We've talked about the Rule 5 draft on and off now over the past 3 weeks. One executive calls this Rule 5 Draft the best he's seen in terms of impact talent and depth.
The Cubs roster will be at 39 once the RHP Kyuji Fujikawa and OF Nate Schierholtz signings become official, so they have room to take one player in the draft, which takes place at 9 AM central time tomorrow (12/6). The roster will be full, but it's December. There is plenty of room to add, subtract, and exchange players from here until April.
The Cubs have the #2 pick and have a pretty good chance of getting exactly the guy they want. They have been getting calls from teams wanting to trade for their pick, something they said they'll contemplate, but the odds are they'll use the pick and use it on a pitcher.
Many of the best hitters in this draft are 1B, something the Cubs don't need at all. Since the Cubs filled their OF need with the signing of Nate Schierholtz, I basically see 3 options here.
Option #1: Select a pitcher
There are plenty of good arms with varying degree of experience and command. The choice is between someone who can help you now or someone with raw upside. Because the Cubs protected raw, high risk/high ceiling pitchers like Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack -- and chose not to protect a low ceiling, high probability pitcher in Nick Struck, I'm going to assume they prefer upside.
- Josh Fields is a RH reliever who could help right now. He has a mid 90s fastball, a good slider, and really improved his command. At age 27, he has some upside but it is a bit limited. On the bright side, you'll get a cheap RP with a chance to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning for the next few years.
- Braulio Lara is a LHP out of the Rays organization. One of the highest ceiling in this draft. Throws 92-95 and can touch 98. Secondaries and command need work, but LHPs who throw that hard are rare. He's much more projection than production right now but if you're about upside, he's high on the list.
- Ryan Chaffee is a hard-throwing RHP out of the Angels system. Find a list of top 5 Rule eligibles and chances are Chaffee will be near the top of that list somewhere. Throws 94-96 out of the bullpen and misses a ton of bats, but the command has been almost non-existent, including in his short stint in the AFL this year.
- Randy Henry, RHP, comes from a deep organization in TX and put up some solid numbers at AA. Doesn't throw as hard (91-93) as Chaffee, nor does he miss as many bats, but he throws more strikes.
- Juan Sosa, RHP, would be a second consecutive pick from deep in the Phillies system. Has a chance to have two plus pitches with mid 90s fastball and curve. Upside play only. Still raw and lacks command, though he showed average control at the A ball level.
- Miguel Celestino, RHP, is a guy I didn't know a whole lot about but Mayo has him listed as his #2 guy and as a former Red Sox farmhand, you know Theo knows him well. He's tall and rangy and can generate mid 90s heat. His secondary pitches are underdeveloped but he's got better control than everyone on this list except for Shields.
- Jose Dominguez, RHP, is a last minute addition because he's drawing lots of buzz on the strength of a 98 mph fastball with movement. Some scouts have graded the pitch an 80. Negative is that he will have to serve a 25 game suspension for violation of MLBs drug treatment program.
Trade the pick.
The reason you consider trading the piece is if you don't want to use up a roster spot on a raw player and perhaps you get a young prospect or more useful player in return. That said, there isn't much incentive for a team to trade an equal prospect whom they can keep in the minors for a guy they have to keep on the 25 man roster. A similar problem exists as far as getting a useful MLB player. There's little ncentive for a team to give the Cubs a young, established player with equal upside for a guy that carries a lot more risk.
That said, teams are calling and if one of those teams are in love with a player in this draft, maybe they'll give up a prospect or player that gives the Cubs the same upside with less risk. A long shot, but team's value players differently, so maybe there's a match.
Try to fill the 3B/utility IF hole
Much harder to do here. Just not as much talent at 3B or IF in general but here are a couple of names, though I don't think either is good enough to go as high as #2.
- Jefry Marte, 3B, was once a top Mets prospect based on the strength of a quick bat and above average power potential. That hasn't materialized. Marte tends to be pull happy which has delayed his development as a hitter. On the bright side, he destroyed LHP at the AA level, something that could make him a platoon candidate with Luis Valbuena.
- Jonathan Galvez, IF, is a prospect that Hoyer and McLeod should be familiar with. He's an offensive minded infielder who hits RH and can possibly platoon with Valbuena while backing up SS and 2B. Galvez put up a .292/.364/.426 line at AA last season.
My Pick: Braulio Lara, LHP, Tampa Rays
I'd be happy with Fields if the Cubs wanted immediate help with a fair amount of upside. And I'd be okay with one of the strong RH arms like Chaffee, Sosa, or Celestino. But Lara is a rare commodity in that he's a LHP who can hit the high 90s. He's pitched well in relief this offseason but there's nothing to say the can't return to starting down the road. The potential is there for 3 pitches.
Who might the Cubs lose?
As far as who the Cubs might lose, Nick Struck is the obvious candidate and is on BA's list of top Rule 5 prospects. Jon Sickels, however, shares my previously stated opinion that the real sleeper in the Cubs organization might be the hard-throwing Marcus Hatley.