To say we’ll have plenty to talk about this offseason is putting things very mildly. The Chicago Cubs are poised to embark on an organizational overhaul – and while those sexy topics like free agency and trade rumors steal the show, we can’t overlook things like the Rule 5 draft, either.
This year is especially critical for the Cubs, and their eligible Rule 5 guys includes talent at some of the lower levels of the system. It’s not crucial for Chicago to necessarily be taking guys in the draft, but if the opportunity arises, Jed Hoyer should jump. That’s where the front office should be focused.
It is not crucial for the Cubs to necessarily be selecting prospects, but rather do what they can to support their current talent crop. That is where the attention should focus.
Chicago Cubs: A top 30 prospect and a couple of upside talents
Zeroing in on draft-eligible prospects in the system brings us a list of three specific names who the Cubs will need to juggle in order to figure out who the best talent will be to remain in the system. Three faces, three positions, and one top prospect.
The first name on this list with which the Cubs will need to make an important decision is Yonathan Perlaza, a 22-year-old hybrid who has experience both in the infield and in the outfield. Perlaza was signed out of Venezuela for $1.3 million in 2015. Five years in, Perlaza has shown positive glimpses.
His best season in Rookie ball came in 2018, where the switch-hitter slashed .317/.365/.404 and finished the year with a 119 wRC+. His nine plate appearances at Low-A in the same season were not great. However, Perlaza did rebound in 2019 and hit .293 in his first real stint at Low-A.
Last season, Perlaza had his best season as a professional in which he posted a career-high 15 home runs and a 123 wRC+. He cut his strikeout rate by three percent and also stole six bases. It will be hard to pass up on losing this talent.
Outfielder Yovanny Cuevas, a 23-year-old, signed many years ago and has found some success. In his first two years, in 2015 and 2016, Cuevas posted above-average production. He has held his own throughout rookie ball and in Low-A, and this past season mashed at the CPX.
Cuevas has managed to parlay a ridiculous walk rate over the seasons, and his on-base percentage numbers also smash. Unfortunately, that is where it ends for Cuevas. He is a 23-year-old outfielder who, at best, is positional depth which is par for the course. He strikes out too often, and the power isn’t presented. Likely, Cuevas is the one who is the first consideration for moving on.
Lastly is left-handed pitcher Riley Thompson. Thompson is the 22nd-ranked prospect in the system currently and has been one of my favorite talents for a while. Thompson is the oldest of the three, and if he wants a shot at the majors, he will need to start progressing a lot more quickly.
He has lost time as this past season was held out for the entirety due to shoulder tightness. In his time, however, Thompson has ERA’s of 2.84 and 3.06, respectively. He’s managed a consistent 22 percent strikeout rate and has kept his walk rate relatively low. He is the other guy, sans Cuevas, who will likely be moving on as much of a bummer as it is, but that is okay.
Thompson will have an opportunity to catch on somewhere he can rise quickly, or at least that is the hope. It will be curious to watch how things come to fruition as we get closer to the winter months. My call is Perlaza as the one who the Cubs protect, and that is totally fine.