As the players and owners have come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, baseball will not be locked out. And thus, the (off)season must go on, including next week’s Winter Meetings.
On Thursday, rounding out those meetings, MLB will hold its annual Rule 5 Draft.
The Rule 5 Draft, if you’re unaware, is the offseason draft where eligible players – ones that have not yet been added to their team’s 40 man roster and have either played four or five years of professional baseball (depending on their age) – could be selected and taken by other teams in exchange for nada. The point of it is to stop teams from stockpiling too many young players in the Minor Leagues if other teams were willing to give them a spot on their Major League roster. The deadline to protect these players was a couple weeks ago, and the Cubs added four prospects to their 40-man roster at that time.
And although your instinct that those unprotected players may not be especially desirable prospects is mostly correct, there are plenty of notable exceptions. For example, the Cubs selected Hector Rondon from the Indians in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft.
So with that in mind, Chris Mitchell has released his KATOH projections – a system that attempts to determine a player’s WAR projection during the his first six major-league seasons – for the players eligible in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. There is no opinion or subjectivity in the KATOH projections, it’s simply a measure of statistics. Keep that in mind.
The Cubs, perhaps unsurprisingly, but slightly annoyingly, appear throughout the list, which is sorted by the type of players you most often see available and selected: 1) right-handed pitchers, 2) left-handed pitchers, 3) catchers, 4) utility infielders, 5) first baseman and 6) outfielders.
You can check out the full projections, including some additional information on several notable players, here at FanGraphs. I’ll highlight the Cubs players from each section, below.
First up is the right-handed pitchers. While the Astros and Mets occupy the top four spots on the list, the Cubs first appear at number seven with Armando Rivero (1.8 WAR). Rivero, 28, has been at Triple-A Iowa for parts of the past three seasons, but had his best year in 2016 (2.13 ERA, 2.84 FIP). He struck out a ridiculous 37.4% of batters, but also walked 12.5%. We’ve been hearing about a potential Rivero call up for a while now, but it hasn’t happened. Now, the Cubs risk losing him next Thursday.
For the left-handed pitchers, the Cubs place just one prospect on the list at seventh overall, lefty Jose Paulino (1.5 WAR). Paulino, 21, has only just reached A-ball this season and, given his age, isn’t really behind schedule. But he has been in the organization since he was 16 years old (and thus, is eligible for the draft – yes, international signees often become eligible much younger than their stateside counterparts). He posted a 3.15 ERA in 40.0 innings this season, with a nice 5.9% walk rate, but a mediocre 18.8% strikeout rate. Given his relative youth, however, I wouldn’t mind if he wasn’t selected (more on this at the end).
Continuing on to the catchers, the Cubs, surprise, once again place one prospect on the list, righty Taylor Davis (2.5 WAR) at fourth overall. Davis first reached Triple-A Iowa in as a 26-year-old catcher in 2015, but did not exceed that level this past season. He doesn’t hit for much power, but did walk (11.6%) more than he struck out (10.9%). If you’re familiar with Davis’ name, it’s likely because he is among the Cubs’ catcher depth in the upper minors, and has been for a while. Although you’d like to keep him, you do wonder if there’s a reason he hasn’t broken through to the big leagues yet.
The Chicago Cubs have no eligible utility infielders or first basemen showing up on the list. They do, however, have the second best outfielder available.
According to KATOH, the second most valuable outfielder in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft is righty John Andreoli (3.7 WAR – obviously that seems extremely high). Andreoli’s name might spark your memory, thinking back to Spring Training 2016, where he finished with a .990 OPS through 25 games, including a couple of steals and several solid plays in the outfield. Andreoli, 26, is good at getting on base (.374 OBP, 15.2% walk rate in 2016) as well as stealing bases (43 this season), but has never hit for much power. Even still, he might be the name you’d like the Cubs to lose the least.
So, summing up, the Cubs Top Rule 5 Eligible Players According to KATOH Projections are:
- John Andreoli (26), OF – 3.7 WAR
- Taylor Davis (27), C – 2.4 WAR
- Armando Rivero (28), RHP – 1.8 WAR
- Jose Paulino (21), LHP – 1.5 WAR
Now, even if the Cubs do lose one of the players above, it’s important to remember that they are not necessarily lost for good. If the selecting team does not keep the selected player on their 25-man roster all season long, they must offer him back to the original team. That is why a young, inexperienced player like Jose Paulino might be attractive, but left untaken. Hiding him in your bullpen all season might not be easy (although, I’m suddenly curious what would have changed if the new CBA had added a 26th man).
Andreoli, Davis and Rivero, on the other hand, are all older players who could theoretically play a role on someone’s bench or bullpen as soon as this season. So if you’re partial to any of the players listed above, I’d keep an eye on that upcoming draft.