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Cubs Select OF Nelson Velazquez and RHP Ethan Roberts

Both prospects join the Cubs' 40-man roster and are now protected from the Rule 5 Draft.
Neslon Velazquez Cubs Prospect

Photo: MLB.com

With MLB's Rule 5 Draft looming, the Chicago Cubs selected the contracts of outfielder Nelson Velazquez and right-handed flamethrower Ethan Roberts.

The Cubs' 40-man roster now sits at 37. The deadline to add to the 40-man roster is at 5 PM.

The Rule 5 Draft takes place every offseason in December during MLB's Winter Meetings. The draft aims to prevent teams from stockpiling prospects in their farm system when other organizations would be willing to have them play in the major leagues.

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Why It's Important

Velazquez is now protected from another team poaching him in the Rule 5 Draft. He has definitely earned a roster spot due to his solid 2021 campaign in South Bend and Tennessee and even better performance in the Arizona Fall League. The sky is the limit for the 22-year-old, who ended the season No. 29 on the Cubs' top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

Roberts is another underrated but impressive arm in the Cubs system. In 2021, he stood out in Double-A with a 1.97 ERA before earning a promotion to Triple-A Iowa, where he made 15 appearances to end the season.

The Cubs likely see Roberts as a solid bullpen piece in the future. His strikeout rate rose to an eye-opening 32.6%, which is much higher than his 21.8% K-rate during his first two seasons of professional ball. Roberts' fastball consistently sat around 90-93 MPH in 2019 but topped out at 97 MPH this season.

With his promotion to Iowa this season, it should not come as a surprise if he earns a call to Wrigley Field in 2022.