Wednesday evening saw the deadline for teams to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft by placing them on the 40-man roster. The Cubs’ roster stood at 32 players, giving them eight spots to add. But knowing they still need room to add free agents and potential trade acquisitions, they weren’t going to fill all the openings with internal prospects.
As expected, the Cubs selected 20-year-old Miguel Amaya to become the third catcher on the roster. An outstanding defender, Amaya was seen as the only true no-brainer pick from among all the possibilities to be added. He’ll only be 21 next year at Double-A Tennessee, where his bat should play up a little bit more than it did at Myrtle Beach.
Shortstop Zack Short, righty reliever Manny Rodriguez, and righty starter Tyson Miller all joined Amaya on the 40-man. All of those names appeared among the various options we’ve profiled here at CI over the last few weeks, but not all of them were expected. So what do these selections mean?
A fully healthy Short should get a shot to see what he can do at Triple-A Iowa in 2020 after a wrist injury in April took away half his 2019 season. His inclusion also opens him up to the be the 26th man at some point, especially if the Cubs are in need of a steady infield glove.
Rodriguez is the biggest surprise of the group, but he finally figured out how to harness his near triple-digit heat while snapping off a curve. This choice is representative of the Cubs’ increased aggressiveness with pitching development, so look for them to push this guy in 2020.
Miller has some adjustments to make next summer before he is ready for Chicago, but the big righty’s maturation the past two years has been impressive. He reshaped his body and his arsenal and could serve as depth for the Cubs if he continues to improve.
Among those who were left off the roster, righty reliever Dakota Mekkes has the most notoriety about Cubs fans. It looked like he was going to get his chance in 2019 to join the big-league bullpen, but he struggled out of the gate and never got the call. I doubt he makes it through the Rule 5 Draft unpicked.
Catcher P.J. Higgins s another mild surprise among those who were not chosen. While he could always hit, he got better the past two summers the higher he went in the system. He’s a utility guy who can play three infield spots and catch, if needed. Someone is going to pick him up.
Jhonny Pereda and Oscar De La Cruz, a pair of minor-league free agents who recently re-signed with the Cubs could also be targets of other teams. Then again, they could still sneak through and remain with the organization. It would be rough if the Cubs lost both Pereda and Higgins, as both are slated to catch at Triple-A in 2020.
Pretty much every other reliever at the top two levels got left off as well, mainly because the Cubs have shown the ability to go out and get bullpen arms on the cheap. As for the position players, it was not surprising the Cubs did not add more than Amaya and Higgins.
The date to non-tender contracts for 40-man players is December 2 and the Rule 5 Draft takes place 10 days later, so you can expect several more moves to take place. over the next few weeks.