The Cubs added outfielder Nelson Velázquez and right-handed pitcher Ethan Roberts to the 40-man roster Friday, protecting them from this offseason’s Rule 5 Draft.
The 40-man roster now stands at 37.
The annual Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for Dec. 8 — although it could be pushed back by a potential lockout. Players not on their organization’s 40-man roster are eligible under the following criteria:
-If they signed at 18 years old or younger and are not added to the 40-man within five seasons
-If they signed at 19 or older and are not added within four seasons
If Velázquez wasn’t already someone the Cubs projected they would have to protect, he's forced their hand and made sure of it with a stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League.
In 26 games with the Mesa Solar Sox, the 22-year-old and 2017 fifth-round pick is hitting .385/.480/.712 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs — and perhaps on his way to taking home the league’s MVP award.
Velázquez opened eyes throughout 2021, taking off right around the time the Cubs blew up their big-league core. The Cubs promoted him from Single-A to Double-A Tennessee in early August, and he hit a combined .270/.333/.496 with 20 homers and 73 RBIs in 103 games.
"He's been amazing," Cubs president Jed Hoyer said at the GM Meetings last week. "He had a really good year, so this is a continuation of a really excellent season.
"Super proud of him. He's hitting as well as anyone out there."
Velázquez is the Cubs' No. 29 overall prospect, according to MLB.com.
Roberts, 24, spent 2021 with Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, compiling a combined 3.00 ERA in 39 appearances, striking out 72 (17 walks) in 54 innings.
Roberts was the Cubs' fourth-round pick in 2018.
Other Cubs prospects on the 40-man roster include pitchers Brailyn Márquez, Anderson Espinoza (acquired from San Diego in July for Jake Marisnick) and Alexander Vizcaíno (acquired for Anthony Rizzo).
Velázquez joins outfielder Alexander Canario (acquired for Kris Bryant), catcher Miguel Amaya and infielder/outfielder Christopher Morel among the position player prospects on the 40-man.