The Cleveland Indians did not participate in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, but they did lose a player along the way.
Pitcher Kyle Dowdy was selected with the tenth overall pick by the New York Mets. The right-handed pitcher recently joined the Indians organization, acquired in July’s trade with the Tigers that brought outfielder Leonys Martin to Cleveland and sent infielder Willi Castro to Detroit.
The Rule 5 draft, held annually on the final day of the Winter Meetings, allows eligible players to be selected if not protected by placement on their club’s 40-man rosters. Players are deemed eligible if they have played five or more seasons of professional baseball after signing at 18 or younger or if they have played four or more seasons after signing at 19 and up. Rule 5 picks cost selecting clubs $100,000 to make.
Dowdy is a right-handed starter capable of touching the upper 90s, but while he has put up good strikeout numbers during his limited time in the minors, he has allowed a lot of contact along the way. He has pitched in just three seasons, with the bulk of the activity coming in the Tigers’ farm system. He went 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 23 games (16 starts) at Class-A West Michigan in 2016 and 8-12 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 25 games (22 starts) at High-A Lakeland in 2017.
Last season, he split time between Double-A Erie (3-4, 5.09 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in five starts and eight relief appearances) and Triple-A Toledo (5-4, 4.47 ERA, 1.51 WHIP in nine starts and two relief appearances) before joining the Indians organization. He struggled back at Double-A with the Akron RubberDucks, going 1-4 in six starts with a 6.52 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP with 28 strikeouts and 18 walks in 29 innings of work.
In the minor league phase, the Indians lost three more prospects. Selections in the Triple-A phase cost clubs $12,000.
With the 12th pick in the Triple-A phase of the draft (Round 1), the Los Angeles Angels picked 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Matt Esparza, one of the pieces of starting pitching depth in the Cleveland farm system. A fourth-year pro out of UC-Irvine (14th round selection in the 2015 draft), Esparza missed nearly all of 2018 while dealing with injury. He had spent the previous season working at High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron, posting a combined 8-8 record with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 26 starts. The previous season, he went 10-10 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 27 games (26 starts) between Class-A Lake County and Lynchburg. He was a 2016 MiLB.com Organization All-Star for the Indians.
The Indians lost another farmhand in the third round of the Triple-A phase when the Oakland Athletics drafted first baseman Anthony Miller. An 18th rounder in 2015, Miller had progressed only to High-A during his four minor league seasons. Last year, in his second season with the Lynchburg Hillcats, he appeared in 74 games and slashed .264/.363/.432 with 16 doubles, one triple, eight homers, and 30 RBI. He matched his previous pro high with 66 hits on the year and recorded a new pro best 38 runs scored, but he does not profile as a typical first baseman at the plate. He will get a new chance in the A’s organization.
The Rays picked for a fourth straight round and were the only team to do so. They used the 42nd selection of the Triple-A phase to pick Cleveland right-hander Hector Figueroa. A 24-year-old out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Figueroa has made just 47 appearances in minor league games for the Indians, including 14 last season. He spent 2015 and 2017 in the Dominican Summer League and spent 2018 in the Arizona League, where he averaged just under a strikeout per nine innings while posting a 2.78 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP in 14 games and 22 2/3 innings of work.
The Indians were active in the Triple-A phase to offset some of the players lost.
With their 19th overall selection in Round 1 of the Triple-A phase, the Indians picked left-handed pitcher Yapson Gomez from the Chicago Cubs. A 25-year-old out of San Cristobal, Venezuela, he gives the Indians some upper level southpaw relief depth. He has pitched no higher than the High-A level in the Cubs farm system, when he worked with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League last season. He went 1-2 there in ten games with a save, a 2.45 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP. He began the year with South Bend, going 1-2 with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 28 games in his second year of work in the Midwest League.
In the second round, the Tribe selected first baseman/catcher Wilson Garcia from the Baltimore Orioles. A switch-hitting prospect out of Caracas, Venezuela, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in November of 2010, but was traded after seven games with High-A Clearwater this past season to the Baltimore Orioles. He concluded the year with High-A Frederick, appearing in 108 games while batting .295 with 24 doubles, 23 homers, and 70 RBI. His power has spiked in the last two years, as before hitting 23 bombs in 2018, he hit 13 in 2017. Previously, he had nine total homers over his first six pro seasons.
While Garcia has caught some in the minors, the bulk of that work came in the first three years of his professional career while working in the Venezuelan Summer League, so it would seem that his time behind the plate will be limited or eliminated altogether moving forward.
Last year’s MLB Rule 5 selection, pitcher Jordan Milbrath, was returned to the Indians by the drafting Pittsburgh Pirates. However, outfielder Anthony Santander (selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 Rule 5 draft) met the expectations of the draft process and was not offered back to the Indians organization.
Photo (Dowdy): David Monseur/Akron RubberDucks