The deadline for adding players to the minor league roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft was tonight and the Cubs added four minor leaguers to the list. They are third baseman Jeimer Candelario, catcher Willson Contreras, right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson and first baseman Dan Vogelbach. The 40-man roster now stands at 37.
It's no surprise that Contreras was added as his superior 2015 campaign has made him one of the better, if not the best, catching prospect in the minors. The irony here is that a contract snafu earlier in his career has made Contreras eligible for the Rule 5 draft every season he's been in the minors since 2011. No one took him. Someone would be sure to grab him this season.
Nor is it a surprise that the Cubs protected Candelario and Johnson. Candelario was a top Cubs prospect before a bad 2014 season, as well as a bunch of other superior prospects coming into the system, knocked him down the lists. But he bounced back with a strong 2015 season in Double-A and would be certain to be taken had he been left unprotected. Candelario could probably play in the majors sometime this season, so teams would certainly grab him in the Rule 5 draft.
The right-handed Johnson was arguably the top Cubs pitching prospect coming into 2015, but he missed the first half of the season with an injury and wasn't the same pitcher in the second half. He turned in a poor performance in the Arizona Fall League as well, although he got much better results in his final two starts. But pitching is at a premium and a year ago Johnson looked like he was a future member of the Cubs starting rotation. One bad season is not enough to give up on a pitcher of Johnson's talents.
The one somewhat surprising addition is Vogelbach, a 1B/DH with zero defensive value who has shown tremendous plate discipline this past but not the power that you would want from such a player with limited options in the field. It's unlikely that Vogelbach has any future at Wrigley Field with Anthony Rizzo firmly planted at first and Kyle Schwarber likely to handle any interleague DH duties. But the Cubs clearly feel that Vogelbach still has some trade value on the market and that some American League team will give up something for him.
I'll leave it up to you to discuss all the players not added, but the one that most people are talking about is right-handed pitcher Corey Black, whom the Cubs got from the Yankees in return for Alfonso Soriano. Black had a difficult transition to the bullpen this year and looked poor in the AFL, despite making the Fall Stars Game. Either the Cubs have given up on him (unlikely) or they think his poor fall performance will keep him safe from the Rule 5 draft or that he won't be able to stick on a major league roster if he is selected.
With the Cubs 40-man roster at 37, they clearly have room to add a Rule 5 pick or a player or two released by other clubs trying to get their roster under 40.