The annual Rule 5 Draft – wherein teams are able to select (or lose!) certain players – is scheduled to take place this Thursday, December 14th, at the close of the Winter Meetings.
In case you’ve forgotten, eligible players are ones who have not yet been added to their team’s 40-man roster and have played either four or five years of professional baseball (depending on their age). Once selected, a player must stay on his new team’s 25-man roster all season (with an allowance for some time on the disabled list), or he must be offered back to his original team. You can’t just option him down to the minors.
A few days ago, we touched on the five top 30 Cubs prospects eligible for the draft (according to MLB Pipeline), and those names, once again, are Trevor Clifton (9), Chesny Young (16), Charcer Burks (22), Erling Moreno (26), and Jose Paulino (29) – Oscar De La Cruz, Adbert Alzolay, and David Bote were all originally eligible, too, but were ultimately protected by the Cubs when they were added to the 40-man roster back in November.
The Cubs may lose one or all of those first five names this Thursday (although there’s always a chance to get them back, but that’s a story for another time), so be prepared for that. It’s more likely that the Cubs lose no one than someone (let alone multiple players), but it’s always possible.
It’s also entirely possible that the Cubs will find a way to squeeze in a pick of their own, as well. To that end, Baseball America has recently previewed the entire Rule 5 Draft, by separating players into useful buckets for your perusing. Take a few minutes to check it out.
You’ll have to subscribe to Baseball America for the full rundown, but in short, they’ve separated a large number of the prospects into the following buckets:
- Top Five Rule Five Candidates
- Back-End Starters (Including Trevor Clifton)
- Nearly Ready Relievers
- Lefty Specialiasts
- Flamethrowers with Work To Do
- Injury Issues
- Outfielders Who Can Handle Center Field
- Sluggers with Little Defensive Value
- Corner Outfielders
- Utility Infielders
- Backup Catchers
- First-Time Available First-Rounders (Mark Appel)
- Take My Contract Please! (Rusney Castillo, Jontahan Singleton)
But despite all of those categories, only one Chicago Cub made the cut: Trevor Clifton. Here’s part of what BA had to say on the Cubs eligible, back-end starter: “A year ago, Clifton was seen as a young righthander who was blossoming into one of the better pitching prospects in the Cubs system. [But] His 2017 season was one to forget.” With that said, Clifton, 22, is still quite young and isn’t without promise. In Chris Mitchell’s recent KATOH Guide to the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, he shows up tied for the sixth best KATOH projection among right-handed pitchers in the draft.
Losing him wouldn’t be the end of the world, but all things equal, he’s someone you would definitely rather keep in the system.
In other interesting Rule 5 news, your eye might be drawn to the first-time available, first-overall-pick Mark Appel, the guy taken just before Kris Bryant in the 2013 MLB draft, but he’s not actually likely to get selected. If you recall, Appel was put on waivers by the Phillies earlier this offseason and not a single team took a chance on him, even though they could’ve stashed him in the minors at the time. For that to change now, when the drafting team would have to carry him on the big league roster all year, seems very unlikely.
And finally, while Rusney Castillo ($30M) and Jonathan Singleton ($2M) are both big names, neither is likely to be taken next week given their financial commitments.
In the end, I couldn’t say which players might pique the Cubs interest, because when you’re a competitive team, stashing guys on the big league roster all season long isn’t really that easy. The bullpen is usually the most reasonable place to do it, though, so if you’re looking for an angle, that’d be it. The Cubs could take a swing on a possibly useful reliever (as they did last year with Caleb Smith), and see what happens in Spring Training.