The Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft is over and the Indians both lost and acquired a player. On the way out is Chuck Lofgren, a lefty without great velocity who has struggled mightily since a breakout season in 2006. His 2007 season was marred by personal tragedy and at the time there was speculation that he would return to form as he was able to leave that tragedy behind. It's become increasingly clear, however, that whatever magic Lofgren was using in Kinston wasn't playing at higher levels; his K/9 fell to a career low 5.9 in 2009 while his BB/9 was over 3 and, well, that's about all you need to know. Lofgren's chances of success in the major leagues are essentially limited to being a LOOGY: he has generally held lefties down in his career but not in any stunning way and, frankly, I think you'll see Lofgren back in the system this season.
Your basic command-and-control right-hander spat out by innumerable college programs, Ambriz is a UCLA product the Snakes snagged in the fifth round of the 2006 draft who mixes his off-speed stuff well and spots his fastball. Challenged to work deeper in games in the second half of his full-season debut, he not only averaged an inning more per start, but his strikeout rate improved from 7.5 per nine to 8.2, and he generated more grounders. High-pick, big-program pitchers are supposed to be able to handle High-A competition, but if he can pick up more steam while getting up to Double-A, he'll sneak onto people's prospect radars.
After that comment was written, Ambriz struggled in AA (4.94 ERA) and fell off anyone's radar. However, in 2009 Ambriz blew AA away in 5 starts with a 32:6 K:BB rate over 29.0 IP with only 7 runs surrendered. That works out to a 2.17 ERA and a promotion to AAA where his walks rose, his K's fell and his performance suffered. However, Ambriz finished the year strong (check out those September splits) and on the year he posted a 3.85 FIP (4.94 actual), sort of impressive for a guy who's not a strikeout pitcher. He does get some groundballs but not enough for anyone who follows the Indians to get excited.
Ambriz is surely going to compete for a spot in the Indians' pen and, with his lack of explosive stuff, I guess his upside is a rich man's Jensen Lewis. I'm not sure what the Indians are going for here but I guess we can hope the club has found some good scouts and listened to them. For what it's worth, AZSnakePit thought his risk of claim was low but, then again, that's what we said about Lofgren. I doubt Ambriz wins a spot out of ST but I'll withhold judgment until Mark Shapiro finds a second to pull the wool over my eyes.
UPDATE: Ambriz kept a blog for MLB while he was in the AFL last year. It's sparse but oddly compelling.