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The Rule 5 Draft is, in short, a secondary draft that allows teams to pluck prospects from another team if the prospect isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster, subject to certain restrictions discussed more fully below. It takes place on December 6, the final day of the Winter Meetings. A team’s 40-man roster must be set, for purposes of the Rule 5 Draft, by November 20 – just two weeks from today.

As of today, the Cubs roster stands at 36 (35 if we assume Ian Stewart will be cut adrift in the near future). Ignoring any potential moves the Cubs might make and assuming that they will go into the Winter Meetings with an empty roster slot so that they can take a player in the Rule 5 Draft, that leaves the Cubs with four roster slots they can use to protect – by adding to the 40-man roster – some players. If they keep Stewart on the 40-man, that number drops to three.

And that’s a problem. The players most likely to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft tend to be versatile utility players and relievers who can help out in the majors right away, or players with high upsides. The Cubs lost two in the former category last season (Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez) and drafted one in the later (Lendy Castillo). This year the Cubs have several players in both categories at risk in the draft, and they do not have room to protect them all. I don’t think the damage will be quite as bad as it was last year, but the Cubs are unlikely to escape unscathed.

For a current list of Cub prospect that are eligible to be claimed in the Rule 5 Draft, I suggest you check out the excellent work done by The Cubs Reporter. In a nutshell, if a player has been in the farm system for four years and was 19 years old or older on June 5th in the year in which he was drafted, he is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. If a player was 18 or younger on June 5th in his draft year, that player becomes eligible after five years. There are a few other scenarios that can make a player eligible earlier than those deadlines, but they tend to be rare. That said, Matt Szczur is on the 40-man roster because he is one such exception.

There are only two players I think the Cubs absolutely must protect, and a total of three that I am fairly confident they will protect. After that things get much murkier, riskier, and more interesting.

Should Protect

Logan Watkins – He’s a patient left handed hitter who plays solid defense at every position up the middle of the diamond. He’s a better candidate to be selected than either Gonzalez or Flaherty were last season, and I do not think there is the faintest chance he would sneak through the draft. I also see little chance of the Cubs not protecting him. If Theo and Jed could custom order a second base prospect, he would probably look an awful lot like Logan Watkins. Even as a left handed hitting utility player Watkins will have plenty of value to the Cubs in a year or so. And should the front office not want him after all, he is still valuable as a trading chip. Watkins likley stays.

Christian Villanueva – If Watkins falls into the “immediate help” category of probable Rule 5 picks, Villanueva is an equally good example of the “future upside” department. This is a third baseman who is in the conversation for League Top 100 prospect status. The Cubs pried him out of Texas in the Ryan Dempster deal, and I don’t think they are going to let him go for nothing. It is true that Villanueva has no experience above High-A; that makes it harder to imagine him holding down a job on a major league roster for very many teams. Given his potential, though, I think someone will find room. I don’t see 29 teams passing on this guy if the Cubs leave him dangling. He needs to be protected.

Probably Will Protect

Nick Struck – There have been some comments out of the Cubs front office lately about Struck and some possible improvements in his delivery. That makes me think the Cubs are intrigued enough by Struck that they are going to roster him before the Rule 5 hits. Personally, I’d leave him unprotected and hope for the best. Struck projects as a No 5 starter in the majors, a role he could fill as soon as next season. I think there is a fairly good chance that Struck would be chosen if the Cubs left him exposed. That said, there are plenty of other pitchers in the farm system with similar projections to Struck. There are even more on the waiver wire. I think the Cubs are going to protect this guy, but I’m not sure that’s the best use of a roster slot right now.

Trey McNutt – McNutt offers upside and the ability to help right away … if teams are willing to keep him in the bullpen. As a reliever this right hander could be in the majors by mid-summer (hopefully with the Cubs). As a starter, he may be another two years away. I think the Cubs see him as a reliever now, and for that reason I strongly suspect they’ll roster him. If they don’t, McNutt will almost certainly be pitching garbage innings this summer for someone else.

The Rest

This is where things get troublesome. There are still some quite good prospects on the list that the Cubs are likely to expose to the draft. Some of them are probably moving on, but some of them I think are safe. The recently injured players, for instance, I think we can safely expect to be passed over. That is the main reason I do not have Robert Whitenack listed as a “Should Protect.” The upside is there, but he needs some more time to recover from elbow surgery before he could be expected to handle a major league job. Whitenack is likely safe.

Nearly every player who has yet to see Double A is also safe. Teams do sometimes make Rule 5 selections lower than Double A (such as Lendy Castillo), but that tends to be a little more unusual. Players that low in the minors have a much more difficult time hanging around on a major league roster for a full season, and that makes their selection much less likely.

That still leaves a number of players at risk of being selected. I don’t have room here to talk about all of them individually, but here is a partial list that I think are at some risk of being selected.

Jeffry Antigua
Frank Batista
Esmailin Cardiad
Marcelo Carreno
Marcus Hatley
Ty’Relle Harris
Austin Kirk
A.J. Morris
Dae-Eun Rhee  (I would protect Rhee instead of Struck.)
Greg Rohan
Ryan Searle
Brian Schlitter
Casey Weathers

There is plenty of potential on that list, and plenty of risk for the Cubs, but little that would be too devastating to lose. Assuming Watkins and Villanueva are protected, I think the most at risk would be Rhee. He’s got the stuff to be a No 3 starter one day, but I suspect his somewhat shaky season may have steered teams away from him for now. I hope the Cubs protect him anyway, but I’m not too worried about him being taken if they don’t.

Regardless, we will be keeping a close eye on the Cubs’ roster decisions in the coming weeks. We will know exactly who has been exposed in a few weeks, and I’ll be back with a final pre-draft analysis when that happens.

  • Kyle

    If anyone wants McNutt, they can have him.

    I’ve had this argument with others, but I don’t think Villanueva is a must-roster because I don’t think anyone would take him. He’s not *that* well-regarded as a prospect and he’s a long, long way away.

    Nobody’s going to take a kid who just put up a .780 OPS in A+ and stall his development for a full season, when the reward on the other end is a kid entering his age-23 season with a .780 OPS in A+ as his most recent real season.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I went back and forth on this one. I can see someone like Houston snagging him as a pure upside selection, but there are not many teams with the talent deficit to take that risk.

  • SFCCubbie_Fan

    The three that I see gone if not protected is McNutt, Batista and Villanueva

  • Brian

    How many players can any one team lose to the Rule 5 draft?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      As many stars as there are in the sky … as many grains of sand on the beaches … as many years as I will love you …

      Sorry. Got lost there. They can lose as many as other teams want to take and roster.

      • terencemann

        There’s a funny story about the former GM of the Pirates, Dave Littlefield on his Wikipedia page:

        Littlefield received a large amount of negative publicity after the Pirates lost five prospects from their minor league system with the first six picks in the 2003 Rule 5 draft, even though they had unused spots on their 40-man roster and could have protected several of the players if they had chosen to do so. Chris Shelton, who had recently been honored as the team’s minor league player of the year, went with the first pick, and he was followed in short order by Rich Thompson, Frank Brooks, Jeff Bennett, and José Bautista.[2] Baseball executives present at the draft laughed openly at Littlefield’s embarrassment, and the laughter intensified after the Pirates declined to make a pick of their own.[2] The Cincinnati Reds, picking seventh, had all five Pirate players listed on their draft board and were frustrated to see them all go too soon, and an anonymous executive from another American League team said that his team had also planned to take a Pirate prospect, refraining only because in his words, “There wasn’t anything left.”[2]

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Current Cubs Special Assistant to the GM, Dave Littlefield.

          • terencemann

            LOL. I blocked that out of my memory.

        • The Dude Abides

          The first four picks were busts and didn’t deserve to be protected other than Shelton for a couple of years in Detroit. Bautista (20th round draft pick) went number five, it’s all a crap shoot and hind sight is always 20/20. Very hard to project who makes it lots of variables IE injuries, attitudes, peter principal, etc. You do your best and move on would rather see a Colvin for Stewart trade I like my chances of that working out more than worrying about number 40 on a 100 loss team.

  • Sanchez

    The red sox want a first basemen,Do you guys think they would be intrested in LaHair?

  • terencemann

    I say this every year, but I hope the Cubs don’t take anybody in the Rule V draft unless there is someone on the board because they were just a complete brain fart by another front office. I guess they can start Lendy Castillo at AAA this season, but was he worth it/will he be worth it?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hope they take another Lendy Castillo. :)

      (And get a little luckier this time.)

      • terencemann

        I guess some years you get Lendy Castillo and some years you get Johann Santana :).

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Exactly. :)

          (So many smilies … )

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’d be surprised if Castillo starts 2012 above Tennessee.

  • Spriggs

    I hope they don’t lose Rhee or McNutt.

  • cubsin

    I expect a few more prospects will be removed from the roster before November 20, either through trades or demotions, The Cubs plan to sign three to six free agents this Winter, so they’re better off exposing some of their marginal prospects in the Rule 5 draft than demoting them after the draft, when they would only need to be added to their new team’s 40-man roster.

    • nkniacc13

      I also expect the Cubs to make a couple of moves before the rosters are set in regards to all the players that they have that need protecting. Either trading a few away in deals or outrighting some marginal players of the 40man

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Dae Eun Rhee has not been pitching to well for the last year now. He has the stuff but he is just not living up to the potential in that arm

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah. Scouts love him, but it hasn’t shown up in the results.

    • Spriggs

      He hasn’t fooled a lot of hitters in the AFL either. But he can look really good for a couple innings or so – then bam. Last night I thought he was going to be unhittable. Then came the 4th inning.

      He is a really nice kid too. And I swear he’s taller than 6’2″.

      • college_of_coaches

        Thanks Spriggs, I really appreciate your comments.

        • Spriggs

          I appreciate yours, too.

  • willis

    McNutt, Watkins, Villanueva…Other than that I wouldn’t be too upset with anyone else on the eligible list getting nabbed. The only other name on there that I love is Whtenack, but as you referenced, with his recent injury issues and the selecting team having to roster him if they want to keep him, I think he’s safe to not protect for now.

  • Mick

    Why was it so important for Gerardo Concepcion that his contract included a contingency that he must remain on the 40-man roster? I don’t understand how that clause helps Concepcion and it definitely hurts the Cubs.

    • AB

      it qualifies him for extra leg space on team flights

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Antigua is another guy the Cubs may consider rostering. Some scouts seem to love his stuff, but I’m not convinced he would be an upside pick or that he could survive in the majors for a season.

    • MightyBear

      Luke,

      How come Antigua was in AA Tennessee then he went all the way back to Peoria? Did he get hurt or was he over matched? Thanks.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        He definitely wasn’t overmatched in Tennessee. A 3.83 ERA isn’t bad at all for the Southern League.

        I suspect the Cubs were trying to stretch him out into a starter later in the season, and Peoria was where they had the innings to do it. He tossed 40 innings in 20 games for Tennessee, and 41 in just 14 games for Peoria.

        But to be honest, I’m speculating. I’m not entirely sure myself.

  • True(ly) Blue

    I apologize in advance as this question has nothing to do with Rule 5. Could someone please explain to a “working hard to learn computer neophyte” how the time that posts are posted is not sequential even though the comments seem to be. For example the times might be 9:15, then 9:10 and then 9:16. I could understand time zone differences but then the hours would be affected. ?????????
    By the way I love Bleacher Nation and love 99% of the posters!!!!!

    • MichiganGoat

      If its a reply – like this – it goes with the original post. It’s a tree format. Hope that helps.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      When you say “posts” are not sequential in time, do you mean that the comments appear out of order in time? Or the posts/articles, themselves? If you mean the posts/articles, those should be sequential.

  • mak

    One name that may pop up (either as protected or drafted) is lefty Kyler Burke. Kyler, a former OF (and minor leaguer of the year a few years back), was converted to pitching last year and can pump it up into the 90′s. While he finished the year with solid numbers at Peoria only, one type of prospect you see drafted in the Rule V is converted pitchers (in fact, wasn’t Lendy a converted pitcher). In a system without a lot of high ceiling flame throwers, I’m interested to see if he survives the draft.

    • AB

      AZ phil just wrote up a blurb about him recently

      “When Kyler Burke was first converted to pitcher his fastball was topping out at 94, but his velocity is more like 90-92 now because he was stretched-out to be a starter and he does something with his fastball (sink or cut, maybe both) that reduces the velocity. He has a plus-curve and a decent change-up and last time I saw him he was working on a slider, so he has the stuff to be a starter. But I haven’t seen him pitch since Minor League Camp”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’m not convinced Burke has shown enough to make a major league team take that gamble this year.

      Next year may be a different story.

  • Beer Baron

    Do you really think Watkins is that much of a risk to be taken? Don’t get me wrong, I like him – but it seems his ceiling is an average 2nd baseman and more likely a nice utility guy and he is realistically at least a year away from being MLB ready. So why would a team waste a roster spot on a guy without a great deal of upside who likely will add little to the current team? Flaherty is at least 6″3″ middle infielder with power potential and Gonzalez a true short stop- I can see the attraction there, but Watkins is just a nice player but nothing special (unless of course the Cardinals claim him in which case he hits .350 next year with 25 HRs).

    That said, I’d protect McNutt and Struck for sure, and then Villanueva if you think he will get taken (good argument above to say he won’t) but I’d leave Watkins off the roster.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Watkins can play short. He’s been at second almost exclusively in the Cubs system in no small part because he keeps winding up on the same team with higher profile shortstop prospects (Hak-Ju Lee, Junior Lake), but he can handle the position. And his defensive ceiling is higher than average.

      He’s a patient left handed hitter with good speed that can play at least above average defense at SS, 2B, and CF. He’s definitely at risk to be taken.

    • mak

      Watkins hitting tool and batting eye are good enough to get him drafted. And I think the consensus is that he could play adequate, if not above average defense in the majors next year.

  • Bill

    I’ll be very upset if a guy like Villaneuva gets protected and someone, like McNutt, doesn’t. Hard for me to believe anyone is dying to tie up a roster spot for a guy who hasn’t played above A+ ball. He’s not a big power guy, he projects as a 2B. I don’t think there’s any concern another team picks him up and if they do, who cares? He’s not going to play 3B for the cubs and they have plenty of 2B who rate higher. Don’t waste a spot on him.

    I’d rather save some of these spots for pitchers. Maybe they can be serviceable relief pitchers.

    • DoubleDown

      Are that cofident of your stance on this? Really

      • DoubleDown

        What the hell?

        Are you that confident of your stance on this? Really

        I know data bits get lost during transmisssion, but this is crazy/weird.

      • Kyle

        It’s a very defensible stance. Villanueva has become quite overrated in many Cubs’ fans eyes, imo.

    • nkniacc13

      I be surprised it Villanueva isn’t protected. You dont make him the center piece of your dempster deal and then not protect him.

  • The Dude Abides

    Why wouldn’t we take our “bubble” 40 man roster players and package two or three of them together in the next week or so and trade them for a single player? Obviously these guys are hot prospects and teams would jump at the chance to get two or three of our 39 -42 prospects, it’s better than losing them all to other teams and we come up ended handed after all of the hard work we have done building up our minor league system.

    • AB

      Every team has a bunch of bubble guys.

      Compared to the last couple of years, where guys ended up left off that maybe should have been protected(Flaherty), there is really no need urgent need to add guys this year except for Watkins, and maybe Struck depending on how the SP moves shake out.

  • nkniacc13

    You are more likey to included a couple in a bigger deal. Other than Szczur or Lake most of these guys wouldn’t be able to be traded by themselves and even those 2 are likely to be add ons in a deal rather than the main piece.

  • True(ly) Blue

    Michigangoat and Brett. Thanks for your response to my sequence question. It helps me understand how it works.

  • nkniacc13

    Luke im not so sure the Cubs can afford to risk losing Whitenack. He would be a good chance for someone to take and then basically do what the cubs did with Castillo as far as DL and the number of days needed on active roster

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      That is a risk, but I think teams would rather take that risk on someone coming off a more successful campaign. I like Whitenack, but he had a rough year. I’d be surprised to see a team snag him this season. Next year, different story.

      But I’ve been wrong before.

  • R.E.S

    As many players as we have that are eligible I’m sure we will probably loose someone we would have preferred to keep. But I will be disappointed if we loose someone like Struck and we still have Putnam or Gutierrez on our roster.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Given that the front office just picked up Putnam and Gutierrez, I think it’s safe to say that they really like them, and perhaps even more than guys like Struck or Rhee or McNutt. I’m not saying we should just defer to their judgment, but they’ve been evaluating the Struck/Rhee/McNutt types very closely for over a year now. I’d be upset to lose anyone, but not because they preferred one of their waiver pickups.

  • Jeff1969

    In my opinion, Villanueva won’t be selected. He’s too faraway from even being worth a spot on a horrible team, like Houston. Watkins, Struck, McNutt, Rhee and I think Carreno will be protected The guys I see getting picked are Rohan for sure, Schlitter, Morris, & Kirk.

  • Frank

    We definitely protect McNutt. If it comes down to only one of Villanueva or Watkins, Villanueva should be a no brainer. While Watkins seems like more of a sure thing to be a big league player, he’s more likely to be a Ryan Theriot, whereas Villanueva could be more of a difference maker. I could see someone taking Watkins and managing to keep him on a roster all season, but I’m not sure we’d miss him all that much.

    Struck I could go either way on. I’m not convinced that he’s any better than Chris Rusin or Brooks Raley, and I’m not convinced that either of them are much better than Casey Coleman or Randy Wells. If it were up to me, I’d DFA Coleman and give Struck his roster spot.

    A few dark horses are Robert Whitenack and Starling Peralta. Both would be difficult to keep on a big league roster for a full season, however, there are ways around that such as phantom injuries. Hatley’s a guy that I could see a team taking and hanging onto that we might miss.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Losing Peralta would be a bit of a stunner. That’d would probably be more aggressive of a selection than the Cubs taking Lendy Castillo last year.

      If the Cubs did have to pick between Watkins and Villanueva as the one guy to protect, they should take Watkins without hesitation. Villanueva has a higher ceiling, but Watkins is close to being ready. He should push Barney for the starting second base job as soon as the second half of next season. Unless Barney starts hitting before then, of course.

  • http://Yes Dude

    There are still a few roster spots going to open up but I don’t see them leaving Struck, Watkins, Batista or Villanueva off the 40 man.

  • Frank

    Hatley would certainly get a spot over Batista.

  • Frank

    Another guy that I’d hate to lose, though it would be an aggressive pick is the recently acquired Marcelo Ceranno.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah. Definitely would like to see how he develops next year.

  • calicubsfan007

    For me, it would be Watkins, Struck and Villanueva. I agree with Kyle about McNutt. Please, someone take him.

  • SVAZCUB

    I think you can make an argument either way for McNutt, but my sense is that the Cubs aren’t quite ready to give up on a guy with an arm like that, especially in lieu of the success Bosio had with Marmol and Samardzija, and the progress they feel Cabrera has made. McNutt has a similarly electric arm, and I think they’ll try to work with him for one more year before they expose him to the Rule V.

    If I were another team looking to draft someone, I would consider someone like Batista or Hatley for an extra bullpen arm. Even Kirk could potentially be attractive as a guy who could be hid as a LOOGY for a year, even though I wouldn’t protect Kirk if I were the Cubs–he’s a LH finesse guy who doesn’t get either groundouts or strikeouts, making me wonder how he’s going to have any kind of success in MLB or even the PCL. Plus, he’s pretty redundant in the Cubs system, as they already have Rusin, Raley and Jokisch who are cut from the same cloth as Kirk.

    Rohan might be a good risk for a team looking for a RH bat off the bench. He’s probably not ready, but he’d be worth 25G to find out. The Cubs could use a RH corner guy now that Johnson and Baker are gone, but Rohan is a longshot to stick in ’13 and isn’t such a great talent that he’s worth protecting, IMHO.

    I agree with the article that Villanueva and Watkins are guys they need to protect, and I think Struck is an obvious choice, as well. Struck has an amazing second half at AA and is still quite young. They need to find out if his improvement is for real (as opposed to just a hot streak) before they expose him.

    As far as Rhee goes, I can’t imagine who would want him as a guy with underwhelming stuff who has really stalled out at AA and struggled in the AFL. Rhee is probably not even a lock to get a rotation at AA (or elsewhere in the system) in ’13. At AA, Kirk, Loosen and Hendricks will be locks for the rotation; plus, Vizcaino and Whitenack may spend time in the rotation there while coming back from their injuries; and there will be a bunch of other candidates for rotation spots there, like Beeler, Del Valle, Lendy Castillo, Searle, and maybe even Antigua and Ty’Relle Harris.

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