Mick in Orlando: Rule 5 Draft, Two New Cubs, Looking Forward

Rule 5 draft

Thursday was the MLB Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft is where teams can take players from other organizations who are not on the 40 man roster. If a player is selected in the MLB phase of the draft, they must remain on that teams 25 man roster for the entirety of the following season. This year the Cubs did not have a pick in the MLB phase because last year Lendy Castillo spent 90 days on the disabled list, which is not allowed for a player taken in this phase of the draft.

While the Cubs did not add a player in the MLB phase, they did lose one. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected relief pitcher Marcos Mateo. Last year Mateo pitched for both the Smokies and the Iowa Cubs. His breaking ball is very good, and is complimented well by his fastball, and last year he was effective out of the bullpen at both levels which he played. Mateo has more big league experience than any other player taken in the Major League phase of the draft.

In total the Cubs lost four players to the Rule 5 Draft, one of which was first baseman Justin Bour. The lefty slugger was the second pick in the AAA phase of the draft and was taken by the Miami Marlins. The Fish had traded their young first baseman Logan Morrison and were in need of depth at the position, even with the recent signing of Garrett Jones. With Rizzo already in the majors on a long and big contract, and prospect Dan Vogelbach in his way, Bour’s long term opportunities with the Cubs were fading.

Bour is your prototypical power hitter who has the ability to protect other people in the line-up, giving Smokies like Alcantara and Baez better pitches to hack at. He has also greatly improved on his defensive capabilities since his All-Star season in 2012. Bour was hampered last year by a hairline fracture on his wrist, that he sustained in late April when he was struck by a pitch. Critics may say Bour struggles with plate discipline, curveballs, and hitting through the lefty shift; but the fact of the matter is he has power to all parts of the field and always drives in a ton of runs.

In his two seasons with the Smokies, Bour swatted 53 doubles, 35 homeruns, and drove in 174 runs all in only 221 games. The 25-year-old has a real chance to make a big impact in the Marlins organization, especially with the 32-year-old Jones showing a big drop-off last season in homeruns, RBIs, and batting average.

Another asset the Cubs lost was relief pitcher AJ Morris, who was taken by the Pittsburg Pirates. In 2013 Morris pitched both as a reliever and a starter for the Smokies. The righty showcased one of the best breaking balls on the Tennessee staff last season. He can throw it for strikes, and when he is on, is extremely efficient. While Morris has struggled at times, he has also had times when he is untouchable. I guess you can say that he is more of a light switch than a dimmer; either on or off, nothing in between. One thing is for certain when it comes to Morris: the talent is there. Scouts feel that with his breaking ball added with more professional experience he can be as effective as he was while pitching for Kansas State, where he posted a 12-1 record his senior year, and was named Big-12 pitcher of the year.

The Cubs also lost Julio Borbon, who they acquired last season. This is one of the few times having too much talent can hurt an organization. The Cubs simply had too much young talent to protect it all on the 40 man roster, unfortunately for them other organizations knew what was out there.

Winter Meeting Acquisitions

The Cubs did not walk away from the Rule 5 Draft empty handed. In the AAA phase of the draft they selected Charles Cutler, a catcher from the Pirates organization. Catching has been a weakness and a growing concern in the Cubs minor league system. Solidifying the backstop has been a high priority and Cutler may have taken that concern off the team’s to-do list, for now. The left hand hitting catcher has batted .295 with 35 doubles, 10 homeruns, and 87 runs batted in over the past four seasons in AA.

Cutler was the only acquisition the Cubs made during the winter meetings. They did not leave Florida with pushing some chips around the table and making a trade. The Cubs swapped outfielders with the Miami Marlins and received Justin Ruggiano in exchange for Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic has spent time in both the Cubs and Houston Astros organizations, and has made it to the show in four separate seasons. However his problem has always been keeping a spot on the 25 man roster for himself. Ruggiano on the other hand has over 300 games of Major League experience under his belt. Both players are in their early 30s, but on paper it looks like the Cubs got the better end of this bargain.

2014 Cubs, A Glimpse Forward

When assessing the Cubs organization going forward into the 2014 season, the key word is patience. President Theo Epstein and his close confidants are known as some of the most intelligent baseball minds in the game today. The team has refused to commit to any long term contracts or sign any high priced free agents. Instead they have focused their attention on developing young minor league talent, in a farms system ranked by many baseball publications in the top five throughout the pros.

At some point, many of the players we’ve seen in a Smokies uniform will soon wear the blue pinstripes of the Cubs. They will be given the chance to compete for the job at their respective positions and show the world what they can do in the big leagues. From there the Cubs can reassess what their needs truly are and be much more active this time next year, as far as free agents and big contracts are concerned.


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