Indians Prospects on the Move in the Rule 5 Draft
Bob Toth | On 15, Dec 2017
The annual Winter Meetings wrapped up on Thursday from Orlando, Florida, with the completion of the Rule 5 draft.
Despite having an open 40-man roster spot, the Cleveland Indians did not make a selection during the Major League portion of the procedures, but the club did lose right-handed pitcher Jordan Milbrath to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the eighth pick in the draft.
During the minor league phase, the Indians selected left-handed pitcher R.C. Orlan from the Washington Nationals farm system during Round 1 of the Triple-A phase. The Tribe lost two more minor leaguers, when outfielder Junior Soto was nabbed by the New York Yankees several picks earlier in the round and shortstop Ivan Castillo was selected with the 41st pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in Round 3.
Orlan, a 27-year-old southpaw, was selected by the Nationals in the 30th round of the 2012 draft out of North Carolina. He split time between their High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg affiliates in 2017, posting a combined 3-4 record in 44 appearances with five saves, a 4.06 ERA, and a 1.22 WHIP in relief.
Orlan started the year at High-A, but was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg for the first time in his career before the first month of the season was out. The experience started out well but by the end of May, some problems commanding the strike zone emerged and he started giving up runs in bunches. He pitched in just eight games in June and three more with the club in July before he was returned to the Potomac Nationals roster, where he wrapped up his season with 16 more appearances.
The selection of Orlan with the 25th pick of the Triple-A portion of the draft cost the Indians $12,000.
Milbrath could make the jump to the Major League stage with the Pittsburgh Pirates after they selected him with the tenth pick (eighth player selected overall) in the draft. A 35th round pick by the Indians in 2013 out of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the 26-year-old 6’6” right-hander split his season evenly between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron in his fifth season in the Tribe farm system. He went 2-1 in 15 relief appearances for the Hillcats while posting a 2.03 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and an 11.5 K/9 rate, but those numbers did not translate quite the same with the RubberDucks, where he was 3-2 in 15 appearances with a 3.90 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9 rate.
Milbrath spent parts of three seasons at Lake County with the Class-A Captains in 2013, 2014, and 2015, working largely as a starting pitcher. His move to Lynchburg in 2016 also included a move into the bullpen, where he has remained since. He showcased some velocity last season, with his fastball nearing triple digits.
The Pirates would likely stash away Milbrath in the big league bullpen for the entire 2018 season to fulfill the expectations of his Rule 5 selection. If he does not, he would be returned to the Indians, unless the two clubs can work out a trade.
The New York Yankees selected the young outfielder Soto during Round 1 of the Triple-A phase. Set to turn 21 in January, Soto had just completed his fourth season in the Indians farm system and his first above the rookie league level. He has played no more than 58 games in any one minor league season (and that came in his first season of pro ball in 2014 while playing for the Dominican Summer League Indians) since signing with the Indians in the middle of the 2013 calendar.
Soto spent last season at Lake County. In Class-A action, he slashed .172/.208/.408 in 52 games with 14 doubles, nine homers, and 17 RBI. Three of those homers came during an impressive tear on June 17, when he hit homers in his final three at bats in a 5-3 Captains win in ten innings on the road against the South Bend Cubs.
The Toronto Blue Jays, known of late for a drastically depleted farm system, added the infielder Castillo during the third round of the Triple-A portion of the draft.
Castillo may have already been a familiar name for some in the Toronto front office, including general manager Ross Atkins, the Indians’ former director of player development and vice president of player personnel. The 22-year-old Castillo appeared at two different levels in the Indians organization last season, starting the year at Double-A Akron before a demotion to High-A Lynchburg. He would return to the RubberDucks for the final month of the season, but between the two stops, he hit a combined .267 with nine doubles, a triple, one home run, and 14 RBI. He played an equal 28 games for each club.
Castillo had just completed his sixth season in the Cleveland farm system. He had spent the majority of the time at the High-A level, but had played in two games for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in 2016. The light-hitting switch-hitter is an infielder by trade, working primarily at shortstop with extra work coming at second and third bases and one game in center field.
Another familiar name from the Indians organization was also scooped up in the draft, but he was no longer a member of the Cleveland family. Martin Cervenka, a 25-year-old backstop out of Prague, Czech Republic, who spent last season at High-A Lynchburg, was a minor league free agent after working the past seven years on the farm for the Tribe. The Indians’ MiLB.com Organizational All-Star at catcher in 2017 signed with the San Francisco Giants on a minor league deal earlier in the month, but he was selected out of the Giants organization by the Baltimore Orioles, who continue to collect former Indians minor leaguers. This offseason, the O’s have already signed former Cleveland pitching prospects Perci Garner and Luis Lugo to minor league contracts.
Last season, the Indians selected left-handed reliever Hoby Milner from Philadelphia during the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft and lost outfielder Anthony Santander to Baltimore (Milner was returned to the Phillies at the end of spring training). Cleveland also lost pitchers Jon Fitzsimmons (Arizona), Trevor Frank (San Diego), Nick Maronde (Miami), and Grant Sides (Arizona) during the minor league phases of the draft.
Photo: Akron RubberDucks