Friday was the deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, which is currently scheduled for December 9 but likely won’t take place due to the inevitable lockout. It’s still business as usual in the meantime, though, so the Cubs and other teams had to make 40-man roster decisions as if transactions won’t be frozen when the calendar flips at the end of the month.
Nelson Velázquez, 22, was a lock to make the cut after coming on strong down the stretch at Tennessee and then dominating the Arizona Fall League. He led Cubs minor leaguers last season with 73 RBI, 45 extra-base hits, and 191 total bases. His 20 home runs and 104 hits ranked second, so I guess you could say he had a solid performance.
— MLB's Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 19, 2021
As for that AFL dominance, he is hitting .385 with nine homers, seven doubles, nine home runs, 24 RBI, 24 runs, and a 1.191 OPS in 26 games. Velázquez leads the league in home runs, hits (40), extra-base hits (16), total bases (74), and runs scored. Oh, he’s also second in batting average, OPS, and slugging (.712), making a strong case for league MVP.
Things got a little murky after Velázquez when it came to projecting what the Cubs would do, but they opted to protect righty reliever Ethan Roberts as well. A Cubs Insider favorite, Roberts generates elite spin rates and boasts mid-90s velocity from a smaller frame that can be deceptive to hitters. The 24-year-old was 4-2 with four saves and a 3.00 ERA in 39 relief appearances between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa in 2021.
Roberts racked up 72 strikeouts against just 17 walks over 54 innings while limiting opponents to a .179 batting average, .258 OBP, and a .528 OPS. The 5-foot-10 dynamo was selected in the fourth round out of Tennessee Tech in 2018 and has been moving steadily up the ladder with a chance to work out of the ‘pen in Chicago next season.
The Cubs roster now stands at 37, though Michael Hermosillo is missing from the official list. MLB.com’s Cubs beat writer Jordan Bastian — who is most likely to blame — has assured me it is indeed a mistake that it’ll be corrected soon.
Ed. note: Ol’ Dirty Bastian isn’t actually responsible for that stuff, but that won’t stop me from saying it’s his fault.