Top 10 Prospects (2019): Chicago Cubs: An Uninspiring System Today, There’s Intriguing Talent To Watch

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Chicago Cubs are generally not viewed as owning the most impressive farm system, though a lot of that has to do with the push towards a World Series ring (while also graduating a lot of players who have contributed to their success).  While they do lack that true impact prospect, there have been a few intriguing names that have been emerging, especially when it comes to their pitching prospects.  Are there any names that belong on our radar?  Who has the highest upside?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Miguel Amaya – Catcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2021

Generally ignored a year ago, Amaya emerged as not only the Cubs’ top prospect but one of the top catching prospects in the game.  Playing at Single-A he hit .256 with 12 HR and 52 RBI over 414 AB, though a dramatic split does bring at least a few questions:

  • First Half – .288/.365/.500
  • Second Half – .223/.332/.302

Playing the year at 19-years old and it being the first time he played more than 58 games in a season, there’s a good chance that fatigue played a role in his second half swoon.  We will have to keep a close eye on his SwStr% (11.7%), but his 10.4% walk rate and impressive first half gives reason for optimism.

 

2) Brailyn Marquez – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2021

The unheralded southpaw didn’t pitch a significant amount in 2018, making 10 starts at Low-A and another 2 at Single-A, but the results across the board were impressive as he showed signs of all three skills that we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 9.71 K/9 (courtesy of a 16.1% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.63 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 49.3%

Pitching as a 19-year old, those numbers are going to get you excited.  Standing at 6’4” and 185 lbs., there’s still plenty of room for him to fill out physically and the steps forward he took last season are highly impressive.  While he still is getting little attention right now, don’t be surprised if his value and the hype quickly start to build.

 

3) Adbert Alzolay – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019

We don’t want to look at last year’s numbers, as it was a relatively small sample size (39.2 IP) as injuries sabotaged his season.  It was also his first taste of Triple-A, after racking up an impressive 2.99 ERA, 108 K and 34 BB over 114.1 IP between High-A and Double-A in 2017.  That said even during his struggles he still showed solid control (2.95 BB/9) and an ability to generate at least a few swings and misses (9.4% SwStr%, down from 11.6% in ’17).  There are going to be home run concerns (0.78 career GO/AO) and reports say he still needs to develop his changeup.  That said, if he can get healthy he should be able to emerge as a solid back-end starter.

 

4) Nico Hoerner – Shortstop
Grade – C+
ETA – 2020

He was selected 24th overall in 2018 but his first time playing professional baseball was cut short due to an elbow injury.  How much upside he has is definitely up for debate, though 4 K vs. 9 BB with 6 SB over 49 AB does show some promise.  There are significant questions as to his power potential, after he hit just 3 HR in his final college season, though there’s the potential the he develops more pop then that.  He could move quickly at 21-years old (he’ll turn 22 in May) and his future could be as a fixture hitting atop the batting order.

 

5) Cole Roederer – Outfielder
Grade – C+
ETA – 2022

This was an intriguing gamble for the Cubs, who drafted him 77th overall in 2018.  He showed far too much swing and miss in his first taste of professional baseball (32.9% SwStr%), but he’s just 18-years old and showed an ability to draw a walk (11.2%) to go along with 20/20 potential (13 extra base hits, 13 SB over 161 PA).  He’s a long ways away, but the upside is there and he needs to be monitored closely.

 

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The Next Five

6) Erich Uelman – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
There are questions about his upside, but he showed an elite groundball rate (59.6%) and swing and miss stuff (13.3% SwStr%) while splitting time between Single-A and High-A.  The control wasn’t bad either (3.02 BB/9), so the total package could be there.  His delivery has some believing his future lies in the bullpen, but it will be interesting to see how he develops.

7) Cory Abbott – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Abbott enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018, with a 2.50 ERA, 10.25 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 over 115.0 IP between Single-A and High-A.  He was 22-years old (he turned 23 in September) so you can argue that he was old for the level, but he showed a better groundball rate upon his promotion (1.09 GO/AO) and he was getting an impressive amount of swings and misses (14.2% SwStr%).  The potential is there, and with the potential to reach Double-A this season he could move quickly.

8) Alex Lange – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Lange didn’t strikeout many at High-A (7.55 K/9), but a 12.0% SwStr% shows more upside to go along with enough groundballs (44.0%) and control (2.84 BB/9).  Selected 30th overall in 2017, reports have his strikeouts coming courtesy of a strong curveball though there are some that feel like he could ultimately fall into a relief role.

9) Justin Steele – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Steele only threw 46.2 innings last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017.  The results were promising, with a 2.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP across three levels as he also showed strikeouts (10.22 K/9) and control (2.51 BB/9).  That said he had shown some control issues before and had never shown this type of strikeout stuff prior to the injury.  A strong followup campaign would go a long way in establishing him among Cubs’ prospects, but we need to see more.

10) Trent Giambrone – Second Baseman (Grade – C)
Playing at Double-A he hit .251 with 17 HR and 26 SB over 398 AB.  Couple that with a 10.1% walk rate and there appears to be a lot to like, though a 9.9% SwStr% (which has the potential to rise) and reports that he doesn’t have significantly more upside in either his power or speed do bring concerns.  It will be interesting to see what happens upon reaching Triple-A, because a strong performance could really impact the outlook.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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Pre-order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $6.75!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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

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