2021-22 International Reviews: Chicago Cubs
Few teams have as many intriguing breakout prospect candidates at the lower levels as the Cubs, a product of recent draft picks, international signings and a slew of trades. One of those young players, Dominican shortstop Cristian Hernandez, is already among the Top 100 Prospects, with the upside to rise significantly higher on that list. Under vice president of international scouting Louie Eljaua, the 2021 International Scout of the Year award winner, the Cubs signed three players to bonuses of at least $1 million, with an intriguing group of mid-range and sleeper players beyond them.
Top Of The Class
The Cubs have two of the highest profile signings ever to come out of Panama in their farm system with catcher Miguel Amaya (signed in 2015) and shortstop Reggie Preciado, a 2019 signing of the Padres who came to the Cubs via trade after the 2020 season. Catcher Adan Sanchez topped all of them with a $1.5 million bonus he got from the Cubs when the 2021-22 international signing period opened in January 2022. Sanchez has a ton of baseball experience, representing Panama in several international tournaments, including the Little League World Series where he hit a home run with current Cubs manager David Ross calling the game for ESPN. Sanchez is a baseball rat whose intelligence and instincts for the game are evident, with an offensive profile that stands out for a catcher. He has a chance to develop into a strong, physical power hitter for a catcher, making consistent hard contact now with a mature approach for his age. He also has a plus arm, good hands and footwork to be able to stick behind the plate, though he also has experience at third base. Sanchez could get some time at third base to get more at-bats, but he's a long-term catcher and should get the majority of his reps behind the plate during his pro debut in the 2022 Dominican Summer League.
After signing Cristian Hernandez last year, the Cubs followed up this year by signing his younger brother, Dominican shortstop Alexis Hernandez, for $1.3 million. Alexis isn't as advanced of a hitter compared to his brother at the same age, but he has the athleticism to play in the middle of the field with a chance to be a power/speed threat. He's a plus-plus runner and generates easy power for his age with more juice likely coming as he fills out his projectable 6-foot-2 frame. Hernandez has a chance to stick at shortstop, while others think he could flip over to second base or take advantage of his speed in center field.
One of the more advanced hitters in the class, Dominican shortstop Jefferson Rojas, signed with the Cubs for $1 million. He consistently performed well against live pitching, using a compact, sound swing from the right side with occasional pull-side home run power and more upside with strength to come as he fills out his lean 6-foot-1 frame. An offensive-minded infielder, Rojas is a solid-average runner who has improved his defense over the past year to increase his chance of sticking at shortstop, though third or second base could be landing spots for him.
Names To Know
Josefrailin Alcantara, OF, Dominican Republic: Alcantara is a strong, physical 6-foot-2 center fielder with big tools, with his speed and arm both grading out at least plus, with impressive raw power for his age as well. It's a power-over-hit profile with a chance to stay in center field, though given his build, Alcantara could end up in right field if his speed backs up as he gets older.
Carlos Altuve, C, Venezuela: With the Morel and Hernandez brothers in the system, the Cubs added another sibling group to the pipeline with Altuve, the brother of Cubs third baseman/outfielder Brayan Altuve. While Brayan signed as a catcher and now is moving around to different positions, Carlos projects more as a long-term catcher who receives well with soft hands, a good arm and athleticism that's evident behind the plate. He's a solid hitter for his age with gap power who has represented Venezuela in international competition as well.
Freylin Silverio, RHP, Dominican Republic: Silverio has starter traits with his projectable 6-foot-3 frame, three-pitch mix and mechanics. He's a long-limbed pitcher who has touched 91 mph with the strength projection to be throwing in the mid 90s. Silverio's best pitch is a curveball that flashes plus potential, with a changeup rounding out his arsenal as his third pitch.
Eilzaul Chalas, SS, Dominican Republic: Chalas is a switch-hitting middle infielder who stood out early on with his performance at a Dominican Prospect League showcase in Chicago, spreading line drives around the field. His speed and arm strength grade out average to solid-average, with a chance to stick at shortstop or a possible flip across to second base.
Daniel Benschop, OF, Aruba: Benschop is the first player the Cubs have signed from Aruba. He's 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with a lot of room left to fill out, spending time at shortstop and the outfield as an amateur and currently in center field. There's a chance for his tools to pop later once he gets stronger, as he's still physically behind a lot of his peers from the Dominican Republic, with the athleticism and potential to play in the middle of the field that makes him intriguing.
The Cubs signed Yoanis Aleksandrov out of Bulgaria. Aleksandrov had moved to Italy, where he was training as a baseball player before coming to south Florida and training with former major league pitcher Carlos Castillo. That's where the Cubs scouted Aleksandrov, who stands out for his physicality at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, bat speed and strength from the right side, all of which leads him to punish the ball when he squares it up. He has some things to iron out with his swing, but his raw power for his age stands out. Aleksandrov spent time behind the plate as an amateur, though an outfield corner seems more likely for him.