The Rule 5 draft was even more unusual than I expected. The Cubs got so pillaged by the rest of the league that I decided to suspend the regular Prospects’ Progress to talk a bit about the players the Cubs lost.

First, a refresher on the good news. The Cubs took Hector Rondon, and there is a lot to like about this pick. Even though he wasn’t one of the players I had profiled, I do like this move. Rondon has a real chance to not only stick all season, but to actually contribute in a positive way. You can’t compliment a Rule 5 pick more highly than that.

Now for the bad news.

Losing Starlin Peralta was not a pleasant surprise. He has good stuff, but he also has a long way to go before can fully take advantage of it. While he did have a K/9 of 7.8 this year, he did it Peoria, and it was partially offset by a BB/9 of 3.8. And that raises a very important question: if he is walking 3.8 per nine innings in Low-A Peoria, how is he going to get major league hitters out? They’ll camp on his fastball waiting for a strike, and his fastball is not good enough to get away with that. I am extremely skeptical that Arizona can keep him a full season.

The Diamondbacks are run by some smart people. They know the value of a prospect, but they also know how to set up a roster. I’m sure they have some scouting data on Peralta that makes them genuinely interested, but they have to know that he is not going to be able to easily stay in the majors all season… and maybe not for the required non-injury 90 days. Arizona is trying to win a tough division; they can’t afford to carry a liability in their bullpen. And they have to know that. That makes me suspect they aren’t after Peralta at all. Or, to say it differently, that Peralta is not their primary target.

I see two possibilities here, and both involve trades. First off, Arizona is in the middle of some epic four team trade negotiations, and those negotiations are not coming together yet. One possibility is that the Diamondbacks grabbed Peralta because they knew another team (Miami? Cleveland?) that would be in a better position to roster him all year and absorb the damage wanted him. In that scenario, Peralta would become a sweetener for that team in a larger trade. In a lesser farm system, Peralta could easily be a 20-30 ranked prospect. That’s not a bad player to toss into a deal.

The other possibility is that the Diamondbacks are interested in a different trade with the Cubs, and that they are taking Peralta as a piece to play in that trade. One way Arizona could keep Peralta regardless of roster status is if they conclude a trade with the Cubs that grants Arizona his rights, unrestricted. That deal could be part of a larger trade. I also think, although I’m not certain of the exact rules here, that Arizona could offer Peralta back to the Cubs as part of another trade. Who would the Diamondbacks be targeting on the Cubs? I have no idea, but it probably would not be any of the big names. Because I don’t see how the Cubs and Diamondbacks match up, if Arizona is thinking of Peralta as a trade chip, I think the first possibility is the more likely one.

If Arizona is intending to the young pitcher, though, I think they are making a mistake. I do not see how they can make that work. If no trade is made, I strongly suspect Peralta will be back with the Cubs by the end of the season.

Matt Cerda, on the other hand, is likely gone for good. Players taken in the minor league phase are almost never returned.

Cerda has one of the purest swings I have ever seen. He is not very big and does not have much power, but the ball jumps off his bat to all fields. Lacking the power to play at third and the lateral quickness to stick at second full time, he projects as a utility player in the majors more than a starter. As a utility player, though, he will have some value. I don’t know where the Cubs would have found at bats for Cerda in 2013 (Iowa and Tennessee will both be crowded on the infield), but I wish they could have kept this guy. I like having players in the system who work and play as hard as they can and push the limits of their abilities, and Cerda is absolutely one of those guys. St. Louis fans are going to love him.

Michael Burgess is also gone. Burgess advanced to Double A for the first time this season, and responded by having one of his best ever years. In particular, especially for a guy who had a history of swinging too aggressively, he was able to cut his strikeout rate all the way down to 16.1%. That new approach probably cost him some power (only ten home runs last year), but I think the power will return. Burgess has a good arm and plays solid defense in right, easily good enough to hold down the position in the majors. If he continues to make progress with his bat, he could be a regular right fielder one day. A fourth outfielder / platoon role may be more likely, but regardless, he has a real chance to make the majors.

Alvido Jimenez was also taken. You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard that name before. Jimenez is one of a legion of interesting but unspectacular pitchers the Cubs have signed out of the Caribbean in recent years. This particular pitcher was still in the Arizona Rookie League at the age of 20 despite coming to the United States at 18. His numbers were impressive (0.848 WHIP, 4.29 K/BB), but not so impressive that I think his loss is any kind of a blow to the Cubs.

At the end of the day, Cerda is probably the guy I think the Cubs will miss the most. Barring a transaction, I think Peralta is coming back. Burgess lessens the pool of legitimate outfield talent in the farm system, and that’s not good. But Cerda… Cerda is in a class of his own. He combined a terrific swing with an uncanny batting eye and a very advanced understanding of how a pitcher would attack him. He was always a tough out, and that is a skill that tends to translate up the system. If he were 6’2″ with weight and muscle to match he would be one of the best corner infield prospects in baseball. At 5’9″ he is still one of the best pure hitters I have seen in quite some time. Keep an eye on this guy; he’s got a bright future ahead of him.

  • Ben

    I’m not aware on how the minor league portion of the draft works. Can you give a quick breakdown? What are the rules to keep a player, and what qualifies them to be picked?

    • Kyle

      Beyond their 40-man MLB reserve list, each team has a 38-man AAA protected list and a 37-man AA protected list.

      So for the AAA portion of the draft, each team can protect an additional 38 players, and for the AA portion, an additional 75 players over the regular Rule 5 draft.

      AAA and AA picks are not subject to roster restrictions and simply belong to their new team.

      • Ben

        So the Cubs had 38 players at the AAA level they liked better than Cerda? Am i reading that correctly? If so, you would think the Cubs are loaded at that level.

        • Luke

          Who is protected is never published, but I suspect the Cubs hoarded their pitching at the expense of some guys (like Cerda) who don’t have a natural position.

          • Ben

            Makes sense. Thanks for breaking it down for me. I think it’s a high compliment to the Cubs system that all these guys were taken. Good sign, esp if we have a strong draft this year.

            • Kyle

              Just wait. It’s going to get worse as things get better (which is somewhat a good thing).

              The 40-man crunch is going to be brutal over the next three offseasons or so. We’re going to be dreading Rule 5 draft day pretty soon.

              • Luke

                Yep. This is going to be an annual occurrence.

              • Cubbie Blues

                Agreed. Until we bring up some of the lower level guys that are on the 40-man it will be especially rough. Of course, just because this crop moves up the ranks, it doesn’t mean we won’t be signing more onto the 40-man.

        • King Jeff

          He was on the Smokies roster at the end of the year. Still, I find it hard to believe that they had that many more AA players they liked more than Cerda. I guess that career .719 OPS soured the front office on him a bit?

          • AB

            I think he suffered from Tweener disease. From what Az Phil said yesterday, he doesnt’ have the bat to be a fulltime 3b, but doesn’t have the defensive skills to be a fulltime 2b.

        • Kyle

          The AAA protected list can protect players at AAA or any level below it. The AA list can protect players from AA on down.

          • King Jeff

            That makes a little more sense. What doesn’t make sense is why they can pick guys from below AAA level, during the AAA portion of the draft. This whole process has seemed like a loss for the Cubs the last few seasons.

            • Kyle

              I really wouldn’t worry about it. If you get picked in the minor-league portion of the draft, you aren’t worth worrying about.

              • King Jeff

                I’d imagine it would be a very low percentage of these guys actually becoming productive major leaguers.

                Has anyone mentioned that Cerda was the little kid that Danny Almonte made cry at the LLWS yet? .

                • Cubbie Blues

                  JulioZuleta sidled up to it. During an interview he actually said he was proud about being able to foul a pitch off and not miss it entirely. He was about the youngest and obviously the smallest on the team.

                  • King Jeff

                    That whole situation was ridiculous. It really sucks that they would let that kid pitch knowing how much older he was than the other kids.

                    I liked Cerda, and was happy we drafted him, because of how much I had read about him following the LLWS. He seems like a baseball junkie, and would have been a nice backup infielder I think.

      • Luke

        Thank you.

  • mudge

    Is there a limit to how many players a team can lose this way? 20? Rule 5 is an absurdity.

    • terencem

      Nope. Look up Dave Littlefield on Wikipedia to see what happened to the Pirates several years ago.

      • Cubbie Blues

        That might be the worst non-move by a GM ever. His farm was overtaken by the coyotes.

        • Brett

          And now he’s a Special Assistant in the Cubs’ front office. True story.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Yeah, I have never understood how he is part of the brain-trust.

  • Spriggs

    High praise for Cerda. He’s been left out of most Cubs prospect discussions the past year or so. I kind of forgot about him since he left the AZ league in 2008, where he looked decent enough – so young as tiny looking as I recall then. Why did it take him so long to advance in the system, Luke? I mean, I know he’s only 22 or so now, but starting his 5th year in the system and he was still in A ball.

    • Luke

      I’m not sure why he opened this year in High A Daytona, but he was effectively a Double A player. 22 is not a bad age to reach Double A.

      • JulioZuleta

        Cerda actualy opened in Tenn and was sent down later in the year. I can’t remember where he finished between the two.

        • Luke

          Tennessee, and he played well there at the end of the year.

  • Kyle

    I think the utter confidence that Peralta is coming back is Cubs fans talking.

    Every team has garbage innings. It’s not that hard to stash a pitcher if you really want to.

    • hansman1982

      John Sickels has it as a low to moderate chance he sticks in Arizona.

      • Kyle

        That’s about where I’d place it. I’d go as far as to say we’re “probably” getting him back. 65%?

        • Spriggs

          But after you saw how we kept Lendy Castillo, don’t you think 65% might even be a little high?

        • Luke

          If AZ can keep their pen healthy, 65%. If they have an injury or two out there I think it will go up dramatically.

    • King Jeff

      Does anyone know the rules on trading these guys? Can they be traded? Do they have to stick with the new team if they are traded?

      • Kyle

        A player taken in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft may be traded, but he retains the roster restrictions on his new team.

  • tim

    A bit on the above.

    Peralta can not be directly optioned to the minors in 2013 without going through waivers. At all. Regardless of any trades. If he gets dealt to Cleveland or Miami (completely possible), he would still need to clear waivers and be offered back to the Cubs before going to A, AA, or AAA ball.

    There are three phases of the Rule 5 draft. The MLB version is the only one where players get returned. If the Cubs would have signed someone in the AAA or AA portions, it would have been a flat buy. Cerda is St. Louis property. Burgess and Jimenez may have to spend some time in a ST camp above their level, but they are gone as well.

    The bummer of a deep system.

  • JulioZuleta

    I like Cerda, seems like a great attitude kid (and a former Little League World Series Hero) and has a great eye at the plate. I don’t think he is anything close to a future major league regular. He might **might** break in somewhere and hang on for a couple years as a 25th man type, but even that would surprise me.

    Burgess on the other hand, I think him leaving just clears the path and gets some playing time for much more important up and comers. Like Luke says, he’s a strict power guy, only he didn’t hit for power this year. He’s now a 24 year old AA “power-hitting” outfielder who had a .772 OPS. I’d be shocked if he contributed to an ML team at this point.

    While you definitely never want to out and out lose someone, I don’t think we’ll be losing sleep over either of them. Peralta would be a bigger loss, but he’ll probably be back, like Luke said (unless traded). Both guys seem destined for organizational filler status at this point.

  • AB

    The Cubs drafted some guy in the AAA phase last year and he didn’t even make any of the minor league teams.

    • college_of_coaches

      If I remember correctly, they drafted a player during this phase as a courtesy for a Mexican league team. That player was then sent by the Cubs to a team in Mexico. In other words, the Cubs had no intention of keeping that player. (There was probably some quid pro quo involved, though the arrangement was never clear.)

      • AB

        Huh interesting.


  • Stinky Pete

    So Cerda went from the Cubs to the Cards and does not project as a starter? He had better clean off his mantle. Throw in a bit o’ St. L voodoo and that’s a perfect recipe for MVP.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Sounds about right. Of course, all it got Theriot was a neat little montage (and a WS ring).

    • Spriggs

      You can bet he will overachieve and contribute there – even if it’s only for brief, Bo Hart type moments.

  • Spencer

    This was depressing to read. A note on Peralta: Arizona isn’t required to keep him active for 90 days this season. If he gets close to that mark and they get swamped with injuries or something like that, they’ll probably DL Peralta, too, just like the Cubs did with Lendy. If he doesn’t meet the roster requirements in 2013, all he has to do is finish it in 2014. It may stunt his development a bit (maybe, maybe not), but I think it’s pretty easy to stash players if you really wanna keep them. The question is does Arizona really wanna keep him.

  • jesus zuniga

    And they say are farm system is weak..they took 5 guys. We must have something?. How many players where taken last year?

    • Spencer

      Four were taken this year; two last year.

  • Cubbie Blues

    @csnmooney: #Cubs have signed pitcher Andrew Carpenter (@ACarpenter50) to a minor-league deal with invite to big-league spring training.

    • TWC

      Oh, sweet: a minor move for everybody to get totally worked up over.

      • Cubbie Blues


        • cjdubbya


  • cubfanincardinalland

    Luke, no offense, but I have seen Cerda play, and he is never going to be a legit major league ballplayer. Pure swing? He hit .246 last year, he has a career OPS of .719. And he is not a very good defensive player. Power wise, he makes Barney look like Sammy Sosa.
    Cardinals only took him because they have nobody to play 3b in AA or AAA next year.
    The only real loss was Peralta. He won’t make the Diamondbacks out of spring training. He’s a AA pitcher at this point.

  • Hawkeyegrad

    Could the Cubs be looking at a deal involvong Garza as the ceterpiece for Parra and/or one the D-backs pitching prospects? Per the Diamondbacks GM, they are looking to add a legitimate #2 starter which would leave them with one opening for their top three pitching propects: Trevor Bauer, Pat Corbin and Tyler Skaggs

    Furthermore, it looks like Adam Eaton is the starting D-backs CF now with Young gone and AJ Pollock can back him up. Parra will be getting expensive as a 4th outfielder (and Pollock can take that role) and he is only 25. Food for thought.

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