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11/20/09 11:20 AM ET
Indians add seven to 40-man roster
Brown among those protected prior to Rule 5 Draft
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- With no shortage of Rule 5-eligible players worthy of protection, the Indians filled up their 40-man roster before Friday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline. The Tribe protected seven players -- infielder/outfielder Jordan Brown, left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez, infielders Carlos Rivero, Jason Donald and Wes Hodges, and outfielder Nick Weglarz -- in advance of the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place Dec. 10 at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.
That leaves 37 players from the organization eligible to be taken in the Rule 5. If a player is selected, he must stick with the Major League club that claims him -- either on the active roster or disabled list -- for the length of the 2010 season or else be offered back to the Tribe for $25,000, which is half the fee for selecting such a player. The Indians left a couple intriguing prospects exposed to that process. On the pitching side, right-handers Carlton Smith, Steven Wright and Yohan Pino, and left-hander Chuck Lofgren are among those who might draw interest from another team. On the position-player side, versatile players such as Jose Constanza or Matt McBride might get a look. On the whole, though, the Indians didn't expose any major names. With the seven players added and rehabbing starters Jake Westbrook and Anthony Reyes coming off the 60-day disabled list -- and with free agents Jamey Carroll and Tomo Ohka getting cleared from the roster -- the Indians' 40-man now stands at 40 players. Among those protected, Brown might be the most recognizable name, simply because of the controversy that erupted when he wasn't given a September callup this year. All the 25-year-old Brown did in 2009 at Triple-A Columbus was pace the International League with a .336 average and rank fourth in OPS (.913), but his suspect defense and the presence of Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley on the Tribe's active roster helped block his path. Brown, a fourth-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, voiced his displeasure with the lack of a promotion at the time, though he soon after apologized to the Indians and went right back to work in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he was batting .330 with a .964 OPS through 31 games. The Indians preserved some depth up the middle with the protection of Donald and Rivero. Donald, 25, was acquired in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies, and reports vary as to whether he profiles as a utility guy or an everyday possibility. The Indians didn't get the best feel for him after the trade. Soon after it was consummated, he injured his lower back at Columbus, limiting him to just 10 games with the clippers. Before the '09 season, Donald, who plays primarily at shortstop but can also man second and third base, was tabbed by Baseball America as the 69th-best prospect in all the Minors. But the back injury and an earlier knee injury while at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies' system set him back. The Indians are high on the 21-year-old Rivero. He's a slick-fielding shortstop with potential pop in his bat. He hit .280 with a .797 OPS at Double-A Akron this year, and he batted .318 with an .859 OPS in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League. Weglarz is one of the more interesting position players in the system, because the plate discipline he's displayed at a young age is off the charts -- as is his sheer size. The 21-year-old Weglarz, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, posted a .377 on-base percentage at Akron this year, finishing second in the league with 75 walks. The Niagra Falls, Ontario, area native participated with the Canadian team in the 2008 Olympics and the '09 World Baseball Classic. He was also in this year's Futures Game. But Weglarz suffered a stress fracture in his left shin toward the end of the Akron season, and it continued to bother him in the Arizona Fall League. He had surgery earlier this month to address the fracture and is expected to be back up to full speed by the start of Spring Training. Injuries marred the 25-year-old Hodges' 2009 season. He entered the year profiled as the Indians' potential third baseman of the future, but his season never really got off the ground due to shoulder fatigue and a sprained right wrist. He was limited to 86 games and batted .265 with five homers and 38 RBIs in Columbus. Hodges, a second-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, was a terrific run-producer at Class A Kinston in '07 and Akron in '08, but he needs improvement at the hot corner. On the pitching side, the Indians protected one of the best arms in their system in De La Cruz. The fact that the 21-year-old has never pitched a game above the high-A level yet was still deemed worthy of protection at this stage speaks volumes about his raw talent. He has a mid-90s fastball to go with a legit curveball and changeup. De La Cruz, however, endured elbow issues that limited him to just two starts at Kinston this year. He has reportedly recovered from the injury and is currently pitching in the Indians' parallel league in the Dominican Republic to build up his innings. The 21-year-old Gomez earned roster protection by going 12-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 26 starts for Kinston and Akron this year. The Venezuela native tossed a perfect game for the Aeros on May 21 and was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. None of the seven protected players are expected to crack the Indians' Opening Day roster in 2010, though Brown has an outside shot if LaPorta doesn't recover from hip surgery on time, and Donald could potentially fight his way into the infield utility role.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.