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