Cubs Take Gamble on Lefty in Rule 5 Draft

Evaluating talent is a risky business. This week alone, we have seen many ways in which talent has been overvalued, undervalued, and maybe even pegged right on the nose. While trades and free-agent signings have been grabbing headlines throughout the Winter Meetings, Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft featured a few moves that could impact the Cubs in the near future as well.

Reliever Armando Rivero, who just turned 28, was plucked from the Cubs system by the Braves in the major-league portion of the draft. In the AAA portion, outstanding glove man Danny Lockhart was selected by the Diamondbacks.

smith_n8nttvui_kgne0znkThe Cubs, meanwhile, traded cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for the fourth pick in the draft, pitcher Caleb Smith. A lefty reliever originally from the Yankees system, Smith logged 63.2 IP for AA Trenton in 2016. While his ERA was 3.96, an excellent 3.15 FIP showed that he pitched better than his box score numbers indicated. His 25% strikeout was very good and looks even better against a 7% walk rate. For the year, he had better splits against righties than lefties (2.63 vs. 6.35).

According to the rules, Smith has to remain on the Major League roster for all of 2017. The only exception is that he can be on the DL for up to 90 days.

Cutting to the chase, the Cubs are in need of left-handed pitching. Smith fits that bill. Whether he can break camp with the Cubs in what will likely shape up to be a very competitive bullpen is a story for another day. I would say the odds are slim. At 25, Smith has yet to pitch above AA for an extended length.

Kevin Cornelius was another Yankee selected by the Cubs but in the AAA phase. The 24-year-old former shortstop just completed his first stint at A-ball in 2016. A 31st round pick out of Grayson College in 2013, Cornelius played mostly first base and some at third. While only hitting .277 in 43 games, he showed a good approach with a .374 OBP, 7 HR’s, and 27 RBI in his brief tenure at Tampa. He will be at Myrtle Beach or AA Tennessee to begin the year.

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