If you’re a super nerdy baseball fan and/or a prospect hipster, welcome to one of your favorite days of the year.
Although the Rule 5 Draft is not until next month at the Winter Meetings, the process for that draft really kicks off today. This is the deadline by which teams must add eligible players to the 40-man roster to ensure that they are excluded from the Rule 5 Draft pool.
In other words, if you’ve got a prospect that is set to be eligible for the draft (short version: it’s prospects who’ve been in the system for a while, but who have never been added to the 40-man roster), today is the day you’ve gotta make a big decision.
Teams all around baseball will be making tough calls today, which not only leads to fascinating chatter in advance of the Rule 5 Draft on December 14, but also can spur trade activity around the league. One team’s unprotected player could be another team’s trade target – pull off the deal today and get that player on the 40-man roster, and boom, you’ve got yourself a new prospect.
The Cubs’ 40-man roster currently stands at 34, which should afford them plenty of room to protect the prospects they (1) really want to keep, and (2) fear could be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Remember: a player taken in the draft has to stick with his new team on the *25-man* big league roster for almost all of the following season in order to be kept. So you will see good prospects go unprotected by teams today – they’re just rolling the dice that no other big league team can afford to use a roster spot on them all next year.
The Cubs probably won’t protect six prospects today to take the 40-man all the way up to 40, but, even if they do, they’ll be able to remove other players from the 40-man roster as needed later on to accommodate free agent and trade additions. Deal with that problem when you have to.
You can see the full list of Cubs prospects who are set to be Rule 5 eligible this year here at TCR, but among the notable names:
- RHP Adbert Alzolay
- RHP Pedro Araujo
- UTL David Bote
- OF Charcer Burks
- RHP Trevor Clifton
- RHP Oscar De La Cruz
- RHP Justin Hancock
- RHP Zach Hedges
- RHP Brad Markey
- RHP Erling Moreno
- INF Carlos Penalver
- OF Bijan Rademacher
- RHP Jake Stinnett
- 3B Jason Vosler
- RHP Ryan Williams
- UTL Chesny Young
Alzolay and De La Cruz are unholy locks to be added to the 40-man roster today, and the other selections will really depend on the Cubs’ calculus about who might be picked. If the Cubs think other teams will buy Bote’s power uptick, they better protect him. If the Cubs think teams will ignore Clifton’s ugly 2017 and try to stash him, they better protect him. If the Cubs fear a team will go very deep to try to stash a 20-year-old A-ball arm with a ton of talent, they better protect Moreno. And if the Cubs believe teams will see Stinnett as a good relief conversion, they better protect him.
I think those are the guys mostly on the table as possible players to protect, but I find I’m sometimes surprised on this day because of a guy that broke out in winter ball (like Penalver) or something. I tentatively expect the Cubs to protect Alzolay, De La Cruz, and two others (Bote and Stinnett would be my best guesses, if pushed).
We’ll find out at the end of the day …