CHICAGO -- Miguel Amaya was often off to the side watching when the Cubs' big leaguers were on the backfields during Spring Training. If an extra catcher was needed, he would get the chance to put on the gear and help receive some Major League pitches.
The way Amaya went about the extra work last spring impressed the Cubs' evaluators and the team's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline earned a handful of chances to play in Cactus League games as well. Now, Amaya will have a chance to report to Spring Training in 2020 as a part of the Cubs' 40-man roster.
Amaya was one of four prospects rostered by the Cubs on Wednesday night ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 12 at the end of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. It costs $100,000 make a Rule 5 selection, and the player must remain on the MLB roster all season or be offered back to his original team for $50,000.
Here is a round-up of Wednesday night's moves for the Cubs, who currently have 36 players on their roster:
ADDED TO 40-MAN
This was the no-brainer of the day for the Cubs. Amaya, who will turn 21 on March 9, is currently ranked as No. 90 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospect list. Picked for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in each of the past two seasons, Amaya puts the ball in play, has shown good on-base ability and has received strong reviews for his defense and framing.
In 2019, Amaya moved up to Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and hit .235 with 11 homers, 24 doubles, 57 RBIs, 50 runs and 54 walks (compared to 69 strikeouts) in 99 games. He threw out would-be basestealers at a 35-percent clip. Amaya's on-base (.351) and slugging (.402) percentages in '19 were nearly identical to his showing in '18 (.349/.403) with Class A South Bend.
At the Major League level, the Cubs have an All-Star starting catcher in Willson Contreras and a solid secondary option in Victor Caratini. Contreras, who is under club control through 2022, has been the subject of trade rumors already this winter as Chicago looks to balance winning now with planning for the future. Amaya is on a trajectory to potentially reach the big leagues by '21 or '22.
RHP Tyson Miller
The 24-year-old Miller (No. 12 on the Cubs' Top 30 list) went 7-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 26 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa in 2019. The right-hander, who was a fourth-round pick in the '16 MLB Draft, had 123 strikeouts vs. 43 walks in 136 2/3 innings overall. He posted a 2.56 ERA in 15 outings at Double-A, but then struggled at Triple-A (7.58 ERA in 11 starts).
RHP Manuel Rodriguez
While Rodriguez is not among MLB Pipeline's top Cubs prospects, the 23-year-old right-hander opened enough eyes to find his way onto the 40-man roster this year. With Myrtle Beach last season, Rodriguez posted a 3.45 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 17 walks in 47 innings (35 appearances). He has averaged 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings in three pro seasons since signing with the Cubs following three seasons with Yucatan in the Mexican League.
SS Zack Short
Ranked ninth on the Cubs' Top 30 list, the 24-year-old Short hit .235 with a .767 OPS in an injury-marred 2019 season, which was spent mostly with Tennessee and Iowa. Short missed time between April and June due to a broken ring finger on his left hand, and hit .211 with a .751 OPS in 41 Triple-A games overall.
TOP PROSPECTS UNPROTECTED
Strictly looking at the MLB Pipeline's Top 30 prospects list for the Cubs, the two players left unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft were righty Oscar De La Cruz (No. 22) and infielder/outfielder Trent Giambrone (No. 28):
• De La Cruz returned from an 80-game suspension in 2019 and posted a 3.64 ERA with 105 strikeouts against 34 walks in 96 1/3 innings (Class A Advanced and Double-A). Prior to the suspension in '18, he was ranked third by MLB Pipeline on the Cubs' Top 30 list.
• Giambrone, 25, impressed in the spring (.983 OPS in 19 Cactus League games) and then hit .241 (.779 OPS) with 23 homers, 27 doubles and 66 RBIs in 126 games at Triple-A in '19. He made starts at first (15), second (40), shortstop (15), third (17), left field (13) and right field (14).
OTHER NAMES OF NOTE
There are a number of players who are unranked by MLB Pipeline, but are still notable among the group left exposed for the Rule 5 pool. Among the unprotected players for the Cubs are catcher P.J. Higgins, outfielder Mark Zagunis, righties Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker and Matt Swarmer and lefty Jordan Minch. Lefty Conor Lillis-White did not pitch in 2019 due to injuries (left arm and hip), but he was the prospect dealt to the Cubs last offseason in the trade that sent Tommy La Stella to the Angels.