Indians Add, Subtract In Rule 5 Draft
For the first time since 2002, the Indians were both buyers and sellers at baseball's annual Rule 5 Draft.
Not only hoping to protect their own players as usual, but also open to adding someone from another organization, the Indians selected two players—including righthander Hector Ambriz from the Diamondbacks—and lost two minor leaguers—including lefthander Chuck Lofgren—to the Brewers.
The Indians hadn't bothered to dip a toe into the buying portion of the draft in seven years. But with the recent trade of catcher Kelly Shoppach, they had the luxury of a vacant spot on their roster.
So they selected Ambriz for $50,000 with the fifth pick in the major league phase of the draft, with one caveat—
he must remain on the Indians active major league roster for all of next season or be offered back to the Diamondbacks for half the original price.
Ambriz, 25, has a combined 12-11, 4.94 mark and 135 strikeouts in 28 games (27 starts) last season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. Originally selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA, he owns a career minor league ERA of 4.41 with three saves. In 98 games (83 starts) he's struck out 438 batters in 501 2/3 innings.
"(Ambriz) has power pitches and a history of being a strike thrower," said John Mirabelli, the Indians assistant general manager of scouting operations. "Our scouts feel his stuff translates better as a reliever and that's what he will come to camp as. He pitched in a hitters' league in a hitters' park in Reno and we feel his stuff plays up out of pen and out of that environment."
In addition to Ambriz, the Tribe plucked outfielder Brian Horwitz from the Giants in the Triple-A phase of the draft, which was held in Indianapolis at the Winter Meetings.
Being an organization often well stocked with prospects, the Indians have a hard time protecting their young players with limited roster spots, especially after the late-season trades of 2009 that brought so many young newcomers into the system.
So there's always a keep-your-fingers-crossed kind of feel during the draft, with the team's brass hoping they don't lose some of the players they simply weren't able to protect.
But it's hard to put a young arm out there like Lofgren, a 2004 fourth-round pick, without some organization taking a flier on him, and that's exactly what the Brewers did in selecting him with the 11th pick in the Rule 5 draft.
Last year Lofgren was a combined 9-11, 4.15 in 25 starts between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. While he's had his share of struggles the last few seasons while dealing with family illnesses, Lofgren is just three years removed from his dominating season. In 2006 at high Class A Kinston, he posted a 17-5 record and tidy 2.32 ERA in 25 starts while striking out 125 batters in 139.2 innings.
The next year in his first stint with the Aeros, the workhorse led all Indians minor leaguers in innings pitched (151.1) and strikeouts (130) and was second in wins (12).
Another young Indians minor league lefthander, Matt Meyer, was also scooped up by the St. Louis Cardinals in the Double-A phase of the draft. Meyer went a combined 3-2 with a 5.16 ERA in 44 appearances between Kinston, Akron and Columbus last season.
A pair of Indians No. 1 prospects—
one current and one former—
each recently had surgery. Current top prospect and the Tribe's catcher-in-waiting Carlos Santana had surgery to remove a fracture of the hamate bone in his right hand in early December. Recovery time is eight to 10 weeks, but Indians officials are hopeful Santana will be fully recovered in time for next season. Righthander Adam Miller, the club's former No. 1 prospect, had a setback while working through his post-operative throwing program on his right middle finger and had another procedure to stabilize the flexor tendon. No timetable has been set to return to baseball activities.
Santana was named the 2009 winner of the Lou Boudreau Award as the top minor league position player in the Indians player development system and righthander Hector Rondon was selected as the Bob Feller Award winner for 2009 as the organization's top minor league pitcher