The Cubs have added four players to their roster in advance of the Rule 5 protection deadline: outfielders Brennen Davis and Kevin Alcantara, as well as right-handers Ben Brown and Ryan Jensen.
Davis, 23, rated as the Cubs’ top prospect heading into the season and projected to make his MLB debut this year as the team’s regular center fielder. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked him as the 16th best prospect in baseball. Instead, Davis hit the IL in May with what The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney later called “mysterious sciatic pain,” which required back surgery in June and knocked him out for more than three months. The Cubs had Davis participating in the Arizona Fall League, but had to pull him due to back tightness. Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner recently told reporters including Mooney that Davis is expected to be ready for spring training. Regardless, the Cubs figure to be in the market for short-term help in center after primarily using Christopher Morel and Rafael Ortega at the position in 2022.
Alcantara, 20, was the main prize in the deal sending Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees last summer. Perhaps his successful season in Low-A can help soften the blow for Cubs fans on a day that Rizzo re-upped with the Yankees for at least two more years. MLB.com currently rates Alcantara as the Cubs’ third-best prospect, with 55 grades for most of his tools. Baseball America says he has “as much upside as anyone in the Cubs system.” Look for him to start 2023 in High-A.
Brown, 23, was drafted by the Phillies in the 33rd round out of high school back in 2017. The Cubs flipped veteran reliever David Robertson to the Phillies at the trade deadline this year to add Brown to their system. Brown had a 35.4 K% in High-A for the Phillies, and held strong at 32.1% in Double-A for the Cubs. At the time, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, “Brown is probably the one that hurt the most. We like him a lot, but you can’t protect everybody.” The Cubs reportedly aim to have him add a new pitch this winter. If Brown succeeds at the upper levels of the minors next year, he could see big league time.
Jensen, 24, was the Cubs’ first round pick in 2019 under the Theo Epstein regime. He struggled mightily with his control in 17 Double-A starts this year. After walking over 18% of batters faced over his first five starts, the Cubs “recommended to him the best course of action was to make some changes to his arm action down in Arizona,” according to Banner. After that time away from the Smokies on the “development list,” Jensen came back and still walked over 13% of hitters. As Mooney and Sahadev Sharma put it, “the command improved enough for the Cubs to protect Jensen and his electric arsenal.”