Baseball’s Winter Meetings concluded Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs did not lose any players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and did not select any players. The Cubs’ 40-man roster currently stands at 38 players with one contract pending (Trevor Cahill) and a player due from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade.
The Cubs did select three players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. And the Cubs lost four players in the Triple-A phase. There were not any players selected or lost in the Double-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
The Cubs selected C David Freitas from the Orioles, OF Mike O’Neill from the Cardinals and OF Jesus Loya from the Red Sox.
The Cubs lost OF/2B Pin-Chieh Chen to the Reds, RHP Ariel Ovando to the Angels, RHP Julian Aybar and LHP Michael Heesch to the Cardinals all in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
David Freitas, 26, spent a majority of the 2015 season at the Double-A level of the Orioles’ system. The Nationals selected Freitas in the 15th round of the 2010 draft. Freitas was the PTBNL in the Jim Johnson trade in December 2013 with the A’s. Freitas hit .242/.302/.387 in 71 games in Double-A with 12 doubles and eight home runs. Freitas played in just four Triple-A games and has a total of 41 games at the Triple-A level over his six minor league seasons.
Mike O’Neill, 27, is an on-base machine but struggled this past season for Triple-A Memphis. O’Neill is a lefty hitting left fielder and batted a combined .289/.400/.319 in 90 games between Double- and Triple-A last season. O’Neill had eight doubles, no triples or home runs, and walked 49 times with 23 strikeouts in 263 at bats.
O’Neill has walked 319 times with 163 strikeouts in 1,834 at bats over six minor league seasons. O’Neill has played center and right field, his primary position is left field. J.J. Cooper said that O’Neill “draws all the walks, other tools are iffy.”
Jesus Loya is a 23-year old left-handed hitting outfielder. Loya has been in the Red Sox system since 2010. The Cubs’ front office should know Loya rather well. In 84 games in the Mexican League this past season, Loya batted .276/.374/.342 with 10 doubles, one triple and one home run for a .716 OPS. Loya can play all three spots in the outfield.
Michael Heesch, 25, is a loss for the organization. Heesch has the stuff to be a successful big league reliever. Heesch has a big arm and just needs more time in the minors. Heesch throws his fastball in 91-94 mph range and it plays up even a little more because he does a good job hiding the ball in his delivery.
Heesch could have a bright future as a lefty reliever in the big leagues. Heesch held lefties to a .197/.267/.265 this past season. Heesch spent the year with the Carolina League Champions, High-A Myrtle Beach, and was 8-2 in 33 games, two starts, with a 2.24 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Heesch gave up 19 runs, 16 earned, on 57 hits with 24 walks and 49 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. Heesch turns 26 in May.
Pin-Chieh Chen, 24, drove in the winning run for High-A Myrtle Beach in the deciding game of the Carolina League Championship Series. Chen spent time with High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee and hit a combined .263/.338/.378 in 124 games with 22 doubles, eight triples and five home runs for a .716 OPS.
Julian Aybar, 23, appeared in 20 games for the Cubs’ Dominican Summer League team last year. Aybar was 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Aybar allowed 12 runs, eight earned, on 26 hits with nine walks and 47 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings.
The Cubs took a chance on Ariel Ovando last December and selected him from the Astros in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Ovando is a converted position player that produced good stats in the Rookie League but might not have the stuff to succeed at higher levels against better competition. Ovando was 4-0 in 15 relief appearances with a 0.43 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Ovando gave up three runs, one earned, on 10 hits with 10 walks and 33 strikeouts in 21 innings.
The Cubs did not lose RHP Corey Black in the Rule 5 Draft as many had predicted. Black will hopefully benefit from time off and hitting the reset button. It will be interesting to see if he receives a non-roster invite to Spring Training.