I know, I know. Irony abounds. I'm writing about the Rule 5 draft, something I think at the very least should be revamped. In recent years the Cubs have taken players of little use, though I suppose Hector Rondon could turn into a halfway decent middle reliever.
I'm writing about the Rule 5 draft mostly because of Ben Badler's Baseball America preview, in which he says one of the most desirable players in the draft is someone I used to criticize a lot here at BCB:
Cubs righthanded reliever Marcos Mateo is emerging as maybe the most fascinating name because of what he’s doing in the Dominican League this offseason. Mateo, who ranked three different times among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects, pitched reasonably well in the big leagues with Chicago in 2011. He then missed all of 2012 and a significant part of 2013 recovering from an elbow injury. Mateo, now 29, has been absolutely electric in the Dominican Republic, featuring a high-90s fastball and a filthy slider that sits in the upper 80s. He’s got results to back up the stuff, having gone 3-0, 0.98 for Estrellas de Oriente, with 22 strikeouts, seven walks and 11 hits allowed in 19 innings. In his last six appearances as teams finalize their Rule 5 pref lists, Mateo has struck out 12, walked none, allowed five hits and no runs in six innings over six appearances.
"Reasonably well" is a matter of opinion -- Mateo had a 4.02 ERA and 1.478 WHIP for the Cubs in 2011, a 92 ERA+. He never seemed to have very good command with the Cubs, but Badler's note -- no walks in six innings -- would be encouraging for teams like the Astros or Marlins, who are at the top of the list (the White Sox, who would have the third pick, have a full 40-man roster, so they can't draft)... or even the Phillies, who have the Cubs' No. 4 pick in the first round.
It should be noted here that Mateo pitched for Ryne Sandberg in 2008 at Peoria, in 2009 at Tennessee and in 2010 at Iowa. Thus the Phillies manager is quite familiar with him. I'd say if he lasts to the pick they got from the Cubs, Mateo will be a Phillie in 2014.
Badler also lists several other Cub prospects who are listed as "players who can help now": Marcus Hatley, Matt Loosen (who was in the Arizona Fall League this year) and Jae-Hoon Ha, who played in the All-Star Futures Game in 2012 (and homered off Gerrit Cole of the Pirates). Marco Hernandez, who played at Kane County in 2013 and who has never played above A-ball, is listed as a "player who can help later".
I asked Tim Huwe, who is much more versed in the Rule 5 procedures than I am, whether the Cubs could select their own player (they do have a second-round pick, which would be 34th overall). His response: "It would be largely counter-productive, though, as each player can only get run effectively through waivers once before being eligible to be declared a free agent."
Still, I wonder if Loosen or Ha were still available in the second round, whether the Cubs might take either back, especially if no deals are made. Tim also told me he'll be following any Cubs prospects who are taken by other clubs.
The fact that there are possible MLB-ready players that the Cubs could lose in this year's Rule 5 draft means that the organization is stronger, and that there are more players than the Cubs can reasonably keep. That's a good thing.
In addition to the White Sox, the following other teams have full 40-man rosters and thus won't be participating (unless they somehow clear space by tomorrow): Twins, Blue Jays, Brewers, Padres, Giants, Yankees, Tigers, Pirates, Athletics, Red Sox.