The Cubs have many decisions to make regarding prospects before this year’s Rule 5 draft. P.J. Higgins and Luis Lugo are two prospects the club should not risk to lose.
It is the time in the year where we wallow in the haste of Chicago Cubs post-baseball misery while eagerly awaiting free agency decisions and the decisions from teams regarding the Rule 5 draft and what each team will decide concerning their draft-eligible prospects.
The Cubs have many eligible prospects this year who very realistically could find new homes next season. Two of those prospects who indeed are eligible, however, should be on the protected list. Catcher P.J. Higgins is a former 12th round selection by the Cubs in 2015 and has found substantial success in his professional career thus far. Left-handed pitcher Luis Lugo is the other guy and is a former Rule 5 selection by the Cubs from 2018.
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Starting with Higgins, the backstop began his 2019 campaign at Double-A Tennessee before promoting Triple-A Iowa. In 72 games for the Smokies before his jump, Higgins slashed .276/.338/.369 in 299 plate appearances. His 108 wRC+ was an increase from his first stint in 2018.
After moving to Iowa, Higgins performed even better, slashing .291/.374/.521 in 140 plate appearances, finishing with a 113 wRC+ and improving his walk rate. He improved his speed and isolated power as well, reaching a career-high in that category.
Switching gears, Luis Lugo is the other prospect who the Cubs should make sure to find a place for in the minor league ranks next season. Lugo spent the first part of his 2019 campaign at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach. He did not do too poorly in his first go-round, pitching to a 3.80 ERA in 47 1/3 innings for the Pelicans.
In the 11 games, seven of which were starts, Lugo finished with a 21.8 percent strikeout rate along with a 7.8 percent walk rate. While his lousy luck finishing with a .336 BABIP was not the best, he did manage to finish with a 44.9 percent ground-ball rate.
Lugo moved to Double-A midway through the year, having a much larger role as a starter earning 11 starts. He finished with a perfect 6-0 record, finding his groove on the mound. While the walk rate increased slightly, Lugo increased his strikeout rate to 26 percent, and opposing hitters batted just .242 versus the lefty. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP all decreased.
In terms of prospects and how they are viewed, Higgins and Lugo are two who may be less valued by the club. The Cubs have a consortium of catching talent, making Higgins expendable as he is 27 years old and has not yet reached the major leagues. Lugo is 26 years old and does profile more as a guy the Cubs would be more likely to hold on to of the two.
Sometimes, however, solid depth is difficult to come by in the system, and as two guys who are on the up-and-up at this point in their careers, they should be protected to solidify that depth within the system moving into next season.