Knowing the 40-man roster picks were due Friday, I found myself wishing the first major decision in the Jed Hoyer era would be a surprise. Would they finally select Dakota Mekkes? Could Ryan Lawlor make the cut? Would infielder Christopher Morel be left off because he has never played above low-A? All sorts of headline scenarios went through my head.
The most logical course of action would have been to select contracts of Morel, righty Cory Abbott, and catcher P.J. Higgins. Adding a fourth player was always a longshot, but Mekkes, Lawler, Michael Rucker, and Jerrick Suiter were in contention. However, the Cubs signing MiLB free agent Taylor Gushue to a deal made adding Higgins to a roster that already includes Miguel Amaya a bit superfluous
The Cubs had a lot of room to work with, especially since their non-tender decisions could free up some spots by December 2. Even so, they only opted to pick up Morel and Abbott, with righty Keegan Thompson added in as the surprise I was looking for. It’s not quite the same as opting to protect Manny Rodriguez last year, but this wasn’t exactly an obvious choice.
While Abbott and Morel were seen as locks for a long time, the 25-year-old Thompson has been riding a recent surge of popularity and now looks like part of the organization’s bigger pitching plans. After throwing five no-hit innings at the beginning of 2019, Thompson disappeared with an injury until he showed up in Mesa for a rehab stint in late August.
He then did well in the Arizona Fall League before getting selected to the alternate site this summer. With 158 career innings, mostly over two summers, he has a career 3.46 ERA with 151 strikeouts. A third-round pick out of Auburn in 2017, he has ascended pretty quickly due to his solid command of 4 pitches and now just needs to stay healthy.
Keegan Thompson of the #Cubs has been sharp here In Mesa. 2 shutout innings and 2 Ks, including getting Devin Mann of the #Dodgers here with a nasty breaking ball to end the 2nd. @MLBazFallLeague pic.twitter.com/K5upe1ySgc
— Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayo) October 14, 2019
By selecting only three prospects, the Cubs maintain some roster flexibility that should increase a great deal more when they inevitably allow some of their arbitration-eligible players to walk. With the Rule 5 Draft coming just over a week later, there could be quite a few changes to both the big league club and the minors.