With the Winter Meetings back to being busy, the annual Rule 5 Draft feels a rather anti-climactic ending.
Except if you’re a fan of the small-market Cubs!
THIS JUST IN: There is a "pretty good chance" the Cubs will be active in the Rule 5 Draft, said Theo.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) December 12, 2019
I do think, not just for the Cubs, but across the league, we’ll see what Brett predicted yesterday: 26-man rosters leading to extra Rule 5 action.
The draft starts at 11am CT, with a three-round Major League phase (in which teams can decline to make a pick at any point), and then a minor league phase, which is nerdier than you want me to explain at this juncture (short version: guys not protected on certain minor league rosters can be selected and kept forever). I will tell you, though, the Cubs got a good player in that phase a year ago: lefty Luis Lugo.
The Cubs first hope today is to not lose any players and maintain maximum AAA depth. I believe the likeliest loss (though all losses probably fall on under side of 50/50) is reliever Dakota Mekkes, who I profiled last month, because his ability to get right-handed hitters out is already Major League quality. If teams prefer velocity, they might look to poach a Jordan Minch or Michael Rucker or Oscar de la Cruz.
There are probably three hitters today with existent, but low, odds at being selected. P.J. Higgins leads the way, a catcher that has really become solid defensively, who shows solid contact skills and whose power broke out a bit when he reached the Juicy Pacific Coast League this year. Vimael Machin is the system’s best contact hitter, can play passably at every infield position, and has been playing well recently in Puerto Rico. Someone could see Trent Giambrone’s mix of power, defensive versatility, and above-average baserunning as an asset at Roster Spot Twenty-Six.
The other consideration the Cubs have today is whether to make a selection themselves. I think it’s possible, with plenty of flexibility remaining on the 40-man roster and a big league squad that feels thin both on the bench and in the pen. Brett threw out a name, Eric Filia, yesterday. I’ll add a few of my favorite pitchers.
Braves southpaw Thomas Burrows looks attractive as Kyle Ryan / Brad Wieck injury insurance, as he held lefties to a .173/.287/.213 batting line, with a 31 K% thanks to a plus slider. Dany Jimenez in the Blue Jays system is getting buzz as an early pick, but he might be good enough to trade up for. The Giants have a couple guys that popped up in 2019 that interest me: Raffi Vizcaino and Tyler Cyr.
And last, the Cubs could get petty and grab one of two intriguing Brewers in the draft, Zack Brown, a starter that struggled in AAA this year but whose stuff might play up in the bullpen. And Tommy makes a good case for former first round pick Phil Bickford:
Bickford has also been popped for marijuana twice (which is obviously legal now in the minors), so that has really stunted his development. Interesting dude to take a chance on.
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) December 12, 2019
A reminder that, trading up in the Rule 5 Draft doesn’t usually involve anything other than sending some extra cash to a team ahead of you that is willing to do you a favor – draft the guy for you, and then send him your way. The Cubs have done it for other teams before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise.
If you want to read more, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper is the best in the biz at previewing today.
Here is today’s order. I’ll update as the picks roll in, and expound on anything that involves the Cubs …
- Tigers – Rony Garcia, rhp
- Orioles – Brandon Bailey, rhp
- Marlins – Sterling Sharpe, rhp
- Royals – Stephen Woods, rhp
- Blue Jays – PASS
- Mariners – Johan Ramirez, rhp
- Pirates – PASS
- Padres – NO ROOM
- Rockies – NO ROOM
- Angels – PASS
- White Sox – PASS
- Reds – Mark Payton, of
- Giants – Dany Jimenez, rhp (Darn you, San Fran and Scott Harris!)
- Rangers – PASS
- Phillies – Vimael Machin, if, CUBS [I wonder off hand if this pick will be traded to someone else. I doubt the Phillies would be able to keep Machin on their roster all season. UPDATE: now being reported that Machin will indeed be traded elsewhere. SECOND UPDATE: He’s been traded to the A’s.]
On the right roster, Machin could absolutely stick as the last bat on the bench. He won’t be over-matched in his pinch-hitting opportunities, as he makes such consistent contact. His walk rate has cratered in the Puerto Rican Winter League, though that could mean he’s working on something, as he’s always been quite patient in the past.
The A’s are an interesting spot for him to go. There’s no doubt they are fans of the walk and strikeout rate, but what’ll be most interesting if if they have his defense pegged as a positive at second base. I’ve thought of him as steady there, and less comfortable in other spots around the diamond.
16. Cubs – Trevor Megill, rhp [2019 numbers, which involved 3 stops: 60.2 IP, 63 H, 3.86 ERA, 22 BB, 87 K]
Megill was a third-round pick of the Cardinals in 2014, which means he was drafted by new Cubs Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz. He did not sign, and instead went back to Loyola Marymount, where the Padres chose him in the 7th round in 2015.
Really nice piece here in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Trevor Megill. He’s a huge 6-foot-8 pitcher with a fastball up to 96 mph and an out-pitch slider. Megill missed the 2016 season with Tommy John, and we know how much the Cubs love pitchers with that in the rearview mirror. The Cubs obviously saw the breaking ball changes referenced in that piece, and likely are fans of his new slider. Megill didn’t have much of a platoon split last year, though it’s notable his strikeout rate was 37% to right-handed hitters and 28% to left-handed hitters.
Expect Megill to compete for a bullpen spot against Dan Winkler, Duane Underwood, Adbert Alzolay, James Norwood and Dillon Maples. I will watch Megill video this evening and make a post more specifically on what you can expect from him tomorrow morning.
17. Red Sox – Jonathan Arauz, ss
Rest of league passed.
Orioles – Michael Rucker, rhp, CUBS
Can’t say it’s a surprise to have the Orioles poach a Cubs player, given the number of former Cubs employees in that organization. Darn them anyway. If you scouted Rucker all season, you saw a plus change-up in April, a good fastball in the second half, and he tightened up the slider during the summer. Rucker also has versatility to exist in basically any role: he could be a spot starter, mop up multiple innings in the bullpen, and is showing the velocity for short relief. For a bottom feeder like the Orioles, this is a good use of a roster space. While I’m still working on my prospect list, I can tell you that in my last draft, Rucker was in the #30 spot.
It’s essentially a foregone conclusion that Rucker is lost, as the Orioles will have every incentive to retain him.
MINOR LEAGUE PHASE
I’ll be posting only Cubs specific picks that happen from here.
Cubs select Brock Stewart from Toronto. Kind of rare to get someone with Major League experience in the minor league phase.
Tampa Bay selects Faustino Carrera from the Cubs. The young lefty had a nice season in the South Bend rotation last year, throws a high 80s sinker. I suspect the Rays are wondering about what he might look like in relief.
Dodgers select Carlos Sepulveda from the Cubs. Defensive-minded second baseman, playing well in Mexican Winter League. Sepulveda probably had the second base job in Tennessee next year locked up. This will create space for Christian Donahue to have a job, and I could even see Clayton Daniel jumping High-A and coming back to Tennessee.
Cubs select Jerrick Suiter in round 2 of the minor league phase. He’s an outfielder from the Pirates organization. Had a .576 OPS in AA last year. Could the Cubs be converting Suiter to pitcher?
Cubs select Vance Vizcaino in round 3 of the minor league phase. Had .749 OPS in AA with Colorado last year. Cubs have very little outfield depth in the upper levels of the system, so creating a little competition is not a bad thing.
Cubs make the last selection in the minor league phase of the draft, David Masters from the Nationals. Masters had a .864 OPS in the Carolina League last year, albeit as a 26 year old shortstop. Interesting. Masters likely profiles to replace Sepulveda on the Double-A Tennessee roster next year.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Interesting and active day for the Cubs, who essentially swap Michael Rucker for Trevor Megill, though the odds of Megill sticking with the Cubs are far less than Rucker staying with the Orioles. I have to wonder if the Cubs and Padres can work out a trade for Megill’s long-term services. I’m happy to still have Dakota Mekkes. Losing Machin is tough, but with Zack Short and Trent Giambrone and Nico Hoerner, that middle infield bench is probably the deepest spot in the upper levels of the organization. Losing Faustino Carrera is probably annoying, but again, the Cubs are stocked with left-handed relievers, and I think you’d prefer someone like Wyatt Short to Carrera anyway. I thought the Brock Stewart pick up was really smart. Why not?