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Urshela among five protected from Rule 5 Draft

Indians also add Wolters, Anderson, Merritt and Armstrong to 40-man roster
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Given the increasing emphasis on the need for young, controllable talent, sometimes the more impactful roster additions an organization makes in the offseason are the ones that come internally. The Indians made five such additions Thursday as a precursor to next month's Rule 5 Draft.

The five players new to the 40-man roster and therefore protected from that Draft are as follows: Third baseman Giovanny Urshela, right-handed starter Cody Anderson, left-handed reliever Ryan Merritt, right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong and catcher Tony Wolters. While Urshela and Armstrong are the only two of the five to have reached the Triple-A level, all of them were Rule 5-eligible and thus would have been ripe for the taking by any other Major League club at the Dec. 11 event.

CLEVELAND -- Given the increasing emphasis on the need for young, controllable talent, sometimes the more impactful roster additions an organization makes in the offseason are the ones that come internally. The Indians made five such additions Thursday as a precursor to next month's Rule 5 Draft.

The five players new to the 40-man roster and therefore protected from that Draft are as follows: Third baseman Giovanny Urshela, right-handed starter Cody Anderson, left-handed reliever Ryan Merritt, right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong and catcher Tony Wolters. While Urshela and Armstrong are the only two of the five to have reached the Triple-A level, all of them were Rule 5-eligible and thus would have been ripe for the taking by any other Major League club at the Dec. 11 event.

With these moves, the Tribe's 40-man is at its capacity.

While all five athletes are talented, the player of most immediate intrigue for the 2015 Tribe is Urshela, whose pure glove at the hot corner has combined with his greatly improved plate performance to make him a candidate for a '15 callup. The Indians' porous defensive effort in '14, which included 18 errors and minus-16 defensive runs saved in 114 games at third by Lonnie Chisenhall, make Urshela's defensive strengths an asset.

Alas, Urshela tweaked his left knee while running out a triple in the Venezuelan Winter League this month, and he was expected in Cleveland this week for an MRI exam. The Indians did not have immediate information on the extent of that injury and whether it will affect Urshela's readiness for Spring Training. He finished the season the Tribe's No. 13 prospect, according to MLB.com.

The 23-year-old Urshela, a native of Colombia who was signed by the Tribe at 16, split '14 between Double-A Akron and Columbus, hitting a combined .280 with 36 doubles, six triples, 18 homers and 84 RBIs. He made five errors in 220 total chances at Columbus.

Armstrong, 24, also reached Columbus this season. He went a combined 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 49 relief appearances between Columbus and Akron, and he pitched three scoreless innings for the Clippers in the International League playoffs. In his Minor League career, he has compiled a 2.43 ERA and an impressive 11.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings mark in 162 2/3 innings. The strikeout rate alone makes him an obvious candidate for a spot in the big league bullpen at some point in '15.

Anderson, also 24, is a converted outfielder (he made the switch to pitching in junior college) with a low- to mid-90s fastball and developing slider that have put him on the big league radar. He was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, though he did take a statistical step back with the jump to Double-A Akron this year. He went 4-11 with a 5.44 ERA in 25 starts for the RubberDucks. The Indians' hope is that when Anderson develops a better feel for his pitches, he'll be more aggressive down in the zone.

Like Anderson, Wolters, a former middle infielder, spent all season at Akron. It was his second season primarily behind the plate since converting as a result of the Tribe's glut of middle-infield talent. Wolters -- ranked as the club's No. 18 prospect by MLB.com -- hit .249 with a .633 OPS. In 66 games at catcher, he threw out 47 percent of would-be base stealers. He finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .255 with eight RBIs in 15 games.

Merritt went 13-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 25 starts at Class A Carolina this year, and he followed that up by earning Carolina League postseason all-star honors. He struck out 127 against 25 walks in 160 1/3 innings.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians