At some point over the next two weeks, the Cubs will select up to eight players to participate in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, a collection of elite talent from across the minors. Held in October and November, the Cubs use this opportunity to evaluate how some players do against top-flight competition and to determine whether to add certain players to the 40-man roster to avoid losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. They also get some more games for top prospects, some of whom may have missed time with injury.
This year presents quite the conundrum, as I could see the Cubs could adding as many as eight prospects to the 40-man roster this winter. Here is a list of eligible players for the Rule 5 Draft per The Cub Reporter:
Tyler Alamo, Adbert Alzolay, Luis Ayala, Yasiel Balaguert, Corey Black, David Bote, Cael Brockmeyer, Charcer Burks, Stephen Bruno, Roberto Caro, Trevor Clifton, Kevin Cornelius, Oscar de la Cruz, Enrique de los Rios, Andin Diaz, Andrew Ely, Luiz Escanio, Bryant Flete, Robert Garcia, David Garner, Yapson Gomez, Zach Hedges, Luis Hernandez, Jesse Hodges, Eloy Jiménez, John Michael Knighton, Erick Leal, Mark Malave, Dillon Maples, Brad Markey, Joe Martarano, Ryan McNeil, Jordan Minch, Erling Moreno, James Norwood, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Adonis Paula, Jose Paulino, Tyler Pearson, Henry Pedra, Stephen Perakslis, Jhonny Pereda, Chris Pieters, Bijan Rademacher, Moises Ramirez, Will Remillard, Juan Rengifo, David Rollins, Manuel Rondon, Carson Sands, Pedro Silverio, Jake Stinnett, Tommy Thorpe, Jen-Ho Tseng, Jason Vosler, Ryan Williams, Chesny Young, Jose Zapata.
Wow, that’s a mouthful. Let’s start by looking at who the Cubs may send to Arizona, after which we’ll examine potential roster implications.
Dillon Maples and Adbert Alzolay are two pitchers they probably want to get a closer look at. Although Alzolay is a starter, he could work in relief in Mesa. I also think 3B Jason Vosler and OF Charcer Burks are definitely going to Arizona. You could even throw in left-handed reliever Jordan Minch, as that is a scarce position in the majors.
Giving Ian Rice more time behind the plate with elite pitchers could be a priority and Pedro Araujo, who is currently dominating as a closer at Myrtle Beach, is an ascending reliever who could benefit from the competition. Outfielder Eddy Martinez is hitting .325 over his last 10 games and could get a shot at Arizona if he improves a little bit this summer.
The big-name prospect that they could send this year is not Eloy Jimenez. Instead, it is pitcher Oscar de la Cruz, who missed most of June with a strained shoulder muscle. I would like to see how his mid-90’s heat does against more advanced hitters.
Definitely 40-man material
Adbert Alzolay, Charcer Burks, Trevor Clifton, Oscar de la Cruz, Eloy Jimenez are what I would consider locks to be added.
These five are all on a major-league track. Alzolay has been a surprise this year, along with Burks. The other three have been some of the Cubs’ top prospects for the past three years and I would be stunned if Clifton, Jimenez, and de la Cruz are not on the 40-man.
Most likely added
I really like Maples. His curveball is out of this world and he’s really taking big steps toward becoming a major-league reliever this year. He will probably be in Iowa in August, and it all boils down to confidence for him and. As for Vosler, I think the Cubs need to see what they have in the left-handed third baseman before they make a decision. He had a great April and May before slumping in June, even though he hit five home runs for the month.
Chesny Young has not had the greatest year and I don’t think the Cubs are going to protect him. If they don’t, somebody might snag him. Jen-Ho Tseng is a tricky one. He’s had a rebirth this year, but I don’t know if he will make it to Chicago if he does get put on the 40-man.
Bijan Rademacher is a guy you root for. He is still relatively young and can play all three outfield positions. He doesn’t have much power but he can hit for a high average.
Jake Stinnett, Erick Leal, Ryan Williams, Zach Hedges, and Carson Sands are all nice guys but injuries have done four out of five of them in for this year. Sands, who is currently rehabbing in Mesa after having bone spurs removed from his elbow, might be one to talk about a year from now.
Even though he missed a season playing football, Joe Martarano was just promoted to South Bend. I know a team is not going to take a chance and select him with the expectation of him playing on the major-league roster. A year from now, that might be a different discussion.
Jordan Minch is left-handed, he’s a reliever, and if might be selected if exposed. But that’s a big if.
Do they stay on?
Right now Pierce Johnson, Dwayne Underwood, and Jacob Hannemann are all on the 40-man roster. Johnson and Underwood have had underwhelming seasons in 2016, while Hannemann has had a resurgence with his best month as a prospect since his promotion to AAA Iowa. My guess is that the Cubs give them one more year. Underwood, after all, is only 22 years old. On the other hand, Johnson and Hannemann are 26.
The decisions for the Arizona Fall League usually occur in the middle of July. Those selections always give us a glimpse into who the Cubs value and who they need to evaluate some more.