Top 49 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

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Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Many Injured Pitchers
Chris Clarke, RHP
Yovanny Cruz, RHP
Hunter Bigge, RHP
Benjamin Rodriguez, RHP
Jeremiah Estrada, RHP
Michael McAvene, RHP
Danis Correa, RHP

This system had an unusual number of injuries generally, as you can probably tell from reading the main section of the list. Here are several other players who have been on the list most of the last few years but were dealt a blow by their 2021 showing (or lack thereof). Clarke threw three innings in the fall and looked “like he did when healthy” per a scout. Eric’s notes had him up to 95 with a plus-flashing curveball last he saw him. Cruz didn’t pitch in affiliated ball in 2021 and, per a source, is listed as having been shut down with an elbow strain in May. He’s been either electric (upper-90s with sink, a good changeup and a viable slider) or hurt since his debut. Bigge was sitting in the upper-80s and low-90s at Harvard, then spiked into the 92-95 range out of the bullpen after the draft in 2019. By the fall, he was touching at least 97. His velo was back down in 2021 coming off of injury; he’s now a bounce-back candidate. Rodriguez was a spin/frame projection prospect as a teenager but hasn’t thrown in two years due to the pandemic and now a shoulder strain. He didn’t even throw during instructs. Estrada, 93-96 with a 70 changeup at peak, was shut down in July. McAvene had a big velo spike ahead of his draft but was 92-94 during instructs, pretty fringy for a reliever. Correa was up to 98 on October 28, then sat 91-93 on November 1 and his AFL was done.

Catching Contingent
Pablo Aliendo, C
Ronnier Quintero, C
Malcom Quintero, C
Ethan Hearn, C
Casey Opitz, C

Aliendo is a lithe, athletic catch-and-throw guy with some pop, a good bit of body projection left and a 4 bat. Malcom Quintero is a compact switch-hitter with great feel for the zone. He’s a level behind Aliendo even though he’s a little older and is more a potential third catcher while Aliendo actually has some ceiling. Ronnier Quintero was a big dollar international signee who barely looked like a pro athlete during his first year in the U.S., but he’s so young and has obvious reverse projection at an age when it’s still possible for him to right the ship. Hearn was once a 40+ FV prospect whose swing-and-miss got out of control. Opitz was a rock at Arkansas and has third catcher ceiling.

Depth Bats, Potential 40s
Andy Weber, SS
Felix Stevens, DH
Liam Spence, SS
Rafael Morel, 2B
Cole Roederer, LF
Parker Chavers, CF

Weber looked fine at shortstop during Fall League. He’s 24 and couldn’t afford to strike out as much as he did at Double-A. Still, as a lefty stick who plays a viable short, he’s at least good upper-level depth and maybe just a fifth infielder. Stevens is a 22-year-old Cuban hitter who spent the summer in Arizona slugging over .600, and indeed, he has big power. Alas, he’s also physically maxed out and struck out a bunch. The power makes him a worthy follow, though. Spence, the Cubs’ fifth rounder in 2021, is of Aussie descent, spent two years at an Arizona JUCO, and walked more than he struck out as a 23-year-old senior with Tennessee. He might have more upside than most seniors because of his background. Morel is a well-rounded player for his age but doesn’t have big league explosiveness and looks like a 40 utility man at best. Roederer had surgery in July and now hasn’t had a good offensive season since 2018, which is an issue for a player who projected to left field. Chavers is a nice org player with an average hit tool.

Relief Sleepers
Brendon Little, LHP
Sam Thoresen, RHP
Bailey Horn, LHP
Frankie Scalzo Jr., RHP
Eduarniel Nunez, RHP

Little isn’t really a sleeper since he was once a high draft pick, but I had to stash him on here somewhere. He had a little velo spike amid a bullpen move and sat 95 in 2021. His slider is harder (now about 88) and his curveball still has good movement, but the Cubs didn’t put him on the 40-man. Thoresen was a $20,000 undrafted free agent out of Minnesota. He sits 93 with two breaking balls that in-office pitch data types seem to love. Horn was acquired from the White Sox for Ryan Tepera. He’s a lefty who sits 94 with above-average spin on each of his breaking balls. Scalzo has a Mike Ditka mustache and mid-90s arm strength. Nunez has 70-grade spin rates, about 2600 rpm on the fastball and 2800 on his breaker. His results have been closer to average.

System Overview

The trade deadline and the velocity development of many pitchers gave this farm system a huge lift in 2021, though the latter seemed to come at the cost of several injuries. The system-wide uptick in velocity made the Cubs’ Rule 5 protection deadline pretty interesting, and they ended up leaving lots of hard-throwing pitchers off the 40-man, though many either have had health or strike-throwing issues.

If there’s a common thread running through the Cubs’ acquisitions on the pro side during the rebuild’s crescendo, it’s that, with the exception of Bryce Ball, the players they acquired are toolsy, traditional scouting types. Some of them have statistical yellow flags (Alcantara, Canario, everyone from the Darvish trade, PCA) or had barely generated any data at all (Palencia, some of the Darvish trade, PCA again) when acquired. It’s an indication this org is still thirsty for big tools and upside even when it comes with risk. That’s a less-consistent description of their recent draftees, though it seems as though they’re back to incorporating a blend of big school performers and an overslot prep arm or two into their annual mix, akin to when they landed Kyle Schwarber and Dylan Cease in the same draft.

The club more or less copped to the fact that it had failed to develop pitching during the championship core’s best years and has overhauled their infrastructure in this area with a big investment in technology. It’s still too early to assess its application via results. Results-based analysis of the international program, meanwhile, is unfavorable, as we’re already off of Ronnier Quintero and Rafael Morel. The other young DSL guys barely played during instructs, and if they did, it wasn’t until the very end when Eric’s focus had shifted to other clubs. None of the Cubs-signed international players on this list have boosted their FV since signing, and have either held serve or fallen.

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