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Rule 5 Draft: AL Central - The Indians have a farm

So far it seems there is one team in each division which will dominate the rule 5 eligibility selection.  Last time, it was the Yankees.  For the AL Central, it's the Indians, though the Twins also have some interesting players.  This list contains more true prospects, players 21-25 years old at more or less age-appropriate levels of play.  On the flip side, many of these players may not be quite ready to contribute at the big league level; however, being pitchers, it's always possible to simply bury them in the bullpen and use them only in low pressure blowout situations.

I've changed up the format a little this time to make things more readable and informative.  Let me know what you think!  Please also note that I had a difficult time finding lists of eligible players, and couldn't find one at all for the White Sox, who have been consequently left out of this roundup.  If there are any players I missed or factual errors regarding the ones listed here, please let me know in the comments.

With all of that out of the way, let's proceed to the players.

Twins

  • Matthew Fox (27, RHP).  27-year old starting pitcher Matthew Fox used to be a hot prospect for the Twins, before a shoulder injury in 2005 threatened his career.  After recovering from the injury, he moved on to put in good performances for the next four years, culminating in a solid season starting for the Twins' AA affiliate this year.  He strikes out over 7 batters per nine innings with a decent walk rate, and has posted under 4 ERA every season in the last four years.  His age is a problem, and his ceiling is probably as a #5 starter, but he might serve to add a little depth to the pitching staff.  His 150+ solid innings this year as a starting pitcher are the primary reason for my interest in him.
  • Brian Dinkelman (26, 2B).  A strong defensive second baseman, Dinkelman has also demonstrated a solid bat in his last four years with the Twins organization.  So far he has topped out at AA, but not due to lack of ability; he batted .296/.383/.440 this year, demonstrating good strike zone discipline and a bit of power in his compact swing.  Dinkelman has been consistently patient throughout his career, and he doesn't strike out much.  The only real downside is that he's a 26-year old AA player, but it's worth keeping in mind that he was a 6th-round draft pick out of college in 2006, so he's only had three full seasons in the organization.  He reportedly has the versatility and range to play a little backup shortstop, so he could be a useful utility infielder capable of competing for a starting job as well.
  • Rene Tosoni (23, CF).   One of the younger players on this list, 23-year old Tosoni is a bonafide prospect, though not a top prospect.  He was this year's Futures Game MVP, and he's an average center fielder with decent power and the patience to take his walks.  His youth is both a plus and a minus; on the one hand, he'd be a nice addition to the system, but on the other hand, this season was his first appearance in AA, where he played 122 games.  His batting line was a respectable .271/.360/.454.  As a center fielder, he would be a good defensive backup for the outfield, but it's questionable whether his bat is ready for the big leagues.  He might stick on the roster, or he might bounce back to the Twins at some point during the season.

Tigers

  • Lester Oliveros (21, RHP). At 21 years old, Lester Oliveros is a promising young pitcher with a "true closer mentality", an above average fastball, and a plus slider.  He managed to jump directly from Class A Advanced to AAA this season, though he only pitched two innings at AAA.  His strikeout/walk rate is excellent, and his FIP is much better than his low-4s ERA.  He's more of a prospect than an MLB-ready pitcher, but he could be buried in the bullpen on the active roster and sent down to AAA for more seasoning come 2011.
  • Brayan Villarreal (22, RHP)Another prospect type, flame-throwing Villareal is only 22, and hasn't made it anywhere close to the big league roster--in fact, he's only pitched in class A.  His work there, however, was excellent, striking out 10+ batters per nine innings, walking less than three, and posting under three ERA and FIP... as a starting pitcher.  Other than inning count (Villarreal pitched 103.1), that's nearly as good as our own top pitching prospect, Jordan Lyles--albeit a few years older.  If we want to fortify our future organizational pitching depth at the expense of a 25-man roster spot, Villarreal would be a great candidate to pick.

Indians

  • Paolo Espino (22, RHP).  Just barely scratching AA this year, Paolo Espino's best pitch is his plus curveball.  He also features a low-90s fastball, and posted good numbers as a starting pitcher at the Indians' Class A Advanced affiliate this year.  He should be considered yet another young guy who's a year to a year and a half away from being big league ready, but his average fastball and above average secondary pitches give him some decent starter potential.  Think of him as a right-handed version of the Wandy Rodriguez type.
  • Frank Herrmann (25, RHP). Despite never posting eye-popping strikeout numbers, 25-year old Herrmann has earned a reputation as an dependable strike-throwing pitcher within the Indians farm system, and he's big league ready now.  He throws a power sinker which sits in the low-90s, as well as a hard slider and a decent changeup.  His best attribute is that he keeps the walks down, with a 1.54 BB/9 rate at AAA this year.  According to Indians Prospect Insider, he applies his Harvard-educated intelligence on the mound.  With plenty of experience as both a starter and reliever, he's an attractive candidate to add some depth to the big league pitching roster, though his potential tops out as a back of the rotation starter.
  • Yohan Pino (24, RHP).  Once considered one of the top arms in the Twins organization, Pino was sent over to the Indians in the Carl Pavano trade.  The interesting thing about Pino is that he doesn't have great stuff, at least in terms of his fastball; it sits in the mid-to-upper 80s.  He uses a good slider and curveball to consistently strike out batters at an above-average rate, while limiting walks, often walking under two batters per nine innings.  His sub-3 ERA as a starter this year is no fluke, as his FIP demonstrates similar numbers, and his BABIP and LOB% are right where they should be.  With ten 5+ inning starts (nine of them good) at AAA this year, the crafty 24-year old may be big league ready now.
  • Erik Stiller (25, RHP).  Ah, the wonders of a deep farm system.  25-year old Stiller is yet another interesting pitcher, signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of Princeton in 2006.  At 6'5", his fastball tops out in the mid-90s, and he also works in a cutter, curveball, and changeup.  He's mostly worked as a reliever, posting good strikeout numbers and a solid FIP the last three years in the Indians farm system.  His walk rate has risen the past couple seasons, but so has his strikeout rate.  With two seasons at AA under his belt, he may be a big league ready middle reliever.
  • Neil Wagner (25, RHP).  Last Indians pitching prospect, I promise.  At 25 years old, Wagner has one of the best fastballs in the Indians system, and he uses it to good effect, striking out over ten batters per nine innings.  He had a great full season at AA this year, but his walk rate did rise to over four batters per nine.  Nonetheless, his 2.95 ERA demonstrated the effectiveness of his pure, unadulterated stuff.  According to Indians Prospect Insider, he lacks a quality secondary pitch, but it would be hard to be disappointed with a rule 5 pick who wields a fastball which tops out at 98 MPH.
  • Jose Constanza (26, CF).  A definite Michael Bourn type, Jose Constanza is a speedy, good defensive center fielder with the patience to take some walks, but little power in his bat.  He's good at making contact and steals plenty of bases, but with a slugging percentage that looks more like a batting average, don't expect much power out of him.  Nonetheless, 26-year old Constanza is another good candidate for fourth outfielder, after spending two solid seasons at Class AA.  He could also see some use as a late inning pinch runner.

Royals

  • Ed Lucas (27, 3B).  27-year old Ed Lucas is the only rule 5 eligible Royals player I found particularly interesting, but interesting the Quad-A third baseman definitely is.  With patience and pop, Lucas is another player who might be a reasonable alternative to Chris Johnson, having posted a .290/.388/.448 batting line at the Royals' AA Affiliate this season, and nearly as good the season before.  The only thing that worries me about Lucas is that he has never hit well at AAA, but the sample sizes are so small that they are likely the culprit rather than any lack of ability on Lucas' part.  Please note that the birth date listed on FanGraphs is apparently incorrect; Lucas was born in 1982, not 1981.
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