Looking ahead to the Rule 5 Draft: Who should the Cubs protect?

Looking ahead to the Rule 5 Draft: Who should the Cubs protect?
Arismendy Alcantara

Every year we take a sneak preview at the Rule 5 Draft and we start with the players the Cubs need to protect on their 40 man roster.  For those unfamiliar with the process, we'll explain as briefly as possible how it works...

Not every minor league prospect needs to be protected because not every player is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.  In order to become eligible, a player must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Any player who was 18 or younger on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract is eligible and have been in professional baseball for 5 years
  • Any player who was 19 or older on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract is eligible and have been in professional baseball for 4 years.

That is the quick version.  There are other details which may affect eligibility, but I'll refer you to The Cub Reporter for those rules here, but for all intents and purposes the criteria above is the most important to remember.

The above rules mean guys like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Dan Vogelbach, and many other top prospects don't need to be protected, so they will not be part of this particular discussion.

The other part of the equation is deciding who needs to be protected.  This isn't as cut and dry because you cannot predict what other teams will do ,but there are patterns.

  • Top prospects are always protected.
  • Good prospects who have MLB ability and are MLB ready are also protected.

But there are always gray areas.  What about a mid-level prospect who is still in A ball?  What about rare commodities such as LHP or middle of the field players?  MLB ready prospects who are lower ceiling types such as 4th or 5th starters or utility players also get consideration.  Many organizations have these types of players in house, but not all of them.  The Rule 5 Draft is a good, cheap way to get a utility infielder or 5th starter if you're rebuilding and don't want to spend -- or want to give your own prospects more time in the minors.

With this kind of criteria in mind, there really is only one player the Cubs absolutely must protect, and that is Arismendy Alcantara.  He's a top 5-10 prospect who has had a full season at AA ball and can contribute at the MLB level at least as a utility guy.  His switch-hitting, speed, and defensive versatility makes him and absolute certainty to be taken.  He can be useful in the short term and then projects as a long-term starter.

There are however, plenty of players in that gray area.  Here are the guys to watch:

  • Gioskar Amaya, 2B, Kane County:  Amaya is a top 20, mid-level type prospect but he's only progressed as far as A ball.  It's likely he isn't ready for the major leagues and his lack of defensive versatility or top speed don't offer much utility.  Still, that bat plays well at 2B and a rebuilding team could take him and take their lumps for a year, then return him to the minors.  He has strong mental makeup and a team could gamble he can hold his own and then pick up right where he left off.
  • Dallas Beeler, RHP, Tennessee:  Beeler falls into that bottom of the rotation type profile but with the possibility he could contribute in that role or in a relief role for 2014.  He has an interesting combination of athleticism, size, and approach.  He pitches with good plane and pounds the lower part of the strike zone with a 92-93 mph 2-seamer, making him enticing to a team that is looking for a ground ball pitcher.
  • Zach Cates, RHP, Daytona:  Cates has a 96 mph fastball out of the bullpen, an advanced change, and an average slider.  He's athletic and has a chance to contribute as a middle reliever.
  • Hunter Cervenka, LHP, Tennessee:  He's a rare power lefty, attacking hitters with a FB in the 91-93 range and an upper 80s cutter with very good movement.  Command is iffy but could possibly survive as a lefty specialist for a year.
  • Jae-Hoon Ha, CF, Iowa:  I look at him much the same way as I did the Marwyn Gonzalez situation.  Both are utility players at best at the MLB level but both can provide good defense at multiple positions.  Ha is close to being MLB ready and it wouldn't be hard to carry him as a 5th outfielder, but the question is whether there is enough upside to protect him when the Cubs have other extra outfielder types such as Rubi Silva, Matt Szczur, John Andreoli, and Brett Jackson who can also provide good defense and perhaps more upside on offense.  I can see Ha being left unprotected -- and I can see him being taken by some team.
  • Eric Jokisch, LHP, Tennessee:  He's not the power pitcher Cervenka is but he's more polished and he could contribute as a lefty specialist in 2014 for some team with long term potential as a starter.  The Cubs have protected similar pitchers in Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley in the past, but the team is deeper now.  If Jokisch is protected, it'll be because the Cubs feel he has more upside than the other lefties.
  • Matt Loosen, RHP, Tennessee:  Like Beeler, the Cubs are getting an extended look in the AFL.  Loosen can be dominant when he pitches with command, boasting a good FB that can reach the mid 90s, good breaking stuff, and an average change.  If scouts see Loosen on the right day, he could look like he's very much worth the gamble.  So far he's looked very good in the AFL out of the bullpen.  Both Loosen and Beeler have higher upside than last year's AFL entry, Nick Struck while Jokisch has a similar profile but the advantage of being lefty.  Tough call on the 3 Smokies pitchers this year.
  • Trey McNutt, RHP, Tennessee:  One of the higher upside pitchers on this list because of a mid 90s fastball and a power curve/slider hybrid, McNutt's injury issues make him a major risk at this point but some team can snatch him up and stash him on the DL for a year, but it's a serious question as to whether McNutt will be healthy enough to even spend the required 90 days on an active MLB roster for a team to be able to retain him.  The guess is he won't.
  • Juan Paniagua, RHP, Boise: His eligibility has yet to be determined because of his past history, but if he does become eligible, he's a high upside arm who can reach the high 90s and may be worth stashing in the bullpen for teams that covet power arms.
  • Not included on this list are C Willson Contreras and SS Marco Hernandez who have great natural ability but are nowhere near being MLB ready from any perspective.  Wes Darvill is an intriguing omission but his upside appears to be a utility infielder who has yet to reach AA ball.  Probably not a worthwhile gamble and a roster spot for a team at this point.  Frank Batista has been a successful closer at AA but projects as a middle reliever at best at the MLB level, so it's doubtful the Cubs would protect him.

The last part of the equation is how many spots are available.  That is yet to be determined by the Cubs.  There are free agents-to-be such as Dionner Navarro and Matt Guerrier that will create openings -- but there are also players that need to be activated from the 60 Day DL like Arodys Vizcaino and Kyuji Fujikawa who may need to be reinstated.  Matt Gamel is also on the 60 Day DL.

As I mentioned, Alcantara is the only lock right now, but I think Beeler, Loosen and Paniagua (if deemed eligible) will get strong consideration.  I have to to think Zach Cates could be intriguing to some teams as well.  Jokisch and Cervenka will also be borderline decisions.  Other candidates may not be close enough to being MLB ready (i.e. Amaya) or don't have enough upside (i.e. Ha) to be merit protection at this time, but there's some risk there too.

Earlier today, we mentioned the loss of McLeod as a potential drawback of the Cubs building a top farm system, but the Cubs may lose some talent as well as their depth exceeds their ability to protect all their players.

All told, it's a nice problem to have for a change -- and it's only going to get tougher over the next few years.

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  • fb_avatar

    I'd protect Alcantara, Beeler, Loosen. Beeler and Loosen could be really nice bullpen arms in the next year or two, and could be taken for that reason. I'd guess someone will take a risk on Ha as a 5th outfielder, but we can live without him. Amaya is a risk. He very well might go to be stashed deep on the bench of a team like the Astros, but we can weather the loss.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think that sums up my thoughts pretty well, though I'd be very upset if some team took Amaya to stash him. He's so not ready and I don't think there is so much upside as to warrant a pick. He's good, but he's not a star in the making.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Not that this will impact decisions, but if they pick someone AND lose Amaya I can see some serious second guessing through spring training.

  • Nice breakdown John. Should be interesting to see how the 40 man unfolds. A question though: if I remember correctly, Fujikawa is going to be out until the middle of '14. Can the Cubs just put him back on the 60 day DL? Or do even injured players have to count against the 40 man in the offseason?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    They can but I think he'll be exposed first. Not sure if it's worth it for a team to grab him for a couple of months and then lose him to free agency anyway, but who knows?

  • John, nice list.
    About Amaya, have you heard anything about the attempt to make him a catcher? If that is looking good, he might be worth the protect,

  • In reply to djriz:

    Thanks. I did hear about some conversions going well but Amaya was mysteriously not included. Don't know if that's an oversight or a statement that the conversion hasn't gone as well as hoped. At any rate, the Cubs didn't think all conversion projects would stick.

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    Can we waive Brett Jackson yet?

  • In reply to Theo Einstein:

    No reason to at this point.

  • Assuming there are 3 spots open, I think I would protect Alcantara, Beeler and somebody else, maybe Paniagua because of his upside... But even then, I find it hard to believe too many teams will take a chance on him after his struggles in A ball... I like Zach Cates, he could be an option, but I wonder how many teams are willing to take the risk on an A baller, reminds me of Starling Peralta and how he was thrown to a level of competition he had never faced before.

    Anyway, I think the one the Cubs need to protect first is Alcantara, the rest of them, they can sort it out.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Agreed. I really like Beeler and he was pretty dominant today. Ground ball machine.

  • I thought Amaya was undergoing a transition to catcher. Has that been shelved?

    I guess any selecting team could put him back in the infield. If the Cubs are still transitioning him, it is hard to see why he would be put on the 40-man, since the Cubs obviously feel they have enough infield depth without him at 2B (or in the organization).

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    He is but haven't heard that it took well. Haven't heard that it went badly either but Cubs instructs coach specifically mentioned 3 guys who are doing well in their transition: Carhart. Malave, and Brockemeyer.. The latter two have catching experience, but Carhart does not, so impressive that he's picked it up so quickly.

  • Don't really disagree with much here. I wouldn't bother to protect Trey McNutt and given the choice between Ha and Brett Jackson, I'd take Ha, any day of the week.

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    In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Ditto and ditto.

  • In reply to GAHillbilly:

    I'd still take Jackson, more upside and more utility as a reserve (power, speed, LH bat)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've been watching the guy since he got to Tennessee and I just don't see it.

  • In reply to GAHillbilly:

    He was pretty good in Tennessee. Has only really struggled since AAA. I think fans are higher on Ha than most scouts are.

  • In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Other than Jackson's K rate he's superior to Ha in every way. It would surprise me if Ha ever takes a single AB as a Chicago Cub.

  • With the 4th pick I think they should take a chance on a very
    young prospect with raw potentional. Just carry him all year
    on the roster then put him in the minor for more seasoning

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That seems to be the pattern but so far I think they're 1 out of 2. I think Rondon is a keeper but the jury very much still out on Lendy Castillo.

    It may depend on who is left.

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    One player that is eligible and if not protected I would love to see in a Cub uniform is Marlins OF/Jack of all trades Jake Smolinski. He fits perfectly. Sees a lot of pitches, rarely strikes out, draws his share, of walks, hits a lot of doubles and has played everywhere but P, C and SS as a pro. Smol has hit consistently (not for a high average, but consistent) at every level. His minor league numbers are very consistent across the board. You know what to expect with this kid. Excellent Catholic school background and a former 2nd rd pick.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Sounds good to me

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Definitely a better option than Dave Sappelt, for sure, IMO... Could be a decent insurance if Vitters is not ready to platoon vs LHP... If not, worse case scenario, he gets returned to his team.

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    I just found 670 The Score on iTunes. Been listening most of the day. I can see why so many Chicago Cubs fans that only watch a few games each year would feel like the Cubs situation is hopeless.

    These guys on the score continually paint a black cloud over the Cubs. They twist information to get callers all pissed off and then sit back and chuckle. Callers then call in a feed the fire even more. It's really unbelievable!

    It will probably be the last time I listen to it. I had to hear for myself what some folks told me as the "truth" because they heard it on "the Score."

    Just shaking my head..........

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    670 The Score - "Meatheads with a microphone". They've never been good. I heard they cut open Mike North's skull and it was filled with Spam. Already chewed, regurgitated Spam.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    only guy worth listening to on chicago sports radio is Dan McNeil, but his fortes are football and hockey. The transition 1/2 hour from 1-1:30 is usually pretty entertaining. Everything else is a complete waste of time, and unless you're in lockstep agreement with B&B don't bother calling in.

  • Kris Bryant has 6 HRs in just 50 AFL at bats. That's double the amount of dingers of anybody else in the league save one. That guy has 4 and is batting .175. Bryant has 46 total bases. No one else even has 30.

    On the season, including the AFL, Bryant is batting .354/.406/.753 with 20 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 16 BB, 51 K, 3 SB, 0 CS in 178 AB.

    That said, whoever Gallo thinks the Cubs should protect, I'm down.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    No need he isn't eligible for the rule 5 draft.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    No, I know that.

    I was making a joke saying that since you nailed the Bryant pick so well that I will trust whoever you pick for the Cubs to protect.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think I know a little something about this and I see a ton of minor league ball.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nope, sorry. Only Gallo...


  • In reply to Quedub:


  • Good lord, Beeler. 8 groundouts, no flyouts, 2 hits, no walks and a strikeout in 4 scoreless. Please do this at AAA next year. Please.

    That said, I have a question. Where would should we rank the level of competition of the AFL? AA? AA+?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I read somewhere that it is between AA and AAA. Probably depends on the players sent each year also. So I could see the talent level fluctuating over the years.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Great hitters in the AFL. Beeler is doing well. I would protect Alcantara and Beeler. It's hard to say who else...

    I like Jokisch's career so far, more than Raley. He's almost a carbon copy of Rusin. Being a rather successful lefty, I think he's worth keeping above Loosen, who has yet to succeed at AA.

    I see no reason to waste roster space on McNutt, Raley or Brett Jackson. Someone might take BJax. Good for him. He's lost his place in line.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Right now those are my top two, but I like Loosen too. Loosen can dominate when he commands, as shown by his no-hitter and he did show progress late in the year at AA. Jokisch is a lot like Raley. May have slightly better velo.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Loosen is making a good case right now. 10 K/1 BB in 9.1 innings so far in the AFL...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    There is no clear translation. It's between high A and AA but the consistency of talent is better year in and year out. It's definitely a hitter's league, which makes Beeler's performance so far even more impressive.

  • My gut says Cervenka will be gone if he's not protected. Power lefty already in AA? They are not too common even as relievers. How does his stuff compare to someone like Russell, John? I wouldn't want the Cubs to lose this guy.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I actually think that as well. I can see someone taking Cervenka. He throws harder than Russell, command or secondaries not as good.

  • fb_avatar

    Rule 5 draft isn't what it used to be. The days of getting Johan Santana or Dan Uggla are gone; teams are smarter now. This past season, Rondon and some guy on the Twins were the only players that had any kind of impact, and even that was pretty limited. Rule 5 guys are fringy or raw, or both, typically.

    I'm not too worried about anyone we might lose.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Impact has been lessened.

  • Great topic and somewhat related to some stat-related surfing I was doing last night. To me Arismendy is a no-brainer to protect and there's only one other player that I'd absolutely put on the 40-man roster at this point. Before disclosing my choice there's some important trends I've noticed regarding the minor league stats of impact pitchers that are really vital to sustained success in the majors.

    I searched the minor league statistics of this seasons pitching WAR leaders under the age of 26 (guys like Matt Harvey, Derek Holland, Matt Latos, Baumgarner) and noticed the top 15 pitchers had the ability to consistently keep their ERA and/or FIP below 4.00 on all minor league levels (for more than just a few innings) as well as maintaining a K rate of 9.00 per 9 innings and/or a K/BB ratio of 2.5 or greater. Prospects that had a couple of bad seasons where their numbers suffered also showed inconsistent results at the major league level-- Jake Arrieta, Shark, and James Russell are prime examples of this. There's a few pitchers that don't fit the model like Doug Fister, who had several minor league years of high ERAs, low K rate (but good K/BB ratio), and has succeeded in the majors, but pitchers showing consistent excellence in the minors generally do very well upon promotion.

    So if there aren't any future injuries or unforeseen circumstances that hinder their development, this suggests that Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards, and Pierce Johnson all have very good major league careers as perennial impact pitchers capable of 3-3.5+ WAR per year. The data also extends to relievers- Strop & Parker should continue to anchor that group with Rosscup & Rivero also showing past results that will translate well in the majors.

    Inconsistent results by Loosen, Zych, McNutt, Cervenka, Cates, and Paniagua indicate they'll be nothing more than replacement level players in the majors. Beeler is borderline at this point and the season he's had thus far might be enough to protect him. The Cubs have many others capable of their talents so I wouldn't save a roster spot for any of them.

    I'd put Eric Jokisch on the 40-man roster. His numbers fit the profile of the successful pitchers I've referenced... in fact, they're a bit similar to Lance Lynn. He's still showing good results as a starting pitcher and throwing a no-no in AA doesn't hurt his credentials either. If the Cubs leave him unprotected I believe he'll be taken by the Twins, Padres, Astros, or Bluejays and wind up in their starting rotation at some point next year.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Thanks, but inconsistent results at the minor league level but don't necessarily indicate replacement level performance in MLB. I think you'll find a lot of pitchers who had inconsistent results in the minors who went on to do just fine in the majors.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That may be true, but I see nothing special in any of the pitchers other than what Jokisch or perhaps Beeler bring to the table in order to use a valuable roster spot. And if the goal is to win the division and get to a WS, I'd put my money on the players that have been solid every year rather than those with a less than stellar record.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Record doesn't tell you much about future performance. Should look at things like walk rates, K rates, FIP, etc. -- not to mention how stuff translates to MLB. Jokisch has a shot but his stuff and peripherals not as good as his W-L record.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And I don't mean to say Jokisch isn't a good pitcher. He is.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Nice post, Paulson. Props on the research. I could go either way on Jokisch.

  • You don't protect middle reliever and/or LOOGY types, their value is too inconsequential even at the MLB level to bother with. And you don't protect guys that have yet to reach AA because the projection is just way too much. So I'd do Arismendy, Beeler and Jokisch. Maybe, maaaaaybe Cervenka if there is sufficient space, but I wouldn't lose sleep over that one.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Jokisch is probably a middle reliever or a LOOGY too, actually. Maybe a 5th starter, but more likely a reliever.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You sure about that? If you believe Jokisch is a 5th starter that's up to you, but he led the Southern League in IP this season with 160.2. And he's not regressing in a major way- long relief might be in his future but he's certainly no LOOGY. He looks like starter material to me all the way.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Stuff-wise he's Raley and Rusin.and peripherals arent' much different. In fact, Rusin probably had better ones coming up through the system.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Rusin is a pretty close comp. Way I look at it, Rusin has a shot at making it in the majors if he can display the same control that he had in minors, and if the Cubs keep him then it makes sense to also protect Jokisch. They're both able to start but certainly not in the same category as the Big 3- Hendricks, Edwards, Johnson.

  • Jokisch will be a starter for somebody.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Iowa Cubs? In all seriousness, he has a shot to be a starter, but I'm not as confident about that as you are.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, Iowa probably. I see him more as an innings eater than short reliever. If he continues in AAA as he has, I think Jokisch's MLB opportunity will be as a starter.

  • I feel some strange sort of loyalty to Ha. He is young, he has progressed as a top of the order guy, his D is unquestioned. If not for injuries, he may have gotten a callup.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    He's a good defender. I don't know if he's a starter but he can be a solid extra outfielder if he can hit a little.

  • What a great night......the Cardinals lose the World Series, and the off season officially begins!!!!!!!!

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    Sure does. Things should really start rolling in the next few days. I think Cubs would like to get manager done quickly because offseason stuff tends to start about 5 days or so after the WS ends.

  • fb_avatar

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  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Canter:

    Draft/Auction is in Chicago (Darien, actually) and usually the first Saturday or Sunday AFTER Opening Day.

  • I think Brian Schlitter will be put on the 40 man roster.

    He was lights out in AAA last year as the closer, and yes John I know he is 27, but if the Cubs don't give him a chance to make the bullpen then some other team will, and why not give him a chance, it's not like our bullpen is all locked up.

    He should be put on the 40 and get a shot in Spring Training. Plus why would the Cubs give him a chance after being injured and out for a year, let him climb all the way back & have success only to let him go right when he's ready?

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    You're right- I like Schlitter too. For some reason he's only had one shot in the majors and they were bad outings in short mop-up duty during some blow-out games where nobody on the pitching staff did that well. The guy has earned another chance- Schlitter's been pretty damn good.

  • I like Schlitter and Ha as well. I think many just write off AAA guys. I don't know if either will get a shot, but I'd like see it. At this level some pretty nice players get lost in the numbers.

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