One of the cool things about All-Baseball is that there's some great minds and great writers around here that I have access to. I mentioned that the Cubs roster strategy looked suspect to me and there was a comment regarding Andy Sisco. I put out the call to Bryan Smith of A-B's Wait Til Next Year, for his take on this:
After hinting at the subject in his post yesterday, Will asked me to talk about the Cubs 40-man roster situation, and the players left available for the Rule 5 Draft. According to Rob Neyer's Transaction Primer, being Rule 5 Draft eligible means "the player was 18 or younger when he first signed a pro contract and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since he signed, OR if he was 19 or older when he first signed a pro contract and this is the third Rule 5 draft since he signed."
For the Cubs, this means that most high school players they took in the 2001 draft, and most college players (save Bobby Brownlie) from the 2002 draft will be eligible. Based on the 40-man roster off the Cubs site, I compiled a list of the Cubs draft-eligible players:
Josh Arteaga, Thomas Atlee, Chadd Blasko, Keith Butler, Rocky Cherry, Matt Clanton, Jon Connolly, Matt Craig, Eric Eckenstahler, Adam Greenberg, Luke Hagerty, Rich Hill, Donnie Hood, Nic Jackson, Ricky Nolasco, Paul O'Toole, Carmen Pignatiello, Andy Sisco, Jemel Spearman, Jason Szuminski, Chris Walker, Randy Wells, Jason Wylie
From this list, I would say that five players still have a good bit of potential: Blasko, Connolly, Hagerty, Nolasco and Sisco. When deciding to put these players on the forty, the Cubs must consider their ceilings, and most importantly, the likelihood they would be selected in the draft. Let's look at each...
Blasko was a supplemental first-round draft choice in 2002, after an underachieving career at Pudue University. Blasko is a big boy at 6-7, 220, and has a "heavy" fastball. His 1.98 ERA in Daytona last season led to his inclusion on the Cubs top ten prospect list at Baseball America, and left Cubs fans wondering if he was a better choice than Brownlie. But Chadd took a turn for the worse this season, with a 5.67 ERA in the Southern League, and worse, a 1.62 HR/9. The Cubs thinking in leaving him off their 40-man is that other organizations will be scared off by his 2004 season, leaving Hendry and Fleita more time to decide Blasko's future. But this kid could be better suited for relieving anyway, and if I were a low-budget franchise, I would take the chance.
After Felix Sanchez frustrated Dusty and front office alike after not performing in April as he had in Spring Training, Jim Hendry traded the left-hander to the Detroit Tigers. Back from Detroit, they landed Jon Connolly, the 2003 minor league ERA leader. Not a lot different from the 2004 ERA leader, Zach Duke, Connolly is a soft-throwing southpaw that has yet to face stiff competition. The belief is they players get weeded out of the system when reaching AA, but Connolly really impressed Cubs' brass in one AA emergency start. I'm a big fan of Connolly and hope he stays in the franchise, but if some organization wants to take a chance on some leftie with a mid-80s fastball for a year, let them have at it.
In his post yesterday, Will expressed frustration for the Cubs leaving off Luke Hagerty, one of his favorite players. Hagerty has a lot of potential being a 6-7 southpaw, but threw only 22.2 innings in 2004. While this may seem backwards, if Luke is ready to returning to pitching every fifth day, this was a good decision. But if he is destined to head back to the DL, the Cubs made the wrong choice here. I don't think any team can honestly hold onto a player that has not even reached full-season ball for a whole season, meaning Hagerty would just be returned to the Cubs if drafted. But if he is injured, he can be stashed on the 60-day DL for the season, not taking up any space (the Dodgers did this with a player named Derek Thompson). But from what I've heard, Hagerty is ready, meaning the Cubs were right with this decision.
As big left-handers go, few in the history of the game can match Andy Sisco in size. Cubs fans have been waiting for Sisco, all 6-10 of him, to take off since he was drafted in 2001. But that has not happened, as Sisco has failed to actually go out and dominate any level (2002 short-season ball not considered). This was really true in 2004, when Sisco could muster just a 4.21 ERA in high-A. He's got control issues, sure, but man does he still have stuff. And my guess is that if you put him in a bullpen, let him throw his two best pitches, Sisco could be an absolute force. The Cubs are making a huge mistake in not protecting Sisco, who should be the first overall Rule 5 selection. But hey, that's what we said about Ty Howington of the Reds last year...
Finally, there is Ricky Nolasco, who has always drawn the label of fringe prospect. After six solid starts in AA to start the year (but with poor peripherals), Nolasco was promoted to AAA. He crashed and burned badly, and did not even do well in returning to the Southern League. Ricky is a sinker-slider type pitcher that is not nearly as good at his trade as Sergio Mitre. This organization has a lot of solid arms at the top, with even more coming out from the bottom. There is simply no room for Nolasco, though I agree with Will that this should have been recognized earlier, so Nolasco could be used as trade bait. If I were another organization, I would not choose Nolasco in the Rule 5 draft though, possibly giving Hendry another chance.
So really, after looking at all five in more detail, I would protect two. The Cubs currently have only 32 members on their 40-man roster, as Hendry has left a lot of spaces for all the signings he expects to make this winter. So rather than just add them to the 32, I would eliminate John Koronka and Geovany Soto for Sisco and Blasko. I could also make arguments for taking Carlos Vasquez, Will Ohman or Ronny Cedeno off the forty as well. Hendry is showing some poor roster management here, and hopefully losing Sisco - or any of the five - won't come back to bite the Cubs.
Great stuff from Bryan. You know where to find him for more like this.