Top 10 Prospects (2020): Chicago Cubs: Locating Value In A Rather Depleted System (Marquez, Hoerner & More)

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The Cubs have paid the price for competing for World Series titles, as their farm system has been significantly depleted over the past few seasons whether it was due to trades, graduations or top selections simply lacking development/upside. While you can argue that it isn’t “barren”, it also isn’t an impressive group with more mid-level talent. Is there anyone who could hold value? Is there an under-the-radar target for fantasy owners? Let’s take a look:

1) Brennen Davis – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2022

Playing at Single-A Davis hit .305 with 8 HR and 4 SB over 204 PA last season (he was limited due to a broken finger).  A second round pick in 2018, Davis should be able to develop more power as he learns/matures (he’s listed at 6’4” and only 175 lbs.), and he already has speed.  He’s clearly still learning and refining his game, as he needs to learn to tap into the power (he added 9 doubles and 3 triples) while also becoming more aggressive on the bases.

There are going to be questions about his ability to make consistent contact, having posted an 11.2% SwStr% and 8.8% walk rate, but he’s still just 20-years old.  If he can keep that in check you are looking at a 20/20 player, if not better, who should be able to hit .260+. 

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

Marquez showed off his potential, splitting time between Single-A and High-A, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions:

  • Strikeouts – 11.11 K/9 (courtesy of a 17.8% SwStr%)
  • Control – 4.34 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 50.6%

The biggest question comes from his control, something that he is going to need to improve if he’s going to reach his full potential.  He also needs to refine his changeup, giving him a third pitch to help him get through lineups multiple times.  If neither of those things happen his big fastball (reports have him touching 102 mph) would play extremely well coming out of the bullpen, where he could develop into the next Aroldis Chapman-like closer.  Either way he’s a prospect you want to own.

3) Miguel Amaya – Catcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2022

Given the focus on defense it’s not uncommon for catching prospects to struggle offensively as they develop.  Amaya will turn 21-years old prior to the start of ’20, so he still has time to figure it out.  He hit just .235 with 11 HR over 410 PA last season playing at High-A, but he also showed a solid approach and more power potential:

  • SwStr% – 9.9%
  • Walk Rate – 13.2%
  • Extra Base Hits – 35 (24 doubles, 11 HR)

As he becomes comfortable with his catching duties and is able to focus on his offense, he should mature and develop.  He should hit at least .260 (with more possible) and continue to develop his power (20 HR annual is possible).  It’s going to take time, but he has the upside.

4) Nico Hoerner – Second Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – Already Arrived

Hoerner got his first taste of professional baseball in ’19, hitting .282 with 3 HR and 0 SB over 82 PA.  He spent most of the year at Double-A (294 PA), though his approach is in question a little bit after a big regression upon his promotion (SwStr%):

  • Double-A – 6.1%
  • Majors – 10.3%

Obviously we’d expect the MLB number to improve with more experience, though he also had a 48.6% O-Swing% and didn’t draw many walks even at Double-A (7.1% walk rate).  There also are questions about how much power and speed he’ll develop, and without those things the skill set isn’t overly enticing.  His name does draw some love, but he’ll likely be more valuable as a “real” player as opposed to a fantasy one.

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

Selected 77th overall in 2018 Roederer showed some promise at Single-A, despite hitting .224, as he had 9 HR (as well as 19 doubles and 4 triples) and 16 SB over 448 PA.  He also posted an 11.6% walk rate, but he struggled with making consistent contact as he had a 25.0% strikeout rate courtesy of a 12.6% SwStr%.  Improving in that regard is going to be key in determining whether he’s a starter at the highest level or more of a backup.

Roederer has a similar profile to many throughout the game, as he has the potential for some power and speed (though neither are elite) but it comes with significant strikeout risk.  He’s worth watching to see if he can take a step forward, but the ceiling is limited.

The Next Five:

6) Riley Thompson (RHP, Grade – C) – You can argue that Thompson was old for his level in ’19, as he spent the year at Single-A as a 22/23-year old (he turned 23 in July).  At the same time the steps that he took are important, as he showed improved control (2.97 BB/9 over 94.0 IP) to go along with the ability to miss some bats (11.7% SwStr%) and generate enough groundballs (45.1%).  Obviously we’ll need to see him do it against more advanced batters, but with reports of him owning a four-pitch mix the makeup could play as a mid-rotation starter at the highest level.

7) Cory Abbott (RHP, Grade – C) – Pitching at Double-A Abbott impressed with a 10.19 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9 over 146.2 IP, though a 37.7% groundball rate will obviously bring a lot of questions.  While home runs didn’t hurt him last season (0.92 HR/9), as he advances that could become an issue.  He doesn’t necessarily have quality stuff, though it’s enough to expect him to be a productive back-end option at the highest level.  He should move to Triple-A this year and could make his MLB debut, where he at least would be a streaming option.

8) Pedro Martinez (SS, Grade – C) – The Cubs were aggressive with Martinez, pushing him to Low-A as an 18-year old, and it shouldn’t be surprising that he was a bit overmatched (32.1% strikeout rate over 112 PA).  He did show an ability to draw walks (10.7% walk rate at Low-A, 10.3% overall in the minors) and there’s no questioning his speed.  He needs to refine his base stealing ability (19-for-29 in ’19), but that should come with age and experience, and while he’s not going to be a power hitter he should at least be able to get extra base hits (8 doubles, 6 triples and 2 HR).  He’s a switch-hitter who could become a top-of-the-lineup difference maker, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leap up prospect lists as the year progresses.

9) Ryan Jensen (RHP, Grade – C-) – The Cubs’ first round pick in 2019, Jansen doesn’t have the prototypical size teams look for from a starter (6’0”. 180 lbs.) and there are questions about his control (14 BB in 12.0 IP at Low-A after being selected).  He has big-time strikeout stuff and worst case is for him to develop into a power, late inning reliever.  For now the Cubs will try him as a starter, and we’ll wait to see if he can figure it out.

10) Richard Gallardo (RHP, Grade – C-) – He’s just 17-years old and is years away from arriving in the Majors, but he’s an intriguing prospect that belongs on our radars.  It was just 34.1 IP, but he showed an ability to generate groundballs (52.3%), swings and misses (19.2% SwStr%) and at least have average control (3.67 BB/9).  As he matures he should be able to add additional velocity, and while he’s not there yet he has the potential to develop.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

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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