So just what is a prospect?
I’ll never forget what Cubs minor league manager Mark Johnson told me when I asked him about “prospects”. “To me, they’re all prospects,” he said. And in a way, he’s right. Just look at the recent Hall of Fame class—the first overall pick and a guy drafted in a round that no longer exists.
And as a minor league manager, its Johnson’s job is to develop all the players and help them achieve their dream of playing in the majors. I’ve kinda adopted his belief but let’s not get crazy, the third-string catcher hitting .125 in A-ball probably doesn’t have much of a chance to reach the majors. As a matter of fact, most of the over 200 players in the Cubs system won’t make it.
Cubs fans have been spoiled the last three years. Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber have bashed their way through the minors and are poised to make history on the North Side. And while the Cubs system currently lacks a big name prospect atop of national lists, you can rest assured its stacked with depth and solid players that will help the organization for years to come.
So what represents the Cubs “Top Prospects” and how is that determined? Its all about the person making the list. You round up the usual suspects—top draft picks, international players with big signing bonuses, and players excelling in the minors. You start to whittle that down, rank by position, and after weeding out the hand full of “sure things,” determine a Top 30 or 50 or however many you want.
And what does it all mean—well actually, nothing. Because you can do this exercise at the mid-point of the season and at the end, and your list may not change much at the top, but the rest of it will have a different look because you’re swayed by in-season performance. I’ll give you my attempt at this futile exercise later this spring.
I’m an avid viewer of MiLB-TV and last year all four Cubs full-season affiliates had their home games live-streamed. Throw in the handful of games Eugene played in Hillsboro and a large portion of the Cubs stateside players made an appearance.
One thing I can tell you about the Cubs’ minor leaguers is they are quality people as well as talented baseball players. I’ve found the players to be professional, intelligent, and engaging, whether a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent. The support staff the Cubs have surrounded their young talent with is some of the best in the game, from scouts to instructional training in Mesa.
SS Gleyber Torres, 2015 1st round pick Ian Happ, 3B Jeimer Candelario, C Willson Contreras, outfielders Albert Almora, Billy McKinney, and Eddy Martinez, and pitcher Duane Underwood have all appeared on national top 100 lists, and rightfully so, but most have been ranked in the 50-100 range, and even Almora and Contreras are considered long shots to reach Wrigley this season.
The Cubs have a long list of starting pitching prospects but because none of them except Dylan Cease have a fastball in the upper 90s, they don’t recevie the publicity and will need to prove themselves at every level. Cubs seem to be developing pitchers that throw strikes, aren’t afraid to pitch to contact, and can execute their pitches no matter what stage of the game.
The position players are led by a long list of athletic outfielders including Eloy Jimenez, a 19-year-old Dominican who played last year at Eugene. Cubs continue to develop catching depth and dipped into the international market last summer for another wave of talented middle infielders.
The player profiles are designed to give you a look at not only the names that appear atop the Cubs prospects lists, but the rest of the quality depth, especially on the mound. I’ll give my thoughts on the player, recap his 2015 season, highlight his tools and what’s in store for 2016. Enjoy.