The Cubs announced that they have selected the contracts of outfielder Nelson Velazquez and right-handed pitcher Ethan Roberts. The move protects both players against being selected by a rival team in this year’s Rule 5 draft. Chicago’s 40-man roster now has 37 spots accounted for.
Velazquez was a 5th-round pick for the Cubs back in 2017, and the book on him at the time was that he possessed above average tools across the board outside of a raw hit tool. That projection has largely held true in the young outfielder’s professional career, as he has posted a cumulative .259 batting average with more strikeouts (377) than games played (316). The 22-year-old’s selection though comes as little surprise on the heels of his strongest season yet, producing a .270/.333/.496 slash across two levels this past season, with the bulk of that production coming in his first look against Double-A pitching. Velazquez has further upped his stock with a tremendous .366/.467/.693 Fall League showing, even if the strikeouts remain an issue.
Roberts, a right-hander out of Tennessee Technological University, has taken his 4th round pedigree and steadily climbed through the minors with the Cubs. A reliever, the 24-year-old has ridden the strength of a cut fastball and plus command to generally strong run prevention numbers and strikeout totals. His Double-A performance this year was outstanding, yielding a 1.97 ERA and 45 strikeouts across 32 innings. Though a promotion to Triple-A didn’t go quite as well (4.50 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 22 innings), Roberts could be a near-term option for his Major League club.