Chicago Cubs Midseason Top 10 Prospects
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Two years ago, after years of breaking themselves down and building themselves back up, the Cubs went for the kill. They dealt away Gleyber Torres as a part of a package to land closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees. That move helped put the team over the edge on the road to their first World Series title since 1918.
A year later they went for it again, trading away top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the White Sox to land lefty Jose Quintana from the White Sox. The move wasn’t as successful this time around, and the Cubs fell to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Those two moves coupled with graduations of players like Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Albert Almora in the last two years have left the Cubs with one of most best cores in the big leagues but also one of baseball’s thinnest farm systems.
Righthander Adbert Alzolay was among the system’s bright spots before an injury cut his season short. Beyond him, the Cubs’ biggest riser is easily catcher Miguel Amaya, who’s put together a standout season in his first taste of full-season ball. He’s improved his plate discipline, which has allowed him to tap into his raw power.
The Cubs’ minor leagues are in a definite state of transition, but they will gladly take it if the big league team continues to be among the best in the majors. At 55-38 and in first place in the National League Central at the All-Star break, that’s exactly where they are.
1. Miguel Amaya, C
low Class A South Bend
After showing potential in 2017 with short-season Eugene, Amaya’s all-around game has taken big steps forward this year. He built a reputation as a free-swinger but has started putting together better at-bats in the Midwest League. He’s hitting for both average and power now, with 12 home runs for South Bend, and earned a selection to the Futures Game. Amaya has been a solid receiver this year and shown off an above-average arm that could be further amplified by improved mechanics on his release and transfer.
2. Adbert Alzolay, RHP
Triple-A Iowa (Disabled list)
Alzolay was very close to a big league callup before a strained lat muscle ended his season in late May. He showed the same dynamic three-pitch mix that helped him rush up the Cubs top prospect list after last season, and was working at Triple-A to iron out his fastball command. The organization particularly praises his dedication to improving and keeping himself in peak physical condition.
3. Aramis Ademan, SS
high Class A Myrtle Beach
Ademan entered the season as the Carolina League’s second youngest player, and it’s shown through the first half of the year. Still, there are reasons for optimism. He came into the season in outstanding shape, and now the Cubs are preaching to him about process rather than results. They want him to become less pull-happy and still believe the talent will shine through when all is said and done despite a .221/.312/.301 slash line.
4. Nico Hoerner, SS
low Class A South Bend
The Cubs have been incredibly successful at drafting college hitters in recent years, and they went back to that strategy this year when they made Hoerner their first-round selection out of Stanford. Hoerner bolstered his resume with two strong summers swinging wood, and finished his amateur career with a strong junior season. Hoerner doesn’t project to hit for much power, but the offensive pedigree to be an everyday player is there even if he has to move to second base. His pro debut was cut short, however, due to a ligament strain in his left elbow suffered diving for a ball. He will miss the rest of the season.
5. David Bote, UTIL
An underappreciated player until recently, Bote rose the Cubs’ ranks thanks to stellar performances at the upper levels as well as a star turn in the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Those seasons were underpinned by exit velocities that placed him among the game’s elite. Second base is his natural position, but Bote has made himself versatile enough to play all over the diamond and has seen an increasing amount of time at third base since reaching the majors.
6. Alex Lange, RHP
high Class A Myrtle Beach
Drafted in the first round in 2017 out of Louisiana State, Lange skipped low Class A and headed straight to the Carolina League to start his first full season as a pro. He earned excellent marks for his curveball coming out of college, but is learning to round out his arsenal as a pro. His velocity was down early in the season, and his herky-jerky delivery was making it easy for hitters to pick up his curveball and changeup. He’s changed the grip on his changeup, and both offspeed pitches could be above-average with further refinement and consistency.
7. Keegan Thompson, RHP
Thompson has zoomed to Double-A just a year after the Cubs made him their third-round pick out of Auburn. Thompson’s fastball sits in the low 90s, and the Cubs are working with him to add more movement to his two-seam fastball. Both his curveball and slider flash above-average, but need more consistency. The Cubs are focused on getting him to induce more grounders as he moves up the ladder.
8. Brendon Little, LHP
low Class A South Bend
The Cubs popped Little with their first-round selection last year, but his velocity has backed up as a pro and his fastball has been sitting in the 89-91 mph range. Besides rebuilding his fastball, the Cubs also are working with Little to polish his curveball into an out pitch and helping him refine his changeup. He’s got a way to go and is currently 3-7, 5.05 in the Midwest League.
9. Oscar De La Cruz, RHP
After being held to just 56.2 innings in 2017, De La Cruz took the entire offseason to rest and let his body heal. His hopes of pitching a full season in 2018 ended, however, when he was suspended at midseason for 80 games after testing positive for a masking agent. Prior to his suspension, De La Cruz worked this year to find a consistent release point on both of his offspeed pitches and throwing quality strikes. The raw stuff is certainly there, but the performance wasn’t (6-7, 5.24) and his continued inability to stay on the mound is overshadowing his raw abilities.
10. Richard Gallardo, RHP
Signed 2019 contract
Gallardo ranked as the No. 6 prospect available on this year’s international market, and the Cubs snapped him up on July 2. He already sits between 89-93 mph with his fastball as a 16-year-old and couples the pitch with a downer curveball in the mid 70s. Those weapons, plus big arm speed and a projectable frame, helped him vault immediately into the Cubs’ Top 10.
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• INF David Bote has improved his defensive versatility and has produced consistently stellar exit velocity, leading to a few stints in the major leagues, where he’s hit .310/.415/.452 in 20 games.
• RHP Cory Abbott has refined his changeup and added a curveball as a pro and currently stands as the organization’s strikeout leader.
• Infielder Andruw Monasterio has caught scouts’ eyes for his combination of athleticism and burgeoning power. His batting eye has improved while his strikeout rate has stayed stable at high Class A Myrtle Beach.
• RHP Jose Albertos has big raw stuff, but he simply hasn’t found the strike zone often enough for it to play. He issued 32 walks in 13 innings with low Class A South Bend before being sent back to short-season Eugene.
• RHP Thomas Hatch has blanched at his first taste of his of the upper levels. He’s still got impressive stuff, but he’s been hittable inside the strike zone at times and wild outside of it at other times. He is 6-4, 4.17 at Double-A Tennessee.
• SS Nico Hoerner was shut down for the season after suffering his ligament strain. He will be held out of baseball activities through August and then begin rehabbing in Arizona.
• RHP Adbert Alzolay will miss the rest of the season with a strained lat muscle, which comes just as he was on the cusp of a major league callup.
• LHP Justin Steele is recovering from Tommy John surgery but should be ready to go sometime toward the end of the minor league season.
• C/1B Victor Caratini is back up on the Cubs bench and has hit .274 with a .337 on-base percentage while splitting time between catcher and first base.