Looking ahead to 40 Man Roster Decisions

Looking ahead to 40 Man Roster Decisions
Chris Rusin

While we focus on players like Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, who are fighting to get into the Cubs starting lineup, there’s a different kind of battle brewing among lesser known minor leaguers.

For some, the clock is ticking and by the end of the year the Cubs will have to make some decisions on who to keep on the 40 man roster and who to expose in the Rule 5 Draft.

Last year the Cubs lost two players, Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez, while picking up right-handed relief pitcher Lendy Castillo.

This year, the two key players who will need to be protected status are Brett Jackson and Trey McNutt.  Jackson will be up with the Cubs and on the 40 man roster by midseason sometime so that won’t be an issue.  The Cubs won’t expose Trey McNutt either because 1) he’s a top SP prospect and 2) he could help a team in relief right now, so it wouldn’t be any trouble to carry him on a roster all season.

For other players , their performance will dictate their roster status at season’s end.  Here are a few of the prospects to watch…

Logan Watkins: Watkins will probably be able to make a roster as a utility man by next year with a  chance to be something more than that later.  He runs well, defends well, and has a decent approach at the plate.  At this point, I’d protect him.

Matt Cerda: Also a utility prospect, he has perhaps the best strike-zone discipline in the system, but he's not as useful off the bench as Watkins would be.  I like Cerda, but if I’m choosing between him and Watkins, I’m going with Watkins.

Dae-Eun Rhee: The Cubs didn’t protect him last year because he wasn’t ready for the big leagues.  They took the chance nobody would stash him and it paid off.  Rhee is off to a slow start, but if he finishes strong, it may not be as easy to sneak him through after he’s had a year of AA experience under his belt.

Austin Kirk: He’s only in A ball but is off to a good start and could finish the year in AA.  If so, I’d protect him.  He already has a good curve and decent command, which would at the very least make for a lefty specialist in the short term and maybe a back end starter in the long run.

Chris Rusin: Rusin is as polished as you can get.  He’s MLB ready and if he were exposed in the Rule 5, he’ll get taken by somebody, even if it’s just as a lefty specialist.  He’s pretty close to a lock.

Robert Whitenack: Whitenack presents an interesting case.  He’s not ready for the majors and won’t be by next season after losing a year of development to Tommy John Surgery.  He’s currently in extended spring training and has thrown 9 scoreless innings with one walk and 5Ks so far.  Whitenack has the kind of arm and command that a team may take a chance on if he’s available.  A rebuilding team would do it with an eye of stashing him in the pen for a year and then returning him to the minors to develop him as a starter.  Depending on how much progress he makes this year, he’s a guy the Cubs may need to protect considering the lack of starting prospects in the minors.

Brooks Raley: Raley is in his 2nd year of AA and as a somewhat polished lefty, he could certainly get taken when you consider that teams are always looking for lefties who can throw strikes, but he may get caught in a numbers game as Cubs have a number of similar lefties in the system.

Nick Struck: Struck shot through the system last year to put himself in consideration.   He’s off to a solid start in AA.  I think ultimately he’s a reliever.  He’s aggressive and he attacks the strike zone with 4 pitches, though he won’t need them all out of the bullpen.  I’d be interested to see if his velocity would increase as a reliever.  It’s in the low 90s right now.

Marcus Hatley: A power reliever who can touch 97.  He was left unprotected last year, the Cubs may change their stance if he pitches well this season.  The Cubs have lost some power arms this season and probably can’t afford to lose a whole lot more.  He needs to have a good year to have a chance at the roster.  Hatley has made some small strides with his control and ultimately that will be the issue with him.  The arm is there.

Casey Weathers: Like Hatley, Weathers is a power reliever who can hit the high 90s but his control has been awful, walking over a batter per inning over the past 2 years.  Unless it clicks for him, you leave him unprotected, great arm and all.  He doesn’t look ready to help a big league team at this point.

So while you’re watching prospects, keep an eye on these guys as well.  They’re all fighting for a shot at a coveted 40 man roster spot.

This article was republished from an article on miCubs.

Filed under: Roster decisions



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  • Nick Struck could be the guy the Cubs need to replace K. Wood.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    He has a full repertoire, but probably a 5th starter -- but I like his aggressive mentality for the pen. He's a little smaller too, a bull-dog type. Might be a fit, especially if it increases his velocity.

  • What about bringing back Travis Wood and slotting him in as 5th Starter and moving Volstad to the bullpen. Seems like this would be a much better fit for him anyway.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    I'm not sure it's a better fit for Volstad. He has starters' stuff and good enough command to be a starter. I don't want to make too much out of his "slow" start right now. Ask me again in a month on Volstad.

    Remember too that Travis Wood has a 5.05 ERA in AAA and judging him on one solid -- but by no means great - start is no sure thing. There were very unfavorable conditions for a hitter that day. I think we need to see more of both before we make the switch.

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    In reply to lokeey:

    Volstad already has problems pitching out of the stretch. Why would you want to put him in the bullpen?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Also a good point.

  • Somethings the Cubs should do
    Trade, if possible, for prospects that don't have to be protected
    Soon, or at the end of the season, release players to make room
    Protect the very good prospects at all cost

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    They could do that, but I'm not sure how much value those guys have if they're borderline 40 man roster types. Best they can do is get a similar level of prospect whom they don't have to protect.

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    I think Kyler Burke will be a lock as well

  • In reply to Andrew Henson:

    Burke is a tough one. He's a low Class A pitcher who still has less than a year's experience pitching at the professional level. I'm not sure a team can carry him for a year.

    Teams would have to be really gutsy to take him -- but I guess in some sense it wouldn't be that much different than the Cubs taking Lendy Castillo. So maybe you're right.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Burke will be what is called a "6-year minor league free agent" at the end of the season. The Cubs can re-sign him to a minor league "successor contract" within 5 days of the end of the World Series or put him on the 40-man. Otherwise Burke will be a minor league FA and therefore is not eligible for the Rule 5 draft. If another team signs him, they will not be obligated to keep him on the 25-man roster.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Thanks for checking on that Norway.

    I think the Cubs will try to re-sign him than as a minor league FA. He's shown enough promise to warrant a look and hopefully he wants to stay with the Cubs.

  • What about a guy like Antigua? He's a lefty with good control and good strikeout rates who has a good, consistent record of success, and is pitching well at the AA level this year. Seems like he'd be a good bet to stick as a Rule V guy.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    He'll probably get some consideration. He didn't quite develop like the Cubs hoped he would, he's more of a finesse guy, throws across his body so I think he could be tough on lefties.

  • How are the two players doing that the Cubs lost to Rule 5? Is there a good chance they'll get either back?

    Also, whatever happened to David Patton, the Rule 5 pick up from two years ago? It seems he's fallen off the radar.

  • In reply to Timbo:

    Ryan Flaherty is on the Orioles and plays sparingly. He's hitting .194 with 1 HR. He also has just 1 walk in 32 PAs, which is unusual for him. Flaherty's swing is a bit long and he needs time to adjust. I think spotty playing time hurts him and the Orioles are playing well, so they may not give him the playing time he needs.

    Marwin Gonzalez is on the Astros and is hitting .238 with 3 doubles. He's a utility guy and isn't expected to be anything more than that.

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    In reply to Timbo:

    David Patton is out of baseball. Nobody signed him after the Cubs released him at the end of 2010.

    That's the kind of Rule 5 nonsense that drives me nuts. Why give up a roster spot for a player who is projected at best to be only an average RP? It's the same with Castillo. The team shouldn't be playing 1 player short on the roster while adding to the burden of the other RP to carry a buy who at best is considered a potential average RP. You can take that spot with an average RP right now.

    I would only use a roster spot for a Rule 5 pick if they either have a potential special upside, or offer something that isn't in my system and the major league team desperately needs - and isn't easy to get.

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