Top 10 Prospects (2018): Chicago Cubs: Is There Any Value Left In A Decimated System?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Cubs were once seen as having one of the elite farm systems in baseball, but years of graduations and trades have left the cupboard bare (and the Jose Quintana trade was the final nail).  That’s not to say that there is talent, but there are significant questions hovering over what’s left.  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Jose Albertos – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2020

He’s 18-years old and threw 43.0 innings between Rookie Ball and Low-A in ’17, so obviously he’s got an exceptionally long ways to go (and is years away from arriving).  That said he showed strikeout stuff (10.05 K/9, courtesy of a 15.5% SwStr%), solid control (3.56 BB/9) and an ability to generate groundballs (54.1%), meaning it’s possible he develops the full complement of skills we look for.  If they fully develop is just the tip of the questions he faces:

  • Size – At 6’1” and 185 lbs., there will be concerns he can’t hold up to a full workload
  • Secondary Pitches – Currently a fastball/changeup pitcher, he’ll need to develop his breaking ball

He has the upside and it will be interesting to see how he develops, but his place atop these rankings speaks volumes to the current state of the system.

 

2) Adbert Alzolay – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2018

Alzolay showed signs of a breakout while spending the year at Double-A, posting an 8.50 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9 (courtesy of an 11.6% SwStr%).  That would appear to be promising, but there are two significant red flags that need to be addressed.  First of all is his size, being listed at 6’0” and about 180 lbs., which is going to bring speculation that he’ll be a better fit in the bullpen.  The other is the potential to be prone to home runs, considering his 0.72 GO/AO (36.5% fly ball rate).  Those two things are significant red flags and put a damper on his lively fastball and potential upside.

 

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3) Oscar De La Cruz – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2019

If he had proven capable of staying healthy we might be talking about the top prospect in the system (he missed time in ’16 with soreness in his forearm and ’17 with a strained pectoral).  Unfortunately he’s battled arm injuries in recent years, helping to limit him to 56.2 IP last season, and also carries significant home run concerns (0.69 GO/AO at High-A).  Unlike the other top prospects De La Cruz does have the size (6’4”), and he has shown strikeout stuff (12.0% SwStr%) and good control (2.14 BB/9).  That’s not quite enough to override the concerns, especially the health.  Until he proves that he can take the ball consistently every five days the risk is going to outweigh the reward.

 

4) Victor Caratini – Catcher
Grade – B-
ETA – Already Arrived

Switch-hitting catchers who can handle the bat are instantly going to be placed on our radar.  He got his feet wet in the Majors (59 AB), and it was well deserved considering his Triple-A numbers (.342 with 10 HR and 61 RBI over 291 AB).  While the power doesn’t blow you away, especially coming from the Pacific Coast League, keep in mind that he added 27 doubles and 3 triples.  He may not develop into an elite power hitting catcher, but he should fall into the 14-18 type range.

Couple that with an ability to handle the bat, and there’s an awful lot to like.  His 14.7% strikeout rate and 8.3% walk rate are impressive, and there’s no doubt that he can hit the ball hard (22.0% line drive rate) and can make consistent contact (8.7% SwStr%).  Those two things should produce a .280+ hitter, and if the power improves that would create a solid producer.

If he can find a starting job remains to be seen, but he profiles at least as a backup catcher and could be more than that with a little bit of pop.

 

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5) Brendan Little – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – C+
ETA – 2019

One of the team’s 2017 first round picks, he gets the nod as the #5 prospect due to owning an elite curveball as well as being left-handed.  However there is speculation that he’ll be a better fit coming out of the bullpen, and that is magnified even more as he needs to develop his changeup.  Time will tell if he’s capable of getting there or not.

 

The Next Five:
6) Thomas Hatch – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
7) Alex Lange – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
8) Justin Steele – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
9) Dillon Maples – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) D.J. Wilson – Outfielder (Grade – C)

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

** TRICK OR TREAT FLASH SALE **
For two days only (through October 31), Pre-order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $5.75!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

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