CLEVELAND — For the first time since 2016, the Indians made a selection in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday afternoon, but the team also lost two of its prospects.
Though it was conducted through a Slack channel and an online audio stream rather than a conference room at the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft carried on as usual on Thursday, as the Indians selected right-hander Cheap Trevor Stephan Jersey from the Yankees’ Triple-A roster. The Tribe also lost righty Luis Oviedo (who was drafted by the Mets and immediately traded to the Pirates, a source told MLB.com) and outfielder Ka’ai Tom.
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The 25-year-old Stephan was ranked the Yankees’ 24th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He relies heavily on his fastball (a pitch that tops out at 98 mph) and has decent spin rates on his slider/cutter. The 6-foot-5 Stephan, who has been a starter in New York’s system, struggled so much with command in 2019 (issuing nine walks in his final 13 outings) that MLB Pipeline experts have projected he could become a two-pitch reliever in the Majors rather than remain a starter.
Cleveland has already lost Brad Hand, Oliver Pérez and Adam Cimber from its bullpen, so another relief arm could prove to be helpful.
Stephan was a third-round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Arkansas. He owns a 3.70 career ERA in three Minor League seasons with 275 strikeouts in 238 2/3 innings. The addition of Stephan puts the Tribe’s 40-man roster at 38 players.
The Tribe also gained an outfielder on Thursday in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, selecting Chris Roller from the Dodgers’ Class A Advanced team. The 24-year-old was a 30th-round pick by Los Angeles in the 2017 MLB Draft out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and he has hit .255 with a .774 OPS and 31 steals in 187 Minor League games.
While the Indians picked up two players — one in the Major League portion and one in the Minor League portion — in the Rule 5 Draft, they also lost two. Oviedo was chosen first when the Mets selected him with the ninth pick. New York then traded him to the Pirates for cash considerations.
Oviedo was the Tribe’s No. 25 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. But in a system with so many talented starting pitchers, there were only so many it could protect. Oviedo has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, and his curveball developed into his best secondary pitch in 2019. But Oviedo, who posted a 2.05 ERA in 11 starts across two levels in ’18, pitched to a 5.38 ERA in ’19.
The Indians also lost outfielder Tom, who was selected by the A’s with the 16th pick after not getting taken in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. Cleveland has a desperate need for talented outfielders, but the 26-year-old was not part of Cleveland’s 60-man player pool this season. In 2019, he hit .290 with a .912 OPS, 27 doubles, 10 triples, 23 homers and 86 RBIs in 132 games split between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. However, with the Tribe looking to try its top prospect in Cheap Nolan Jones Jersey in the outfield to go along with Cheap Daniel Johnson Jersey, there was no clear path for Tom to make an immediate impact.