NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In keeping with an emerging pattern, the Cubs this morning nabbed another Tommy John surgery graduate with the potential to be an impact pitcher if healthy - taking 6-foot-3 power pitcher Hector Rondon with the second overall pick in Thursday's Rule 5 draft on the final day of the winter meetings.
The right-hander, once a touted starting prospect in Cleveland's system, has missed much of the past three seasons because of the elbow reconstruction surgery, and, subsequently, a broken bone in the elbow suffered while pitching.
More recently, he was throwing 97 mph in a handful of late-summer rehab appearances and into the Venezuelan winter season, and was considered a contender for the Indians' bullpen in 2013.
According to the Indians, Rondon, 24, was left exposed to the draft because the team was especially deep in relievers.
``We've been watching him in Venezuela this winter, and he's throwing the ball really, really well. He's got a great arm,'' Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. ``We feel we can capitalize that he's healthy now and throwing the ball really well. Hopefully, he can recapture what made him [one of the] Indians top pitching prospects.
``We felt like this is a guy that has a chance to be really good right away. If he can stay healthy, obviously that's been his challenge. But the stuff coming out of his hand is pretty impressive right now.''
As with Lendy Castillo last year, the Cubs must keep Rondon on the 25-man roster all year or offer him back to Cleveland for half the $50,000 drafting price.
The Cubs also lost four players in Thursday's draft, including right-hander Starling Peralta to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the major-league portion of the draft. Peralta 5-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) for Class A Peoria last season.
The Cubs lost three more players in the minor-league side of the draft: outfielder Michael Burgess (to Houston), infielder Matt Cerda (St. Louis) and right-hander Alvido Jimenez (Toronto) - a surprise to some considering how thin on talent the front office has said the system has been since taking over a year ago.
``Sometimes [losing so many players] is a good sign, that you have enough depth that you can't protect everyone at the AAA roster,'' Hoyer said. ``You never want to lose guys but you know it's part of what happens. As we get deeper, we'll lose more. But it's something you never want. You're always disappointed when you hear your name called during these meetings.''