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It’s not uncommon for me to have little working knowledge of a player the Chicago Cubs select in the Rule 5 Draft. The players are, by their very eligibility for the draft, not necessarily top prospects. But usually I recognize a name. I gotta tell you … I do not recognize this name.

Gray Fenter Jersey

Today, the Cubs took 24-year-old righty Gray Fenter from the Orioles’ organization, and I’m gonna have to do some quick legwork to get up to speed. It’s all the more difficult when there wasn’t a minor league season, of course.

First, the minor league stats for the 2015 7th rounder:

The Cubs acquired Wick from the Padres on Nov. 20, 2018, and Wieck came over from the Padres at the 2019 trade deadline.

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Both have gotten big outs for the Cubs the last two seasons, but neither acquisition made a lot of noise at the time, and as the Cubs assemble their bullpen for 2021, they’re looking for more of the same.

The Cubs selected right-hander Gray Fenter in the Rule 5 draft Thursday and picked up right-hander Robert Stock off waivers from the Red Sox on Dec. 2.

Fenter, who’s 16-9 with a 3.21 ERA in five minor-league seasons, has made 49 starts and could figure in the team’s starting-pitching depth.

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Stock was 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA with the Red Sox last season but has had some success at the major-league level with a 2.50 ERA in 32 appearances in 2018.

But their records aren’t that relevant. It’s all about certain traits — things that jump off the page — that have caught scouts’ eyes. Teams will zero in on an intriguing facet and try to build off that. That’s what the Cubs have done recently, and they’re hoping their strong track record continues.

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“I think [with] a lot of the guys that you end up claiming on waivers, there’s normally a couple of things that you see that you want to tweak,” team president Jed Hoyer said. “And I’m not naive to think that when one of our guys is claimed on waivers, I’m sure people have the same thoughts.

(via FanGraphs)
Immediately, I’m wondering how and why a guy Fenter’s age was putting up numbers like that at A ball and was not promoted.

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Some quick research indicates that Fenter was a big-time overslot signing out of high school (strong commit to Mississippi), and he’s simply developed very slowly since then. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016, saw very limited action in 2017, and then had limited seasons in 2018 and 2019. He was at times considered a top 15-20 prospect in the Orioles system, but the slow development seems to have taken him off those lists.

Again, though, I’m wondering why he wasn’t pitching at High-A, at least, in 2019, because he was clearly too good for Low-A. He’s pitched in the mid-90s at times, and has a huge 12-6 curveball. It’s pretty easy to imagine that the Cubs are thinking he could be an immediate bullpen option, even though he’s pitched as a starter in his minor league career thus far.

This looks to be a deep scouting play, which is kind of wild when there were no games to scout. As near as I can tell, Fenter wasn’t at the alternate site or instructs, either. So, yeah, deep play. More on Fenter soon.

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Chicago Cubs: RHP Gray Fenter (Rule 5 pick)

The Cubs will have multiple bullpen spots up for grabs this spring, and Fenter will receive a long look as a Rule 5 selection from the Baltimore organization. In 2019, he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 94.1 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .185 batting average at Single-A. He has the stuff to thrive in a bullpen role with an upper 90s fastball and a plus curveball, and he could be a pleasant surprise.

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