Tonight was the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in December. The Cubs added four minor league players to the roster: catcher Miguel Amaya, shortstop Zack Short, right-handed pitcher Tyson Miller and right-handed pitcher Manuel Rodriguez.
Amaya is one of the top prospects in the Cubs system and quite possibly the team’s catcher of the future. Adding him to the 40-man roster was seen as a foregone conclusion. A 20-year-old Panamanian, Amaya hit .235/.351/.402 with 24 doubles and 11 home runs. He has the potential to hit for plus power at the major league level. He still makes mistakes on defense and has a few things to work on, but he again projects out to be a well above-average defensive catcher. On top of that, Amaya gets praised for his ability to work with a pitching staff and overall leadership skills.
Short had a poor season in 2019, marred in large part by a trip to the injured list in April after getting hit in the hand with a pitch. He managed to play in only 63 games between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa (along with a rehab stint in Arizona) and hit .235/.363/.404 with six home runs. But in previous seasons when Short was fully healthy, he was a very good defensive shortstop with a “three-true-outcome” profile on offense. He hit 17 home runs in 2018 and stole 18 bases in 2017.
Miller, a fourth-round pick out of Cal Baptist in 2016, worked hard on his secondary pitches and conditioning last off-season and now it has paid off. He was excellent in the first half of the 2019 season in Double-A Tennessee—putting up an ERA of 2.56 over 15 starts in 88 innings. He struck out 80 and walked just 18 in Double-A. A mid-season promotion to Iowa went less well (7.58 ERA), fueled mainly by a huge uptick in home runs with the major league ball. He is projected to be a starter on the major league level, if he can cut down on those home run numbers.
While those three players were widely expected to be added to the 40-man, Rodriguez was a bit more of a surprise, although not completely unexpected. A 23-year-old from Mexico, Rodriguez spent the entire season in the bullpen of the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He’s got a fastball that he can regularly throw in the high-90s and a good curve. He struck out 65 batters and walked 17 hitters over 47 innings with an ERA of 3.45.
Two names that were candidates to be selected for the 40-man roster but weren’t are right-handed pitcher Matt Swarmer and utility infielder Vimael Machin. Swarmer lead the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts in 2019 with 137, but he also gave up 36 home runs in 151 innings, leading to an ERA of 5.65.
Machin is already 26 years old, but he’s a left-handed hitting utility infielder who had a terrific season in Double-A last year, hitting .294/.386/.403. He was even better in a 12-game stint at the end of the year in Iowa.
Both Swarmer and Machin are now eligible for the Rule 5 draft. With teams able to carry 26 players on the roster next year, it is expected that teams will be more aggressive in Rule 5 picks this year.
The Cubs 40-man roster now stands at 36 players.