by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Cubs’ system has been depleted in recent years, partly due to graduations and partly due to trades to bolster their historic World Series run. That’s not something anyone is going to complain about, and the system is also not completely void of talent. There are some high-upside names, though there are questions as to whether they will reach their ceiling. Let’s take a look at who could be the next wave of prominent prospects for Chicago:
1) Eloy Jimenez – Outfielder
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019
Playing all of 2016 as a 19-year old at Single-A, Jimenez showed power potential as he pounded out 37 extra base hits:
- 40 doubles
- 3 triples
- 14 home runs
It’s easy to envision some of those doubles turning into home runs as he matures and adds strength (something we’d expect from a player listed at 6’4” and 205 lbs). While he didn’t draw many walks (5.4%) the strikeout rate was reasonable (20.3%) and he improved in the second half (32 K over 174 AB). While that could be an issue moving forward, the power potential will help to overcome it. The upside is a player who could routinely top 30 HR.
2) Dylan Cease – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Cease has been limited over the past two seasons as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, though that hasn’t stopped him from showing off his impressive upside:
- 2015 (24.0 IP) – 9.38 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, 3.18 GO/AO
- 2016 (44.2 IP) – 13.30 K/9, 5.04 BB/9, 1.70 GO/AO
The flame-thrower clearly needs to refine his control, but that’s something that should come with experience. Listed at 6’2” and with the control questions there’s the risk that he ultimately is shifted to the bullpen (though if that were to happen he could quickly emerge as a lights out closer). Either way there’s a lot to like.
3) Ian Happ – Second Baseman/Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017
Happ split time between High-A and Double-A last season, hitting .279 with 15 HR (as well as 30 doubles and 3 triples) and 16 SB. Those are promising numbers, and with his defensive versatility he’s going to draw comparisons to Ben Zobrist. He does have some contact issues hanging over him and watched his walk rate plummet upon reaching Double-A:
- High-A (293 PA) – 23.5% strikeout rate, 16.4% walk rate
- Double-A (274 PA) – 21.9% strikeout rate, 7.3% walk rate
It’s something to monitor, but not a major concern of yet. At the end of the day Happ doesn’t have a standout tool, but has the potential to be a contributor across the board.
4) Jeimer Candelario – Third Baseman
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived
After hitting .219 at Double-A Candelario erupted at Triple-A, hitting .333 with 9 HR over 264 AB. The big difference was luck, with his BABIP going from .261 to .383. Obviously he’s not as good as the Triple-A mark, with the truth likely sitting somewhere in the middle. He showed a good eye at the plate (17.2% strikeout rate, 12.3% walk rate at Triple-A), so the real question is if the power is going to develop (he had 39 doubles, 4 triples and 13 HR last season). Now 23-years old it’s not something we’d be willing to bank on.
5) Oscar De La Cruz – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
Injury limited De La Cruz to 39.0 innings in ’16, but 51 K vs. 11 BB is going to grab your attention. Strikeouts and control is something he’s consistently shown, including a 9.00 K/9 vs. 2.10 BB/9 over 73.0 IP at Low-A in 2015. While he’s 21-years old he has never thrown more than 75.0 innings as a professional so we are going to have to be patient, but the upside and stuff are clearly there for him to develop.
6) Trevor Clifton – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
7) Duane Underwood – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
8) Mark Zagunis – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
9) Donnie Dewees – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
10) Jose Albertos – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Note: You can argue that he has the highest upside of anyone in the system, but he’s still 18-years old and only threw 4.0 innings in ’16. It’ll be interesting to see his usage, but he could emerge as one of the next great pitching prospects before long.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: