We are about 24 hours from the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, which commences at noon ET on Thursday December 11th. As the draft time nears, as with every year around this time with minor league diehards, there is some anticipation from the fans that the Indians may lose a player or two in the draft.Predicting what ultimately happens in the Rule 5 Draft is a crapshoot, and the Indians may indeed lose a few players when all is said and done, but according to sources from three different organizations I have talked to over the past week they believe the Indians may end up having no one selected. The general consensus is other teams just have a far greater depth of players to choose from on their Rule 5 eligibles list compared to those on the Indians eligibles list. One person even said "I think the last team we take anything from will be the Indians".As far as Indians who are eligible to be selected, there is absolutely no sure thing to be taken as there are question marks with everyone. The players themselves have no idea what to expect as they can only go by what their agents tell them, and since the player is still the property of their current team the agent and player cannot contact other teams to gauge interest.For more information on the Rule 5 Draft and how it works, check out my FAQ housed on my blog. Here is a quick rundown in alphabetical order of the Indians top Rule 5 eligibles and why or why they won't be picked.Jordan Brown - First Baseman2008: .281 AVG, 30 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 51 RBI, 35 BB, 67 K, .754 OPS in 109 games @ BuffaloWhy he will be taken: His bat is major league ready, and if you can hit, teams will find a spot for you. His excellent bat-to-ball-ability and ability to pile up doubles could be enticing to a non-contending team looking for a first baseman to plug into their major league lineup this year. He plays a solid first base and is also somewhat versatile having played some left field during his time with the Indians.Why he won't be taken: First base is typically not a position that garners much attention in the Rule 5 Draft. Brown's lack of power may turn some teams off since many like a left-handed bat off the bench with some pop. While he has played some outfield, he is still very raw out there and really hasn't played out there since 2006 in Kinston. Also, he has been slowed down with a few injuries the last two years, and some teams may pass because of his questionable health.Predicted outcome: While Brown has certainly been the most popular and talked about Rule 5 eligible player discussed by fans, after talking to a few people in other organizations the consensus is they believe he is a longshot to be taken. Anything can happen, but at this point the Indians gamble to not roster him may pay off.Stephen Head - First baseman/Outfielder2008: .290 AVG, 24 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 24 BB, 75 K, .780 OPS in 106 games @ AkronWhy he will be taken: Head is an excellent defender at first base and also in right field. His versatility, athleticism, left-handed pop, and high character have him on the radar for a lot of teams. He may also get more consideration than the popular Jordan Brown because of his superior defense, versatility, and home run potential.Why he will not be taken: Head's strike zone management declined in 2008 with a 24-75 walk to strikeout ratio compared to a 48-89 walk to strikeout ratio in 2007. He has been inconsistent up until this past season, and has yet to play a game above Double-A. He has also had some recent injury issues with his shoulder, although he came back from that this year 100%.Predicted outcome: Because of his excellent defense at two positions and left-handed pop, Head actually has as good or a better chance than Jordan Brown to be selected. If it weren't for his inconsistent approach at the plate, he would have a very good chance of being selected. Even still, if anyone is selected from the Indians, Head may have the best chance.Frank Herrmann - Right-handed Pitcher2008: 11-8, 4.14 ERA, 26 games, 150.0 IP, 161 H, 43 BB, 104 K @ Akron/Buffalo
Why he will be taken: Herrmann is big and strong at 6'4" and 220-pounds. He has been a very durable starter in his three year minor league career with the Indians, making 26 starts every year and never missing a start. With his power sinker and fastball that touches 93-94 MPH Herrmann keeps his teams in just about every game, which may be attractive to a team looking for a reliable fifth starter for 2009.Why he won't be taken: While Herrmann throws in the low 90s, he really lacks a true out pitch (career 6.05 K/9). Also, starting pitchers typically are not selected in the Rule 5 Draft because unlike a fourth outfielder, utility player or reliever, you can't hide a starter on the roster and use them strategically since they pitch every fifth day. He has also made only two starts above the Double-A level.Predicted outcome: Herrmann is a longshot to be selected, and is all but certain not to be taken. A non-contending team may like his ability to eat innings and put up quality starts, but his inexperience above the Double-A level holds him back.Chuck Lofgren - Left-handed Pitcher
Here are some additional details regarding the sale of Tom Mastny to the Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan:
- Mastny is excited about the deal and feels it can help jumpstart his career which he feels has stalled last season. He feels he never got comfortable last season, and with a job up in the air in Cleveland next year and him likely on the Cleveland-Columbus shuttle all year because he has two options left, he wanted more stability and something to provide a spark to his career, and to him this was it.
- The Japanese team actually had been pursuing Mastny, and when they got wind of it Mastny and his agent pursued signing with them. Eventually, the Indians front office was brought into the mix and the Indians obliged by agreeing to send sell him to the Japanese club for cash.
- Japanese clubs actually have scouts in the USA all the time scouting minor league teams and pro teams looking for potential fits and players who they deem signable. Most of the time these are players at the tailend of their major league career or players stuck in a rut with another organization on the shuttle between the big leagues and Triple-A.
- Mastny's contract is for one year and his new club has a team option on him for 2010. After his contract is up, he is free to come back to the major leagues and sign with any team he wants.
- Japanese teams can only have a maximum of six foreign players on their roster, with a max of two pitchers and a max of four positions players.
- He is expected to move back into a starters role, which is a role he wanted to get back into after spending the last three years in the bullpen for the Indians.
- During his time in Japan, he will be afforded an interpreter much like what the Indians gave to Masa Kobayashi last year.Photo courtesy of Ken Carr