The Rule 5 Draft exists for only one reason, and that is so teams cannot hoard talented players at the minor league level that other teams would be willing to use. Teams pay $50,000 to select a player and must keep that player on the active roster for 90 days or be offered back to the original team at half the price. Last year, the Cubs lost relief pitcher Andrew McKirahan to the Marlins (he was subsequently traded to the Braves).
Here’s a little bit more of an explanation on Rule 5 eligibility, courtesy of Baseball America:
Major league teams must protect players on their 40-man rosters within three or four years of their original signing. Those left unprotected are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks.
Players who were 18 or younger on June 5 preceding the signing of their first contract must be protected after four minor league seasons. Players 19 and older must be protected after three seasons.
The Cubs protected four players from being culled from the organizational herd this year: Pierce Johnson, Jeimer Candelario, Willson Contreras, and Dan Vogelbach. That still leaves over 50 players unprotected, and it will be getting harder and harder for the Cubs to keep some of their top prospects as time goes on.
With the 2015 Rule 5 Draft less than two weeks away, here’s a rundown of who was left unprotected by the Cubs. They are sorted into their likely 2016 assignments.
AAA – John Andreoli, OF; Frank Batista, RHP; Matt Brazis, RHP; Stephen Bruno, INF; Gerardo Concepcion, LHP; Blake Cooper, RHP; Taylor Davis, C; Ryan Dent, INF; P. J. Francescon, RHP; Anthony Giansanti, OF Michael Jensen, RHP; Yoanner Negrin, RHP; Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP; Felix Pena, RHP; Steve Perakslis, RHP; Starling Peralta, RH;P Bijan Rademacher, OF; Tayler Scott, RHP; and Logan Watkins, INF
AA – Corey Black, RHP; Ben Carhart, INF; Pin-Chieh Chen, OF; Josh Conway, RHP; Shawon Dunston Jr, OF; Michael Heesch, LHP; Danny Lockhart, INF; Trey Martin, OF; Jonathan Martinez, RHP; Carlos Penalver, INF; James Pugliese, RHP; Jasvir Rakkar, RHP; Austin Reed, RHP; Jacob Rogers, 1B; and Daury Torrez, RHP
High A– Gioskar Amaya, INF-C; Jeffrey Baez, OF; David Bote, INF; Erick Castillo, C; Kevin Encarnacion, OF; Dillon Maples, RHP; Jose Rosario, RHP; and Alexander Santana, RHP
Low A/Short Season A – Julian Aybar, RHP; Pedro Araujo, RHP; Andin Diaz, LHP; Mark Malave, RHP Ricardo Marcano, OF; Yomar Morel, RHP; Ariel Ovando, LHP; Jose Paulino, LHP; Alberto Mineo, C; Chris Pieters, OF; and Roberto Vahlis, C
It is hard to project who other teams might select, as so much of the process depends on the given team’s needs and their evaluation of the young Cubs. The Cubs should have evaluated their own players well enough to know that they are taking a risk by putting so many out there. Then again, most of the prospects with the highest ceiling will be playing A-ball for the first time.
The highest-profile name on the Cubs is Corey Black. I don’t think Black is going anywhere. He has talent and likely has a future in MLB, but is transitioning from a starter to a reliever. For him, it is a big change and one that he is struggling with at the time. Black’s future, however, depends on him gaining control over his arsenal. Until Black can keep the ball down, and stop giving up so many walks and home runs, he will not move forward. Knowing that the MLB is filled with pitchers who figured it out at AA gives hope that Black too can figure it out.
Who I Think Will Be Selected
1. Felix Pena – He’s had two good years in a row as a starter at Daytona and Tennessee and I can see a team taking a flyer on him in the bullpen. If its a struggling team like Miami, the risk involved in running him out there every fifth day might be worth the 50 grand.
2. PJ Francescon, Michael Jensen, Matt Brazis, Stephen Perakslis – All have had solid careers as relievers. Francescon would be at the top of my list, followed closely by Perakslis and his 95+ mph heater. Jensen and Brazis struggled with injuries the past two years and are not as clear-cut prizes as the former two.
3. Michael Heesch – It would be a huge risk for any team to select the big lefty. But since lefties are in relatively short supply, even for the Cubs, someone might take that chance. However, Heesch just finished high-A and it would be a big jump for him. On the other hand, he might only pitch to one or two batters at a time.
4. Taylor Davis – The backup catcher can flat-out hit. I think an AL team will gladly pick him and have him play some DH, catcher, and 1B. His defensive skills are a bit weak, but it’s all about the bat. Last year he hit .311 with 9 HRs and 43 RBIs in a little over 100 games. For $50,000, he’d be a pretty cheap bench player.
5. Daury Torrez – Currently a two plus-pitch pitcher (fastball and slider), Torrez is appealing because of his age, 22, and because he has been a workhorse. If selected, he would be a bullpen long reliever. He’s not ready to start in the majors, but he could be a power reliever with two years of development.
Honorable Mention – Stephen Bruno and Bijan Rademacher are two players who might be good major leaguers because they can control the strike zone and could adapt to bench roles. The problem with taking a position player in a Rule 5 draft is that you really need to play them every day or their development stalls, particularly if they haven’t played above AA. Neither of these two has made it that far…yet. While they have been quality teammates, good hitters, and fine players, they are pretty close to being maxed out now. They are what they are. On the other hand, maybe some teams want additional bench players.
Ideally, the goal is to acquire as much talent as you can and develop it as quickly as possible. For some players, 4-5 years is not enough time, especially when half of these kids signed when they were 16 years old.
Seeing how much some of these Cubs prospects are valued by other teams should make for an interesting first week in December.