Tribe Adds Three to 40-Man Roster Ahead of Rule 5 Draft
Bob Toth | On 20, Nov 2018
The Cleveland Indians added three more prospects to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, protecting three young talents from selection in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
First baseman Bobby Bradley, starting pitcher Sam Hentges, and pitcher Jean Carlos Mejia became the newest members of the farm system to earn a spot on the 40-man roster of the Indians, ensuring that Cleveland does not lose any of the three during the Major or Minor League portions of the draft in December. The moves filled the team’s roster at 40, following the addition earlier in the day of right-handed reliever Walker Lockett in a minor trade with the San Diego Padres.
Bradley was a logical addition as one of the club’s top offensive prospects in the minor league system. The 22-year-old left-handed slugger would appear to be the heir apparent at first base for Yonder Alonso come the end of his contract (either after 2019 if bought out or 2020 if his option is picked up or becomes guaranteed with 526 plate appearances in 2019), but Bradley still needs some time to prove that he can handle the big league arms race. Through five minor league seasons, Bradley has flashed some power (hitting as many as 29 homers and driving in 102 runs during his 2016 season at High-A Lynchburg and hitting a combined 26 doubles last season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus), but big strikeout numbers have also followed him around at every level of the farm system.
Bradley started last season with the RubberDucks and put up a .214/.304/.477 slash with 19 doubles, three triples, 24 homers, and 64 RBI in 97 games, but he struck out 105 times in his second season at the level after spending all of 2017 in the Eastern League. He advanced to Columbus during the second half of the season and hit a bit better, putting up a .254/.323/.430 line with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, and 19 RBI in 32 games, but struck out 43 more times while walking just eleven.
Across 540 minor league games in his career, Bradley owns a lifetime .252/.342/.491 mark with 102 doubles and 114 home runs. He was the Indians’ third round selection in the 2014 draft out of Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Hentges, also 22, is a young left-hander who was taken one round after Bradley in the 2014 draft out of Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Listed at 6’6” and 245 lbs., Hentges is one of the taller men on the mound in the Indians’ organization, but his problem has been staying in the center of the diamond for long stretches of a season, which has also led him to be several pegs down the organizational ladder at this stage of his professional career.
The southpaw just completed his longest professional season to date in 2018, when he made a career-high 23 starts for the Lynchburg Hillcats and was named a mid-season All-Star in the Carolina League. He posted a 6-6 record with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, striking out 122 batters in 118 1/3 innings of work. He averaged just under a hit allowed per inning pitched, but averaged more than four walks per nine innings.
Previously, Hentges’ single season high for appearances was 14 in 2016 while working for the Single-A Lake County Captains during a rough showing. He pitched in 13 games in 2015 (in the Arizona League and with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers), eleven in 2017 (in the AZL and New York-Penn League), and eight during a good professional debut showing (in the Arizona League in 2014). It has led to just 69 games of wear and tear on his arm through five seasons while posting a promising 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Like the other two players added to the 40-man Tuesday, Mejia is just 22 years old. The right-hander spent his 2018 season primarily at Lake County, making 15 starts and a pair of relief appearances. He also made one start for the Hillcats in his first action above the Class-A level.
Mejia had spent his first four seasons in the Indians organization working almost exclusively in relief, doing so in 72 of the 73 games that he had pitched in while working in the Dominican Summer League from 2014 to 2016 and split between the Indians’ Arizona League club and Mahoning Valley affiliate in 2017.
Last season, he went 4-8 in 15 starts and two relief appearances for the Captains with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with 97 strikeouts and 20 walks in 92 innings of work. Combined with his outing at Lynchburg to close out his season, his 1.12 WHIP was third-best in the farm system (among pitchers with at least 90 innings logged). The undrafted free agent addition in November of 2013 lost almost seven weeks of his season to right elbow irritation and the loss of his father in May, but he bounced back and pitched with authority and caught eyes with a 4.76 strikeout-to-walk rate. The fastball-slider-changeup hurler struck out a professional career-high ten batters in back-to-back games to close out July during a 14-inning scoreless stretch of four-hit baseball against West Michigan and Great Lakes.
Mejia, still raw, could remain an up-and-coming starting pitching option in the farm system for the Indians or could even sneak into consideration as a bullpen arm.
With a full 40-man roster, the Indians will likely be a silent observer for the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft, set to be held on December 13 from the annual Winter Meetings, taking place this year at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo: Columbus Clippers (Bradley)