If there is one aspect of the Winter Meetings that isn’t hampered at all by the lack of actual meetings, it’s the Rule 5 Draft. Major League teams enter today with the knowledge of both whether or not they will make a pick, as well as who their selection would be. With a 40-man roster containing only 34 names, and a front office history of giving the Rule 5 the old college try, my bet is that we do see the Chicago Cubs make at least one selection today. Below this introduction, I’m live-blogging the draft as it rolls on.
For the uninitiated, the quick Rule 5 rules: there are two phases of the Rule 5, a three-round Major League phase, and a go-until-everybody-is-done minor league phase. A selection in the Major League phase costs $100,000, and to retain the selected player, he must stay on the active Major League roster for a season’s worth of time (or at least 90 days plus time on the Injured List), otherwise the player is offered back to his original team for a $50,000 fee. The player pool is made up of players that are a) not currently on a 40-man roster and b) have toiled in the minors for at least 3-4 full seasons. There are no requirements to drafting an eligible player in the minor league phase: pay the selection price, and the player is yours until he reaches minor league free agency. More players are protected in the minor league phase, however.
(Note from Brett: you often see trades during the Rule 5, though they aren’t the sexy kind you’re thinking. Instead, you will often see a team up in the draft select a player for another team further back, and then trade that player for a modest cash consideration. Basically, it’s just teams doing favors for each other since the selections are tradable. That is to say, as the picks are made, sometimes you’ll quickly learn that the team who picked a guy isn’t actually the team who picked that guy.)
While the all-virtual nature of the 2020 Rule 5 won’t have an impact on teams, the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes me think we’ll see a little less action today. It’s just so hard for MLB teams to have any knowledge of where a player’s game is at. I imagine there will be some not-unreasonable appeals to authority in front offices today: if the player’s own team didn’t protect him from the Rule 5, with all the inside information they have on the guy, do they know something that we don’t?
In addition to considering their own picks, the Cubs are also crossing their fingers that the draft won’t impact their existing depth too significantly. With no current depth for the Major League bench, a guy like catcher-and-utility-man P.J. Higgins, or utility man Trent Giambrone, would be a tough loss. Michael Rucker, who was chosen in the Rule 5 last year by the Orioles and then returned days before the shutdown, probably is the Cubs likeliest draft pick. Dakota Mekkes, who I pleaded the Cubs to protect from the Rule 5 in 2019, is likely also getting consideration. Former first rounder Brendon Little is probably the Cubs’ best prospect who is eligible, though it’s tough to see him pitching in the big leagues in 2021. A dark horse could be big lefty Bryan Hudson, who other organizations saw in the mid 90s down in Instructs two months ago.
I’m not crazy enough to attempt to handicap who the Cubs might themselves pick, though they have leaned towards relief pitchers during the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer era. In my prospect notes on Tuesday, I threw out Buddy Reed as a potential outfield depth selection, while Brett mentioned his fascination with outfielder Lazaro Armenteros’ significant potential. I’ve seen a few other names thrown out there by Cubs bloggers, be it Phil at The Cub Reporter, Tim at Bleed Cubbie Blue, or Todd at Cubs Central.
At the national industry level, no one is crazier about the Rule 5 Draft than Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, who has the most in-depth preview you’re going to find. I also liked the primer that Jonathan Mayo did at MLB Pipeline, which lists every organization’s top 30 prospects eligible for the draft.
I’ll be live-blogging this thing as the picks roll in, and you can expect plenty extra on anything involving the Cubs, so stay and hang out!
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The start has been slightly(?) delayed, because it is 2020.
- Pittsburgh – Jose Soriano, rhp
- Texas – Brett De Geus, rhp
- Detroit – Akil Baddoo, of
- Boston – Garrett Whitlock, rhp
- Baltimore – Mac Scroler, rhp
- Arizona – Zach Pop, rhp
- Kansas City – PASS
- Colorado – Jordan Sheffield, rhp
- Angels – Jose Rivera, rhp
- Mets – Luis Oviedo, rhp
- Nationals – PASS
- Seattle – Will Vest
- Philadelphia – Kyle Holder, ss
- San Francisco – Dedniel Nunez, rhp
- Milwaukee – PASS
- Houston – PASS
- Miami – Paul Campbell, rhp
- Reds – PASS
- Cardinals – PASS
- Blue Jays – PASS
- Yankees – PASS
- Cubs – Gray Fenter, rhp
We’ll be doing plenty of background on this pick in time, but Fenter is a former seventh-round pick out of high school that took four years to even make it to Low-A in 2019. But what he did there was absolutely dominant: 94.1 IP, 61 H, 1.81 ERA, 43 BB, 123 K. Started 17 of the 22 games in which he appeared.
23. White Sox – PASS
24. Cleveland – Trevor Stephan, rhp
25. Atlanta – PASS
26. Oakland – Ka’ai Tom, OF
Rest of league passes in round 1. Will only update picks from here on.
Baltimore – Tyler Wells, RHP
Cubs decline to make a selection in the second round.
Oakland – Dany Jimenez, RHP
This completes the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Cubs don’t lose anyone, which is good news.
MINOR LEAGUE PHASE
For the minor league phase, I will only reference Cubs selections or selections from the Cubs organization. Remember: these players don’t need to stick at any level: they now change farm systems until minor league free agency.
Detroit selects Yunior Perez, rhp from the Cubs.
Perez is a big-bodied right-hander that in relief can get his fastball up to the upper 90s. He’s struggled with control problems, but has never fully been a full-time reliever. I think he’s a nice pick by the Tigers, I’d like to see what he does in short relief full-time.
While I have not done by prospect list, Perez probably wouldn’t be in the mix for even the top 50 guys in the system. He’d be a sleeper in the 51-100 range though!
Cubs select Nicholas Padilla, rhp from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Padilla last pitched in the Midwest League in 2019, his last two outings both against the South Bend Cubs. Padilla was a 13th round pick out of junior college in 2015, and will turn 24 in two weeks.
Padilla went from a 6.6 K/9 in the New York – Penn League in 2018 to a 11.0 K/9 in the Midwest League, surely due to some stuff improvement that the Cubs picked up on.
Cubs select Samuel Reyes, rhp from Pittsburgh Pirates
From the Dominican, but didn’t pop up in pro ball until he was 21 years old. He’ll turn 25 before Opening Day, but posted some nice numbers in 2019 across Low- and High-A: 70.2 IP, 52 H, 2.29 ERA, 23 BB, 73 K.
Reyes is short, listed at just 5-foot-11, so I’m wondering if Cubs see some Vertical Approach Angle benefit (see my Dan Winkler post from two weeks ago). Also, wow at Reyes’ numbers against left-handed hitters in 2019: they hit .153/.215/.216 against him.
Pirates select Jeffrey Passantino, rhp from Chicago Cubs
Passantino is a fun player, a short and heavy right-handed pitcher that has enjoyed tremendous success for years despite velocity in the low-to-mid 80s. He mixes and matches pitches so well, hitters just hate that at-bat. Passantino got a lot of fans in the organization when he jumped from Low-A to Triple-A for two spot starts in 2019 and pitched amazingly in the impossible Pacific Coast League: 9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K.
This completes the action, everybody! Thanks for following along. I’ll be back with my thoughts on the draft picks in the morning.
Rule 5 recap: Cubs select Gray Fenter in the Major League phase, do not lose anyone. In the minor league phase, they lose right-handers Yunior Perez and Jeff Passantino, add right-handers Nicholas Padilla and Samuel Reyes. Will be off to vid-"scout" the additions – thanks all!
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) December 10, 2020