With the Rule 5 Draft coming up on Thursday, I really haven't changed my tune. I believe it’s still a scout thing and it's still valuing 2023 and later over 2021. That those two are my starting points will alienate if not infuriate quite a few Cubs fans. I do have one more nugget to toss in, and it hinges on self-belief and willingness to be wrong.
Rule 5 selections are often wasted effort. With a lack of scouting in 2020, choosing a player in the major-league portion provides a bit more risk, but with possibly more reward. An executive could think a player with no box scores last season could be more likely ignored. I don't count up Rule 5 Deadline Day transactions, but they seemed a bit light this time. Perhaps I'm entirely wrong.
If teams are more willing to leave talent exposed, with the thought the players aren't ready, a few players from deeper organizations might be more available this cycle. My list of names for this cycle drops to four, from five, but adds a slight bit of intrigue, and possible homework. Three of the four names (all were in my post from last week) are from organizations I think are better at developing talent than the Cubs are. The fourth one remains in play for the same reason he was included before: the special circumstances of potential free agency. Here are the four I’d like to see the Cubs consider:
Akil Baddoo, center field, Twins
Paul Campbell, righthanded pitcher, Rays
Brett de Geus, righthanded pitcher, Dodgers
Sterling Sharp, righthanded pitcher, Marlins
The premise is, if you're sold on a player, and another organization selects him, they largely agreed with you. They thought he was worth a gamble. This is a short-term win for you, as opposed to a loss for the Cubs. In December 2016, when the Cubs had the Brewers select Caleb Smith on their behalf, their assessment was spot-on. That the Cubs were unable to retain him was a different problem. Had he hung around, he could have provided long-term cost-controlled pitching, which he has now given to two teams, the Marlins and Diamondbacks. The goal with this year’s December draft is to guess right on partial information on talent.
For instance, if you’d like the Cubs to pick de Geus, and the Pirates select him, keep doing your homework. You haven't been proven wrong. Follow his exploits in Bradenton, Florida, or wherever. How's he doing? Are his stats adequate? How is his velocity? Keep doing the homework. If he gets released, is he worth a claim? Most Rule 5 guys are chosen with an eye toward the future. Hector Rondon's rookie numbers were bad — but he was certainly worth keeping, possibly the best Cubs Rule 5 pick ever.
I've heard people fuss about center field for the Cubs since Dexter Fowler departed and got paid by the Cardinals. Baddoo fascinates me. He sounds usable in center, can be used as a pinch runner, and swings lefthanded. If someone else claims Baddoo, I'd still dig him, until proven otherwise. Just because another team is interested in him shouldn't be an interest deterrent for you.
If you're willing to figuratively pound the table for a player over his possible long-term value in 2023 and beyond, don't be dissuaded by a designation for assignment. If he was worthwhile in December, he's likely worthwhile long-term in March or May, barring new information. Trust your innate sense to detect talent, and don't waffle over another team having a roster crunch. If, at the end, you're wrong? Happily wear it, and learn something from the experience. For me, I'd be very good with the Cubs picking Baddoo or de Geus until I'm confident they're not useful long-term. If you wait until a player is proven, he's usually too expensive (in one fashion.or another) to add.
You can follow along with this year’s Rule 5 Draft selections live at 11 a.m. CT Thursday at MLB.com.