The Cubs and the Rule 5 Draft

Next month, the Rule 5 Draft gives teams the opportunity to protect minor league players by adding them to the 40-man roster. Currently, the Cubs have quite a few players who are eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. And as things stand now, they have 34 players on their 40-man roster, so there is ample room to protect guys in the farm system.

Here are a few of the more notable names:

Chesny Young - IF

Young is likely to spend 2018 in Iowa, where he spent the entirety of his 2017 season. Until he hit the Pacific Coast League, Young had hit consistently above .300 and for extra bases, and despite a down year in Des Moines last season, Young might be worth adding to the 40-man. He plays second, short, and third most often, but he also spent bits of time in all three outfield spots last year.

Bijan Rademacher - OF

Rademacher also spent all of last season with Iowa, and despite losing some time to injury in July, he put together an .811 OPS season. The outfield for the Cubs is currently rather crowded, but Rademacher is also worth keeping in the system. He might still spend the majority of 2018 in Triple-A, but should injuries befall the Cubs outfield staff, Rademacher would be an easy choice to call up to Chicago.

Charcer Burks - OF

Burks is an intriguing talent. He completed just his third full season of professional ball in 2017, and he spent the whole of it with Double-A Tennessee, where he slashed .270/.370/.395. Burks showed pretty marked improvement last season, but I think the Cubs can afford the risk of keeping him off of the 40-man roster and leaving him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. He would be an asset to any organization that took him, but there's also a chance that Burks slips through unclaimed and the Cubs can keep him for another year to see how he develops.

Adbert Alzolay - P

It would be foolish to let a pitcher like Alzolay slip away. He reached Double-A Tennessee in early July, and it is reasonable to expect that he could be in Iowa by about the same time in 2018. Though he is not likely to pitch at Wrigley until 2019, Alzolay is one of the best arms in the Cubs' system. Don't let him go. The blessing here is that Alzolay is not ready to pitch in the majors in 2018, so no team is going to want to run the risk of carrying him on the 25-man next year.

Trevor Clifton - P

Clifton's 2017 season left something to be desired, but prior to that, he was among the consensus best arms in the Cubs' farm system. His ERA jumped from 2.72 in 2016 to 5.20 last season, and Clifton's strikeout rate dropped dramatically. He's a safe bet to keep off of the 40-man roster, however, because it's not likely that any major league team is ready to hold him on its 25-man roster for the entirety of the 2018 season.

Oscar De La Cruz - P

Thankfully, De La Cruz is still low enough in the minor league system that there is little danger that a team would pick him up and keep him in the majors for all of the 2018 season. De La Cruz pitched 56 innings for Myrtle Beach last season, so he's not likely to crack the majors until 2020. The scary thing about De La Cruz is that he's talented enough that a team might think him worth the gamble, and he's not an arm I would feel at all good about the Cubs losing. They would be wise to giving some serious thought to protecting De La Cruz.

Jake Stinnett - P

This is a tough one. Stinnett was outstanding in his nine appearances with Double-A Tennessee last season, but his injury-delayed start to the year meant that he wasn't active until July. In 14.2 innings with the Smokies, Stinnett allowed only one earned run and struck out 14, so there's plenty of reason to be bullish about him if he is healthy. But given that Stinnett has only thrown 100+ innings in 2015 and 2016 and only pitched above High-A in the latter half of 2017, I think the Cubs are safe to leave Stinnett off of their 40-man roster.

Outside of these players, the only other names of possible note are Corey Black, who missed all of 2017, David Bote, who spent all of last season in Tennessee, and Jason Vosler, who flashed some power for the first time last season, but he also has not yet played above Double-A.

Of these players, I think the Cubs would be wise to protect Rademacher, Young, and even De La Cruz.

For a thorough breakdown of the Rule 5 rules, go here, for the full look at the Cubs roster situation, go here, and for my first appearance in Chicago Magazine, go here!

Filed under: Cubs Organization

Tags: Rule 5 Draft


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  • Id say keep the pitchers. We need quality arms throughout our system. Azolay in particular looks like a keeper.

  • I expect them to add Alzolay and De La cruz.

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    Absolutely keep the pitchers. We need all of them and one or two could break out in a year or two and help the Cubs.

  • Thank you Jared! In addition to the abov, the Cubs probably have at least one additional slot, inasmuch as Taylor Davis holds a slot if needed.

  • Much different than in years past. Not an impressive list of position players. I think the pitchers would be the priority to add to the roster.

  • In reply to rockey20:

    Agree we the majority, that the pitchers should be the ones protected. And while, the Cubs have quite a few spots available on the 40 man I would guess that they would at least save a couple for the acquisitions they are expected to get in the off season.

  • Do they have to leave 2 slots open for A signings?

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    To me - Zagunis & Rademacher are the same

    upside is a 4th OF -

    keep 1 of the two.

  • At this point Bote projects better than Young.

  • In reply to ddevonb:

    Agreed. Even though he can play SS, Chesny has such little pop in his bat.

  • Given that the Cubs had to sign Mike Freeman as SS backup when Addison Russell went down and given that Chesney Young is our only MiLB shortstop anywhere close to MLB, I think the Cubs must protect Chesney Young.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I don't think he'll be protected. There is a chance a small-market/rebuilding team could claim him and keep him on the ML roster as a glove-first, backup SS (not everyone has a Javy), but there's also a good chance he goes unclaimed. If he is lost, we can sign a defensive backup on a minor league deal for insurance. I like him, but there's not much upside, and I don't know if he's worth a 40-man roster spot in what will be a busy offseason.

    All teams are facing these same choices so there may be a flurry of minor moves in the next couple days prior to Monday's deadline. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cubs pick up a couple players as minor-league depth. Nothing major, but it will be something until the logjam of uncertainty surrounding Ohtani and Stanton clears and things actually start moving.

    Finally, RIP Malcolm Young. We salute you!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    BTW, Jared, thanks for the link to the Roster Reference site. I haven't seen that before. There is a tremendous amount of info there, although I noticed a few factual errors on some data. I guess that is to be expected with such a vast library of numbers.

    Congratulations on the Chicago Magazine gig.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thank you!

    And I agree, though it is prone to occasional error, I'm a big fan of Roster Resource.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Roster Resource. Yeah, that one, too. Oops.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I am a Chesny Young fan as I have said before. And it is easy for us, with our constant focus on the minor leagues largely through John, and later Michael's, minor league updates--I miss reading them daily already. However, you make a very solid point that "All teams are facing these same choices." There is almost always a flurry of activity as teams jockey for position and, lets face it, most Rule 5 pick-ups don't amount to much. Yes there are the Hector Rondons of the world. But most end up with careers hanging on by their fingernails for 3-4 years and then spend 10 more years floating between independent leagues, AA and AAA ball.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    There have actually been quite a few very good players that were rule 5 pick ups. I just googled that and was very surprised how many good players and even a couple great players there were over the years.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    There are certainly success stories, but the percentage of Rule 5 picks making an impact at the MLB level is very low. The whole system is set up so that AAAA-types don't languish in a system forever. And I'll admit that I wrote that last sentence to transition into this lyric, which could be the mantra of baseball players and aspiring musicians alike, especially as they begin to show a little age around what was once a glowing bloom:

    "Gettin' old.
    Gettin' grey.
    Gettin' ripped off.
    Gettin' sold.
    That's how it goes,
    Playing in a band."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yes, it's a long way to the top... even in baseball & life. They made it. Hopefully he was able to smell a whole lot of roses along the way... Now Malcolm's w/his original lead singer/bag piper.

  • Many here either don't know the draft rules or are overlooking Jared's points of reason to NOT add certain players, especially pitchers. If you select a player in the Rule 5 draft, you are required to keep him on the MLB major league 25 man roster. Unlikely a team is going to take a AA or lower player and stash him on the 25 man roster at the big league level. If the player were ready for the bigs, the pitching starved Cubs would keep him. These guys have not even been to Iowa yet.

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    In reply to veteran:

    Generally players that are "stashed" on the 25-man roster are on teams that are not good and are willing to let the guy "help" them tank. A team like the Cubs, even being pitching starved, won't put that deadweight on their roster. It is a little bit of a risk. But if we add them and then want to remove them later then they just go through waivers so the other team doesn't even have to put them on their 25-man roster, just stash them in AA/AAA.

  • Jared, I hate to tell you, but it seems as if has not updated their Rule 5 information in a couple of years. Here is a link to the new rules from Baseball Reference

    There is another part of the Rule 5 draft that other teams seem to do well, but the Cubs traditionally have had problems with.

    Each team has a 40 man minor league reserve roster. Players on that roster are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but can only be selected in the major league phase. Most teams place their Rule 5 eligible players that have only played Double-A or lower on this roster. It forces other teams to decide whether they want to use a 25 man roster spot on a Double-A or lower player.

    For example: the Cubs can place David Bote, Charcer Burks, and Jason Vosler on the minor league reserve roster, and teams wishing to select them will have to do so in the major league phase. While not exactly "protection" like a 40 man roster spot, it can "discourage" their selection.

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    In reply to Tom U:

    Tom, you can't expect to have accurate league rule information on their website. These things are just too fluid to be locked down. LOL

  • In reply to Tom U:

    I always turn to AZ Phil at The Cub Reporter. Not only does he post the rules extensively, he then breaks down the different aspects as to how they affect all the different levels of Cubs players.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    There is a saying among internet baseball writers

    "When there is a question concerning the rules, the MLB office consults with Arizona Phil,"

  • Off topic, and hate to start with the phase 'the bottom line is', but the bottom line is, that if the Cubs want pitching Its going to cost them. Baltimore and likely others are in on Cobb. Meaning that there probably will not be any below market signings or trades out there.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Sure, but there are more options besides Cobb. Even if he is the juiciest option.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Cobb wants to join Maddon and Hickey with the Cubs. If baltimore or anyone else wants him, they are going to have to overpay. Who would want to go to baltimore right now unless they are overpaid?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Is anybody concerned about Cobbs Home/Away splits? His ERA over the last three years is almost two runs higher away from Tropicana field (over 5). That raises a red flag for me. I realize a lot of people scoff at ERA as a pitching stat, but it is still very valuable for starting pitchers.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Well in the last 3 years he had TJS. 2015 he did not pitch, 2016 he pitched 22 innings and 2017 he pitched 179 innings. I would think you want to look mostly how he ended up 2017 and project how he would do going forward. That may be better than looking at the last 3 years of stats.

  • In reply to John57:

    OK, gotcha, however, the sample size for the last three is about 200 innings. Pretty big, no? I don't think you can blame it all on "Golly his arm was still healing". But you have a point. I'm still a little concerned. For most pitchers I don't think it's a good idea to ignore their last 3 years, and instead project future performance based on what he did 4, 5, 6 years ago.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    But I agree, the TJS and recovery period skews his last 3 years significantly.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    The experts have to take a look and get a feel for how he is feeling and pitching now. Some say it takes two years to regain full strength after TJS. I trust our FO to decide if he is a pitcher we should go after.

  • OT alert: did anyone read Mark Bowman's explanation for why he tabbed our own KB as first choice for NL MVP? Two interesting tidbits he shared on Bryant. One is kind of ridiculous, the other is very discerning:
    1) His statement that "I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break" shows a guy who didn't really follow the Cubs on a game-by-game basis (or even watch any games), but is married to the stats.

    It was Contreras who put the team on his shoulders immediately after the ASB (plus good starting pitching kicked in), and then after he got hurt, it was equal parts KB, Javy, and Schwarber's resurgence that really fueled the offense in the 2nd half (our beloved Rizzo had a blazing month in there, too).

    But his second point really validates the article, and that is how amazingly consistent KB's offense was last year (2015, too). No huge months at all, just constant, grinding goodness in every month (this second point sort of contradicts the first point on its own). This guy is amazing, we Cub fans are lucky to have him.

  • Well looks like it's DeLa Cruz, Alzolay & Bote... Hanneman outrighted.

  • Also Mark Appel DFA by Philly. The 2 pitchers Alzolay & De La Cruz were no brainers.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Appel is the guy many on this site wanted the cubs to draft instead of that 3rd baseman from sd state. Bullet dodged.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Ouch. That would have been haunting us worse than any trades of top prospects to this point.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Is Appel worth taking a shot on? We have 4 slots available.

  • In reply to John57:

    I don't know. He'd have to be on the 25 man out of spring. And I am not sure where he is on this FO & scouts radar.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Oops. That's if he cleared waivers & was taken in the rule 5 instead of claiming him now.

  • The cubs left A LOT of young decent prospects unprotected.Hope none get selected

  • I say yes, good strikeout numbers. But he would have to clear waivers. I doubt the cubs would trade for him.

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