clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cubs add LHP Justin Steele to 40-man roster

Outfielder Johnny Field and left-hander Jerry Vasto have cleared waivers to make a spot for him.

Justin Steele
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

The Cubs set their 40-man roster for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft by selecting left-handed pitcher Justin Steele. Going the other way, outfielder Johnny Field and left-handed reliever Jerry Vasto have both cleared waivers and have been assigned to Triple-A Iowa. This leaves the Cubs with 39 players on the 40-man roster.

Steele was the Cubs’ 5th-round pick in 2014 out of high school in Mississippi. The 23-year-old left-hander missed about a year from July of 2017 to July of this year with Tommy John surgery. He made a pretty quick comeback from the surgery and was back on the mound on July 3 of this past season. Steele spent most of the rest of the season building up arm strength, making five starts in Mesa, four starts for High-A Myrtle Beach and two for Double-A Tennessee. In all, Steele pitched 46.2 innings this past season and posted 2.31 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Steele then continued his road back in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw 18.2 innings over six starts. He posted a 5.79 ERA for the Mesa Solar Sox.

Steele has always been a moderately well-regarded prospect and was ranked as the Cubs’ 18th-best prospect by Baseball America coming into this year, even after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Steele regularly threw in the 92-95 mph range before the surgery and had a solid average curve and changeup. He didn’t throw that hard in 2018 after the surgery, but that was to be expected. The 2019 season will be the big test as to how well Steele has recovered from the operation.

Field was claimed off of waivers from the Twins organization on November 1. He played 83 games in the majors in 2018 between the Rays and Twins. He hit .222/.254/.403 with nine home runs in 221 at-bats. It was his first season in the majors.

Vasto was a reliever in the Rockies and Royals farm system in 2018. He pitched quite well for Albuquerque in the PCL, posting a 3.16 ERA over 37 innings in a terrible environment for pitchers. He got into one game with the Rockies and got shelled but allowed just one run over 3.2 innings in five appearances with the Royals in September. The Cubs claimed him off waivers from the Royals on October 31.

This leaves many Cubs’ minor league players unprotected from the Rule 5 draft. The Cubs are probably gambling that many of them will not interest other teams enough for them to give them a spot of the 25-man roster for the entire 2019 season. In most of these cases, that’s a fairly safe assumption. However, it is likely that the Cubs will lose one or two.

The Cubs do have one empty spot on the 40-man for their own Rule 5 pick or for a trade or free agent signing before the draft.