Rule 5 Draft Overview

David Garner

David Garner

Rule 5 Draft Summary

MLB Phase, In: None

MLB Phase, Out: None

There were only 14 players selected in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft this season. The three players (C Jhonny Pereda, RHP Trevor Clifton, RHP Erick Leal) that likely drew the most attention from the Cubs system were not among them.

Clifton had a bounce back season in 2018 after a terrible 2017, but his stuff has not returned to his previous peak levels despite solid baseball card numbers this season. His underlying stats are less rosy, and as an extreme fly ball pitcher, it may have scared teams away from taking a chance on him. Another year of development should provide a better sense of what he can become in the future.

Pereda and Leal both performed well in 2018, but neither played above A+. I like Pereda's future more than most, but even I admit he is likely 2-3 years away from a MLB gig. Despite a strong Fall League showing by Leal, he remains inexperienced against advanced hitters, and his average three pitch mix does not offer a ton of upside.

MiLB Phase, In: LHP Luis Lugo, RHP Alexander Vargas, C Rafelin Lorenzo

MiLB Phase, Out: LHP Yapson Gomez, RHP David Garner

For those who are unclear on the rules concerning the minor League portion of the Rule 5 draft, the players the Cubs selected only need to be assigned to the Iowa roster during spring training, they do not actually need to play there during the season. The 24-year old Lugo may draw consideration for the AAA level, while the other two will almost certainly spend their seasons at A/A+.

Rarely do MiLB Rule 5 picks amount to much, but it does happen, and the Cubs were on the losing end of it in the recent past (Justin Bour). I will say though, that all three play positions the Cubs already had depth at in their system, so I doubt Cubs would have bothered unless they saw at least a glimmer of hope in them.

I'll try to do some more in-depth digging this weekend, but in the meantime he is a brief report on each:

Luis Lugo is a big 6'5" 200 24-year old left handed starter, originally signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Spent 6 years slowly working his way up the system, but never posting great numbers. Left as a MiLB free agent in 2017, passing through the Orioles and Royals orgs the past two years. Limited to 8 games (4 starts) with KC's AA affiliate in 2018. Could be just an extra, versatile swing man, which you can always use. Or perhaps they see him having upside as a lefty reliever.

Catcher Rafelin Lorenzo is a 21-year old who hit .307/.315/.455 in 24 games in A ball. Originally with the Rays organization, he was waived in 2017 and claimed by the Pirates. His numbers indicate he has a strong arm, and some pop at the plate, but he has shown no willingness to take a walk. Cubs have a large group of catchers ready to compete for a job with South Bend, but really none of them already possess experience at that level. Cubs could see Lorenzo as a fallback or at least a helping hand.

Alexander Vargas, RHP, is another big ( 6'4" 203) pitcher and another 21-year old that spent 2018 in A ball. His stats don't wow you, but he is a ground ball guy with a bit of starting experience, so he could have some value as an innings eater in South Bend or Myrtle Beach.

As for the players leaving the system the most notable, David Garner, made news for all the wrong reasons in 2018, as he was suspended twice for drug use. His second suspension (which will carry over into 2019) caused the Cubs to send him home and hopefully get his life in order. I expect he spent extensive time in rehab over the past year.

When on the mound, he possesses a Major League arm, with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a solid slider, but spotty control always has held him back. He was passed by several arms in the system last year while out, and would have had a difficult time cracking the Iowa bullpen roster.

Yapson Gomez is a fun watch, and a battler, but his stuff is a bit short to be considered a prospect. His intense pre-pitch ritual was always entertaining though, so he'll be missed.

Former Cubs outfield prospect Jeffrey Baez was also selected. He was a MiLB FA this offseason who recently signed with Giants, but is now a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. An above average athlete with a decent power/speed combo and a big arm, Baez was a long-time member of the Cubs org, but injury and inconsistent plate discipline always held him back from reaching his potential. He is still young enough that he could eventually get a cup of coffee in the bigs under the right circumstances.

Filed under: Rule 5 Draft


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    Well, it seems like the pitchers the Cubs picked up are a lot like the ones we have already--FB around low 90's, peripherals alright but no plus pitches. I love watching Hendricks pitch, but sometimes a 99 MPH FB is good to have and we don't seem to have many of those. I was hoping maybe the Cubs could pick up a middle infielder with skills and speed and a plus arm that maybe hasn't hit that well but it wasn't to be.
    Thanks for the recap Michael.

  • I hope they can still sign some of these players.

  • Sign these players? Not sure what you mean.

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    The Cubs received a lefty, Conor Lilia-White from the Angels for the LaStella trade. He is 25, and a SO pitcher. In his minor league career he struck out 252 in 190 innings. I can't find his velocity but he seems like a power pitcher.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He tops out around 90, but with good downhill plane and some arm side run. Solid slider/changeup combo allows him to be effective against RH and LH batters. Key for him is keeping the down in the zone.

    98 K in 72 IP, K% above 31% at both AA and AAA last year. Walk rate is a little high.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Cubs loaded with LHRP options at Iowa:
    Kyle Ryan, Randy Rosario are both on 40-man with past MLB experience.

    Rob Zastryzny and Jerry Vasto are non-40 man options with some MLB experience.

    Lillis-White joins Danny Hultzen and Alberto Baldonado (2018 PCL All-Star) as more depth.

  • I saw the Cubs got a minor league relief pitcher as the PTBNL in the LaStella trade. 3 am was not a great player, but he was a really good pinch hitter and cheap. I don’t get that trade at all. Maybe he asked to be traded so he could play more?

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    The Cubs need relief pitching, especially left handed. The Cubs don't need a bench player that is limited in the defensive positions he played, doesn't play any of them particularly well and can't hit when he gets to start a game.

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