The Chicago Cubs today added four prospects to their 40-man roster, thus protecting them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft (as discussed more in depth here):
- RHP Duane Underwood Jr.
- LHP Jack Leathersich
- C Victor Caratini
- OF Jacob Hannemann
Each of the four were among the names we discussed as plausible additions yesterday, though many other prospects are now left unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft (the biggest name probably being that of reliever Armando Rivero). That doesn’t mean several or even any Cubs prospects will be selected, but it does mean they are available if some team wants to try to roster them for all of next season.
Underwood, 22, is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons as he climbed the minor league ladder and dealt with injuries and the slow process of refining his excellent stuff. As a big righty with genuine front-of-the-rotation upside, Underwood was a lock to be selected in the Rule 5 and stashed in some rebuilding team’s bullpen if he’d been exposed. It will still be a development process for him, even though he’s now on the 40-man roster. But the upside was too tantalizing to walk away from just yet.
Leathersich, 26, is a lefty reliever who can strike a ton of guys out, but will also walk his fair share. He’ll compete for a bullpen job in Spring Training.
Caratini, 23, is a switch-hitting catcher who hit .291/.375/.405 at AA this past season, and, although he’s got some work to do behind the plate, looks like a future big leaguer in some capacity. Protecting him makes plenty of sense, and he could factor into the Cubs’ catching equation as soon as 2018.
Hannemann, 25, is a gifted defensive outfielder (he was regarded as nearly as good as Albert Almora Jr. when the duo was playing together at AA) and baserunner. He hit a solid but unspectacular .247/.326/.426 in a repeat at Tennessee this year before an injury shortened his season. He was a bit older for a prospect out of the draft because of a two-year Mormon mission, and then he’s been plagued by injuries with the Cubs, but the physical gifts are there. Throw in the fact that the defense and baserunning are already so good, and I can see why the Cubs wanted to protect him. Given his story, being a late-bloomer would not be a shock.
One other 40-man roster move to note: earlier today, the Cubs added David Rollins off of waivers from the Mariners.
By my count, then, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is currently at the full 40 (though that includes Munenori Kawasaki, who may or may not be a free agent). There are several players who could be removed if necessary, though, so I wouldn’t worry about a roster crunch right now.