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12.06.2012

Rule V Recap: Indians Claim 1B, Lose McFarland & Rondon

Nino Colla | Thursday, December 06, 2012 | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
This year's Rule V Draft provided some excitement for the Indians, not only in that they lost several players, but they made a claim of their own to fill up their 40-man roster.


If you don't know by now, the Rule V Draft is an interesting wrinkle to the Winter Meetings. It creates some intrigue to 40-man roster situation for teams and every year, there are some issues teams have to deal with in preparation.

Teams don't want to lose certain players, but sometimes they have to make tough decisions. Sometimes those decisions come back to hurt them. You have your Johan Santana's every once and awhile, but most times, you have Hector Ambriz.

The wrinkle to select a player, you need to make sure that player is on the 25-man roster the entire season. So they either need to fill a need or you have to be a team that can stash the player.

This year, the Indians were not in much of a crunch. Decisions were easier to make and there wasn't a whole lot the Tribe was risking. However they did tie the Red Sox for most players lost in the major league portion of the draft.

However they didn't lose the name they thought they would.

[CUBS SELECT RONDON]

It has been a long road for Hector Rondon. He has made his way up through the system through the years and at just 24-years-old, has has been stalled by a pesky elbow injury. He's pitched just 41 innings in the past three seasons thanks to a season that was ruined by not having elbow surgery and then the following season by having the elbow surgery.
Photo - Getty Images via Zimbio.com

Towards the end of last season, Rondon started making progress in the minors, he pitched in four innings for the Aeros and has been in Winter Ball the past few weeks doing some real good and promising work. He's pitched in 17 innings, having been a reliever, with a 3.71 ERA with two wins and 11 strikeouts. It's very much a build up of arm strength and a process of him getting back to form.

Will he ever be a starter again? Who knows. He once was figured to be a fixture of the rotation and one of the Indians top prospects in the system. He now may be just a reliever.

And he may be a reliever for the Chicago Cubs, who selected him with the second pick in the Rule V Draft.

The problem with the Cubs is that they don't figure to contend in a division with Cincinnati, St. Louis, even Milwaukee and an upstart Pittsburgh team. They can afford to have one of their roster spots devoted to a reliever they can stash at the back of their bullpen. Rondon can take his lumps as the long-man and build up his arm strength that way. He doesn't have to win a roster spot, the Cubs can just give it to him. He's been close enough to the major leagues too that it isn't really a huge gamble on a young player with a lack of experience.

It's a good pick for a good team, and if you ask me, I think we've seen the last of Hector Rondon. The Indians will gladly pocket the money, but if Rondon turns out to eventually be able to start, then it may be a little frustrating. If he's just a reliever? Eh, no huge loss.

[ORIOLES NAB McFARLAND]

There was some idea that the Indians were picking between two T.J.'s when they decided to roster T.J. House and not T.J. McFarland. The argument for McFarland is that he has been more productive than House and is really close to the major leagues. House however comes with more youth and upside. This isn't a "this-guy-or-that-guy" type of an argument though. The Indians created themselves another spot, if they wanted to roster McFarland, they would have.

They simply thought he wouldn't get taken, or if they did think he would get taken, they were okay with it happening. And it happened, so now what?

McFarland is a lefty, so that works in his favor and perhaps is a reason why the Orioles selected him. They had been looking for some more bullpen arms, particularly a left-hander, and McFarland could fit the bill. He has been a starter, but the Indians might be lying if they said they didn't look at him as more of an end-result reliever. The problem is that he's not a flashy starter, but he does get the job done. More of a groundball type of a pitcher who utilizes his sinker. McFarland has 431 career strikeouts in the minors to just 195 walks. He does not strike out a lot of hitters, but he does not walk a ton of hitters either. He's very much a contact guy.

It is hard to say what the Indians are losing in McFarland and it's even tougher to say if they will lose him at all. He made 17 starts at Columbus last year, so as far as experience, he is nearing that major league opportunity. If the Orioles keep him around, he'll get that shot. What they intend on bringing him in for is something only they know right now. All they would say is that they targeted a few left-handers. Perhaps long-term they'd like him as a starter, but for now, he may fit into their bullpen.

"We know he has a knack for winning games, and hopefully that knack will translate to the Major Leagues," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "We had targeted a couple left-handed pitchers in the Draft. We wanted to get another left-handed pitcher into our system, and this was a cost-effective way to accomplish that."

Time will have to tell on what happens with McFarland. I could see him getting returned in a crunch for the Orioles or mid-season returning him or trying to complete a trade to keep him so they can send him down. Of course those are all the things that could happen, so I can just easily say that anything can happen with him.

The Indians though walk away 100,000 richer for losing two players...

[INDIANS ADD SOME POP AND KEEP SOME TOO]

So why not spend some of that on a player of your own? A few picks after Rondon went, the Indians grabbed first baseman Chris McGuiness (that's one n!) from the Rangers organization. Here's the rundown on McGuiness, who if he ever makes it to the majors for the Indians, already has a brilliant built-in home run celebration gimmick that is better than anything else we've ever used on this blog or on Twitter. (Brilliant!)
Photo - MILB.com

The Red Sox picked McGuiness in 2009 in the 13th round (The Citadel represent!) and was acquired by Texas in the middle of the 2010 season in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade. With Boston in 2010 he hit 1 home runs for Single-A Greenfield before the trade. In 2011 he hit just two home runs and knocked in 26 runs for High-A Myrtle Beach at 23 years old. Of what I can find, he had an oblique injury in 2011, but I'm not sure as to why he was limited to just 52 games.

Either way, the Rangers might have viewed him as a potential first baseman of the future after what he did this year in Double-A Frisco, hitting 23 home runs and knocked in 77 runs total. he did strike out 107 times, but 69 walks is rather impressive at that age and level and his .366 OBP and .474 slugging percentage in 2012 make you salivate. Those are prototypical power numbers that you would expect from a first baseman. It gets better too in that he was named the Arizona Fall League MVP after hitting four home runs and posting a .370 on-base number, right in line with his season numbers.

The intriguing part to all of this is that first baseman are not usually selected for the simple reason that they have no versatility and can clog up a roster. Just look at Travis Hafner and him being a DH. The upside to McGuiness is that the Rangers were contemplating trying him in the outfield, which means the Indians can do the same as he is a little bit better of an athlete than your typical power first baseman. So this is a pick that has versatility and will let the Indians use him a little more.

Typically if it isn't a pitcher that is picked, it's a utility guy who can bring speed off the bench, but obviously McGuiness is the exception here. The other issue is that he hasn't played above Double-A, but if he comes in and competes for a job in the spring and out-plays everyone, what does it matter?

This is essentially what the Indians are doing. They are spending $50,000 that is basically free money since they lost two players (and even if they are both returned, you only give $25,000 each back, basically making the move a wash) on a player to compete for a job. If he wins, he wins, great investment, if he doesn't, you only wasted $25,000 of money you weren't really spending.

It's a cunning move and one that if works, is your next type of David Ortiz, Johan Santana type Rule V pick up. If it doesn't, it's Hector Ambriz and no one cares and even more of advantageous is that you really didn't spend any money at all.

And if McGuiness is returned, the Indians still have their own prototypical first baseman with pop in the minors ready to ascend because he was not selected in the Rule V Draft. For the same reasons that I stated earlier in regards to why first baseman are not selected, Jesus Aguilar went un-picked in the draft. He is essentially McGuiness. Same situation having been no higher than Double-A, first baseman. The difference is that McGuiness may be a little more versatile if they try him out in the outfield and he can do it.

The Indians didn't lose anyone else in the minor league portion and they also didn't select anyone as they usually do. So it was a really active major league phase, but a rather inactive minor league phase for everyone else as well.

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