA- affiliate in 2012, of the Texas League, Frisco RoughRiders, a league that is generally favorable for hitters. McGuiness was once traded from the Boston Red Sox to Texas for C Jarrod Saltalmacchia. The issue with McGuiness is his age and that he has yet to log a single at bat at the AAA level.
Essentially he is the left handed version of Aguilar so it’s shocking that they would pick him up in the Rule 5 because Aguilar doesn’t have an at bat in AAA either, and McGuiness is a year older than Aguilar. McGuiness is considered by scouts to have legit power and is a typical left handed hitter in that he thrives on low and in fastballs, but has an uppercut in his swing with many holes that can be exposed. Aguilar has power potential and grades out with plus raw power, but no guarantees he taps into it at the big league level, as is the case with McGuiness.
The Indians spent $50,000 on selecting McGuiness and add him to the current mix at first base with Aguilar, LaPorta, Mike McDade and Lars Anderson, with the latter two both being on the 40 man roster at this time.
The Indians did lose two pitchers in the Rule 5, which wasn’t a shock to me. LHP TJ McFarland, a 23 year old left hander who won 16 games between AA-Akron and AAA-Columbus in 2012, was selected by the Baltimore Orioles.
McFarland offers an average sinker/slider combination, is still young and is durable (27 starts in 2012, 25 and 27 the previous two years). He could help the Orioles out as a left handed reliever out of the pen, or they could use him as a swing man. His upside is a backend starter, I would bet by the Orioles will end up offering him back to the Indians.
RHP Hector Rondon was selected by the Chicago Cubs. Rondon is off two major elbow surgeries but finally pitched for the first time since 2010. He only logged 10 innings in the minors this year and is currently enjoying a nice stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, where his streak of 10 scoreless outings in a row was just snapped the other day. Rondon was considered a high end pitching prospect before elbow problems cropped up in 2010. In 2009 he had a 137K/29BB ratio in 146.1 IP and an 11-10 record between Akron and Columbus. Out of the two, Rondon has the better chance at staying. I place more faith in Rondon staying in the Cubs bullpen because he does have a good arm, even though he’s had issues repeating his delivery and control at the moment because of past injuries, but he offers a good fastball and a decent changeup. Also, Theo Epstein, who’s running the Cubs, knows what he’s doing.
Bottom line: With the crazy mix of first basemen the Indians have, McGuiness will wind up being offered back to Texas. What “offered back” means; the Indians paid $50,000 to select him in the Rule 5 draft, if the Indians don’t keep him on their 25 man roster all season, they must offer him back to the Rangers for $25,000. The Rangers could refuse and let them keep McGuiness or the teams could work out a trade. 20%-25% of Rule 5 picks end up back with their original team. McGuiness was a prospect when Francona was the manager in Boston, which is something to keep note of.
I think Rondon stays in Chicago and I think McFarland gets offered back to the Indians, though I wouldn’t be shocked if the Indians and Orioles work out a deal that lets the O’s keep him.
You can read more of Justin’s analysis of the Indians minor leagues and his winter league updates at the LakeCounty-Sentinel.com