Just ten days ago the Cubs tinkered with their 40-man roster by adding second baseman Arismendy Alcantara and right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler to it, in preparation of the Rule 5 Draft coming up on Dec. 12. Players signed at age 18 or 19 must be added to the 40-man list within five or four seasons, respectively, or be subject to the Draft.
Players not protected by being added to the roster does not indicate that the front office has given up on said player. Teams must pay $50,000 to pry a player away from his current parent club while also keeping him on the 25-man Major League roster all season long in 2014, there is a calculated risk involved with who to protect and who to expose to the Rule 5 Draft.
Alcantara played in the 2013 All-Starts Futures Game, in which the 22-year-old launched a home run for the World squad. The 5-foot-10 switch hitter with his speed and plus power bat skill set has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Rollins. Alcantara hit .271 with 15 homers and 31 stolen bases this past season at Double-A Tennessee.
Alcantara could remain in Double-A or move up to Triple-A Iowa, but the roster move clearly indicates the Cubs front office see him making his way to Wrigley in the near future. For the segment of Cubs fans that do not rate Darwin Barney‘s Gold Glove defense due to the second baseman’s lack of offensive presence, Alcantara could be the answer.
Beeler, 24, started in the Arizona Fall League title game for the Mesa Solar Sox and went five innings while only giving up one run off two hits. He made nine starts in Double-A due to a tendon injury in his throwing hand. Despite the injury, Beeler posted a promising 4-2 record with a 3.13 ERA and went 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA in the AFL.
The Cubs did not guarantee protection ahead of the Rule 5 Draft to: infielder Gioskar Amaya, outfielder Jae Hoon Ha, right-handed pitchers Zach Cates, Marcus Hatley, Matt Loosen, Ryan Searle, and left-hander Austin Kirk. Ha and Searle are the names that stick out the most from the group.
Searle, 24, pitched for his native Australia in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and has been in the Cubs system since 2008, but with the exception of a pair of appearances for Iowa in 2012, Searle has not been able to advance past Double-A ball. He has only played in 31 games at the Double-A level and in 2013 he split time in Class A-Advanced Daytona and Rookie Ball, going a combined 2-3 over 11 games with a 5.51 ERA. His career minor league numbers of 3.4 walks per nine innings is hard to swallow when compared to just a 7.0 ratio for strikeouts per nine frames. It would be hard to see another team select Searle and successfully stash him on their Major League roster for the full course of the 2014 season, so expect to see Searle remain within the Cubs system.
Ha is the another familiar name on the fringe that the Cubs have decided not to add to the roster. The South Korean participated in the 2012 All Stars Futures Game and has been in the Cubs system since 2009. However, Ha has struggled to really display any eye opening skill sets offensively. He does feature some pop for a plus defensive center fielder, but only features 32 career minor league home runs in 1,849 at bats. His stolen base totals of 53 swipes and 34 times caught suggest that he does not bring plus speed to the table. While he has been able to hit in the .270 to .280 batting average range consistently at AA, he dropped to .241 in Iowa with just a .288 OBP. Combined with his trend of striking out twice for every walk he earns, there is valid concern as to whether Ha would be able to hit at the Major League level.
The right handed hitter does have his defense and ability to play all three outfield spots as a positive to this resume, but like Searle it will be hard to see a Major League team eat up a 25 man roster spot all season long for a prospect that currently projects to be a fourth or fifth outfielder at best. Regardless, with the likes of Junior Lake, Jorge Soler, and Matt Szczur already on the doorstep of competing for outfield spots at Wrigley going forward, exposing Ha is a safe calculated risk for a Cubs ball club that recently maxed out the 40 man roster with the addition of catcher George Kottaras.