Major League Baseball is considering allowing teams to add 15 players to their 60-man player pool, making it a 75-player pool. My hunch is that this effort serves the dual purposes of allowing teams to develop more players, and having a few more trade-viable pieces as the August deadline approaches. Which players merit consideration for the Cubs?
If my assessment is correct, teams won't add "the next 15 best prospects." Some added will be noted prospects. Others will be a bit more obscure, as the Cubs will want to have a few players in South Bend who might be realistic trade pieces. Since the short-term middle-leverage reliever isn't likely to bring back a major prospect, some additions might seem out of place.
Most of the players added will be viable prospects. Trade discussions will either add a few lower-rung types, or a few spots might be left open for trade leeway. For now, here are a number of players I'd like to see added to the South Bend site.
Cole Roederer, outfield
As good as any prospect not at the ATS, Roederer was a compensatory second-rounder in 2018. He was a starter in 2019 in South Bend in his first season out of high school.
Ed Howard, shortstop
The Cubs top selection (from Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School) in the June 2020 draft isn't the most-ready middle infield prospect outside of the alternate training site. He would, however, be in position to learn from over 70 more experienced players in his journey to Wrigley.
Kohl Franklin, right-handed pitcher
A second-day draft selection out of high school in 2018, Franklin looked rather good in short-season Eugene in 2019. He'd have belonged in South Bend in 2020, but has gotten precious few looks at quality hitters in 2020. This should change soon.
Richard Gallardo, right-handed pitcher
A recent high-impact international signing, Gallardo pitched briefly for Eugene last year. Despite being only 18, he has a four-pitch repertoire and 93 or 94 on the radar gun.
Riley Thompson and Cam Sanders, right-handed pitchers
Both were regular options for the 2019 Champs in South Bend. Both should have been in Myrtle Beach. Neither have had much opposition since training camp broke.
Ryan Jensen and Michael McAvene, right-handed pitchers
Both were early 2019 selections. Both throw hard. Neither have pitched much since the Mesa facility was closed for service (if only figuratively).
Ethan Hearn or Ronnier Quintero, catchers (one of the two)
Hearn was a prep signing in 2019, and played for one of the Mesa affiliates last season. If 2020 went as expected, he'd be getting regular looks in Eugene this season. Quintero was a recent high-bonus international signing by the Cubs. I'm not entirely sure if he was in minor league training camp in March, or not. Between Quintero and Hearn, at least one belongs at the alternative training site. If this were a 90-man player pool, they’d both belong.
Chase Strumpf, second base
A second-round pick in 2019, he tends toward the "offense-first" label. As he'd have likely been in Advanced-A Myrtle Beach, and is one of the top offensive prospects in the system, he should get some 2020 chances.
Rafael Morel, third base
His older brother Christopher is already at the alternate training site (list below), and the vigor with which Rafael hit in the Dominican League last season might earn him a look this time.
If the goal were to send the best 60, I'd send a few more. All prospects would figure to benefit from extra chances. However, leaving a few spots temporarily open, until the trade deadline passes, makes sense. Teams wishing to execute a trade with the Cubs might appreciate a look at a lower-level prospect's computer read-outs in regards to inclusion in a swap. To send said information, they'd have to be in the player pool. As such, an 85-player pool wouldn’t seem restrictive, at all.
I have very little interest in trading any of the top 50 or so prospects for a postseason being held together by Rob Manfred creating protocol on the fly. The future and present both matter, but the 2020 season is only as justifiable as the system keeping the campaign viable. I'm not interested in giving up anything of any significance, still. With Jharel Cotton designated for assignment, that could be room for an extra five weeks of work for one valid prospect. Not that we are likely to hear about their improvement, but improving the pipeline is a step toward replacing players who might be leaving this offseason.
Here is the current list of players in the 60-player pool not on the 28-man roster. (Asterisk indicates 40-man roster status.)
Adbert Alzolay *
Rex Brothers *
Dillon Maples *
Tyson Miller *
Justin Steele *
Miguel Amaya *
58 names, plus Cotton