2023 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects Chat

Kyle Glaser: Hey everyone, hope you had a good weekend. I look forward to chatting about the Cubs with you all. Let’s get started.

Greg (central IL):

     Curious to get your thoughts on Kilian at #10. I’m less concerned about his loss of control last year than I am his inability to miss bats. What does he need to do to improve upon that low SwStr%?

Kyle Glaser: Kilian’s inability to miss bats this year was product of his loss of control. He’s missed plenty of bats with his ability to manipulate his fastball and move it around the strike zone, but he lost that ability to locate this year and his quality of strikes declined dramatically. The difference between 95 over the heart of the plate and 95 on the corner at the knees is massive. It’s not about stuff with Kilian. It’s about rediscovering his control and command to hit his spots and throw quality strikes again.

Warren (New London):

     While it was hardly a breakout season, Cole Roederer held his own at AA after missing a lot of development time. Is there still hope for him?

Kyle Glaser: A lot still has to happen for Roederer to project as a big leaguer. The way he finished in September (.277/.351/.631, 7 HR in 18 G) was certainly promising. At the same time, he still has to show he can stay healthy, be consistent with his swing for an extended period and improve his defense in left field. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot of things that have to happen.

Greg (central IL):

     In my opinion, Jordan Wicks looked a whole lot better than the results would indicate this past year. How much do you believe in that pitch mix that continues to grow (now at 6ish pitches)?

Kyle Glaser: Evaluators believe in it in the sense Wicks could be a decent No. 5 starter. It’s mostly all average stuff except for the changeup (which has been more 55-60 in pro ball than the 70 it was in college) and he shows a good feel for pitching. At the same time, there’s also a real concern he’s going to start getting hit harder once he starts facing better competition, which we saw happen in his brief Double-A stint. He’s a lefty with a deep pitch mix and a good feel for pitching, all of which are good traits. It’s just more in line with a No. 5 starter, which is something every team needs and shouldn’t be discounted or dismissed.

Warren (New London):

     Pete Crow-Armstrong hit very well at South Bend after a slow start, but his “discerning eye for the strike zone” largely disappeared. How worried are you about that? He’s clearly the guy in this system right now, but I wish I could be as optimistic about the strike zone judgment as your writeup was.

Kyle Glaser: Crow-Armstrong’s elevated strikeout rate when he got to South Bend was a function of him adjusting to better pitching. His strikeout rate was 28.3% his first two months at South Bend and dropped to 20.8% his final two months there. He went through an adjustment period, figured it out and got back to his best self. It’s exactly the type of adjustment you want to see. There’s not really any concern about his strike-zone judgement, especially with the way he finished.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Always look forward to your chats. Thanks. Brennan Davis didn’t play baseball until his senior year of high school. That made his learning curve more difficult. The fact that he can’t stay on the field healthy only makes it more so. Madrigal has had problems staying healthy as well. So question is, will Brennan ever stay healthy enough to play and develop? Also the Cubs keep getting mentioned as being in the competition for one of the remaining free agent SS players. Guessing that’d move Hoerner to 2B and Madrigal out of luck. How do you see this playing out for these younger guys as the Cubs strive to become competitive again for the playoffs?

Kyle Glaser: Thanks Ken. Whether Davis can stay healthy enough to stay on the field is the million dollar question. You certainly hope so because he’s a talented player and you never want to see injuries sidetrack anyone’s career. No one, even the Cubs, knows for sure. As for Madrigal, the answer to your question is yes. If the Cubs go out and sign Correa or Swanson, that would move Hoerner to 2B and Madrigal out of the projected future lineup. As for the Cubs striving to become competitive again, their future outlook is significantly brighter if, say, Carlos Correa is their starting shortstop. That’s really what matters – making the team better. How it affects the younger guys is kind of secondary.

Toy (New York):

     Cade Horton looked unstoppable in the CWS but he had a mixed season overall (4.86 ERA), and the Cubs’ top draft picks of late have been underwhelming – Jordan Wicks, Ed Howard, Ryan Jensen. Do you actually think the Cubs got it right with Cade Horton despite his limited track record – he was injured in 2021 – or is this possibly the Cubs buying high?

Kyle Glaser: There is definitely a real possibility that Horton won’t be able to replicate his CWS dominance over a full season and that the Cubs bought high. At the same time, there is also a real possibility that Horton during the CWS was the real version of him after moving further away from Tommy John surgery – in which case, the Cubs probably bought low given he received an underslot bonus. It was a risky pick in the top 10 because no one really knows if Horton can maintain that over a full season. Seeing if he can next year will be one of the more interesting storylines to watch in the Cubs farm system in 2023.

Brad (Baltimore):

     What do you think the future looks like for James Triantos? He started off hot last year and then cooled down. Will he end up at second or third?

Kyle Glaser: Triantos is more likely to end up at first base. He does not move well in the infield at all. The 100% outcome is Ty France – a short 1B who can really hit. But there is also a real chance he ends up like Michael Chavis, another short, bat-first infielder who had to move to first and never hit enough. There’s some promising things with Triantos’ bat, but he’s got a long way to go and the profile will be tough.

Frederick Gergits (Boston):

     Hi Kyle, thanks for the chat! I was wondering if you foresaw potential breakouts from lower minor pitchers like Drew Gray or Porter Hodge. Do either of them have the upside to be future top 10 guys?

Kyle Glaser: Drew Gray had Tommy John surgery in spring training and didn’t pitch last year. Porter Hodge was a pleasant surprise, even to the Cubs. I can definitely see a scenario where both eventually end up in the Cubs Top 10, but a lot has to happen. For starters, Gray has to come back healthy and Hodge needs to refine a third pitch (his FB-SL combo is legit, though).

Scotty (Champaign, IL):

     I’m surprised to see guys like Amaya and Killian over players like Owen Cassie and James Triantos. Care to shed some light on why Cassie and Triantos didn’t make the list? Thanks!

Kyle Glaser: Amaya and Kilian both have similar upside to Caissie and are further up the ladder (average regular/No. 4 starter). Caissie isn’t far off the top 10, but he was pretty firmly behind Amaya and Kilian. Triantos wasn’t really in the Top 10 conversation, in the minds of either Cubs officials or opposing evaluators. The defense is bad and there are real profile issues. He’s in the 15-20 group of the system, as you’ll see when you get your Prospect Handbook.

Antonio (Yucatán, México):

     How do you see the future of Reivaj García in the organization? He recently won the batting title and was the hits leader of the Liga Invernal Mexicana playing third base for the Leones. Also, do you think Manuel Rodríguez has a chance to become the Cubs closer? Thank you.

Kyle Glaser: Garcia isn’t really on the radar right now. He’s got good contact skills, but there’s very little impact in the bat and he hasn’t played much. He’s going to have to prove he can produce over a full season before he really enters the prospect picture. As for Rodriguez, he has to stay healthy and throw strikes – two things he’s struggled to do so far.

Brendan (Boston, MA):

     It seems as if the Cubs are starting to turn the corner a bit when it comes to pitching development. Is there an org-wide philosophy they’re focusing on there? (Working the east-west sides of the strike zone with whirlies/changeups/sinkers). Or is it more just about investing more resources into arms recently?

Kyle Glaser: It’s a little bit of both – they’ve acquired some high-quality arms in the draft and in trades and Craig Breslow gets a lot of positive reviews for how he’s revamped a lot of the organization’s pitching infrastructure. At the same time, what will ultimately determine if it was successful or not is how these guys perform in the majors. We’re still a few years out from that and being able to conclusively say the Cubs pitching development turned the corner or not.

Brian (ORD):

     Moises Ballesteros hit well in the ACL and was one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. Was close to making the list? How is he behind the plate?

Kyle Glaser: Ballesteros is a big boy with a lot of power and really performed well offensively for his age last year. The bat speed, the plate discipline, the approach, the power – it’s all there for him to keep hitting. The second part of your question is why he’s not in the Top 10. His defense is really, really bad behind the plate. There’s zero lateral mobility, his hands draw mixed reviews at best and the effort level is not good. No one – and I truly mean no one – outside of the Cubs org thinks he will remain a catcher. He projects to be a DH only at this point, but he does have the offensive potential to make that work. A lot is going to depend on how he maintains his body as he matures.

Greg Z “IvyFutures” (Omaha, NE):

     Kyle, appreciate you time. I have to ask about Jordan Wicks. Wicks debuted his new slider, curveball, and cutter last year along with an improved 4s FB. He had some success in AA and the peripherals on the season look solid to strong (23.1% K%-BB%, .235 BAA). He has pedigree as well. I was a bit shocked to see Caleb Kilian slotted in ahead of him. And I totally appreciate some optimism with this line in Kilian’s report “Cubs officials identified the problem with his lower half and believe they can fix it, but acknowledge they have concerns.”, but with Cubs officials even expressing some level of concern, I’m curious what about Kilian or Wicks led to the order lining up like it did?

Kyle Glaser: Kilian vs. Wicks at No. 10 was a close call. Ultimately, in the eyes of evaluators both inside and outside the organization, Kilian got the nod because his ceiling is higher and he’s further up the ladder. He has better pure stuff and physicality than Wicks and, as good as Wicks was this year across High-A and Double-A, it’s worth remembering that Kilian was even better at those levels only a year ago. Kilian still has No. 4 starter potential, while Wicks is firmly in the No. 5 starter bucket. That said, if Kilian doesn’t get his control back to where it was, it won’t be a surprise to see Wicks end up having the more productive MLB career.

Chris (Bartlett, IL):

     How many Cubs make the top 100 list in 2023?

Kyle Glaser: Pete Crow-Armstrong is a slam dunk. Brennen Davis and Kevin Alcantara both have a shot, but it’s hard to say without definitively knowing all of my colleagues’ feelings about them.

Joe R (Newport News, VA):

     I see discouraging similarities between Cade Horton and Hayden Simpson (Cubs #1 pick in 2010) – college right-handed pitchers who rode well-timed hot streaks up the draft boards. Does Horton have more than his CWS heroics in his past?

Kyle Glaser: Horton does. He was one of the top high school players in the 2020 draft class and was considered a potential top two-rounds pick. The only reason he wasn’t drafted was because of how strong his commitment to Oklahoma was. This isn’t really a Simpson deal. Simpson came out of nowhere and no one outside of the Cubs thought he was that good. Horton has been well-regarded for years and just fell off the public radar because he had Tommy John surgery.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Matt Mervis get a shot this year? Or do the cubs sign someone like Trey Mancini as a stop gap for one year? Thanks

Kyle Glaser: Mervis will get a shot. It still wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign Mancini for a year. The question with Mervis is how he’ll handle lefties, so signing a veteran, righthanded-hitting first baseman who can start against lefties and then DH against righties while Mervis starts at 1B against them wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Trent (Springfield):

     Owen Caissie and Reggie Preciado are two guys who were popular names for breakouts but seemed to have slipped somewhat. Where do you see these guys standing now, and what would we need to see from each to warrant renewed optimism?

Kyle Glaser: Owen Caissie is still a good prospect. He got off to a slow start at South Bend but hit .273/.368/.443 after the first month. He takes good at-bats, has big power, is young and still growing into his body – there is a lot to like. Him dropping out of the Cubs Top 10 is more a function of how much talent they’ve added to their system, it’s not him slipping. Reggie Preciado is a different story. He was getting blown away by 90 mph fastballs down the middle and just did not show anything to suggest he’s going to hit. He was just completely overmatched by pitchers at the lowest levels of the minors. It’s not good.

Zac (NY):

     Last year I asked you a question comparing Kelenic to Crow-Armstrong and you said, “Crow-Armstrong is a really promising young player, but he’s a tier (or two) below Kelenic.” How much, if at all, has your impression changed after Crow-Armstrong’s 2022?

Kyle Glaser: A lot. The strength gains and offensive adjustments that Crow-Armstrong has made – and the offensive adjustments that Kelenic has failed to make – have really altered their futures. It’s important to note that PCA still has yet to play above the Class A levels and has a long way to go, but he’s trending in the right direction. His outlook has changed from a potential No. 8 or 9-type hitter who played great defense in center field to a potential impact leadoff hitter at the top of the lineup with the same great defense.

Michael Smith (Schaumburg, IL):

     Anybody’s to get excited about on the AZL rookie league besides Hernandez, Pedro Ramirez had a good year but anybody else?

Kyle Glaser: Hernandez, Pedro Ramirez and Moises Ballesteros were really the only three that stood out in the ACL. A few guys put up numbers and some other guys showed you a flash here or there, but it was really just Hernandez, Ramirez and Ballesteros that generated any real excitement.

Noah (LA):

     Horton seems destined to be a reliever or, as you stated, a mid-rotation starter. Why did the Cubs choose him over more interesting prospects like Lesko and Barriera, given that they aren’t that close to competing?

Kyle Glaser: Keep in mind Horton signed for below slot, so that’s a big part of the reason why. The Cubs clearly had a draft strategy in mind and wanted to be able to go overslot for a later pick, as they did for Jackson Ferris. Secondly, while there is bullpen risk for Horton, saying he’s “destined” to be a reliever is overstating it. He’s a physical, athletic righthander with two plus pitches and one of either the CB or CH should be a sufficient third pitch with more development. He throws strikes and he’s shown he can hold his stuff. It’s going to come down to health and showing he can hold up over a full professional season, which is undoubtedly big, but the answer to that question isn’t “no. It’s “We don’t know.” Which, it should be noted, is also true of Lesko and Barriera.

Whiski (San Francisco):

     What have you seen of Owen Caissie in ’21 to take him out of the Cubs Top 10? And how much further do you think his rank will fall?

Kyle Glaser: I mentioned this earlier, but want to repeat it. Caissie remains a very good prospect. He’s no longer in the Top 10 because the Cubs added talent and it pushed him out. It’s not anything he did bad or wrong. He’s a good player and there is no reason to expect his rank to fall.

Daniel (San Francisco):

     Is Christian Franklin still an interesting prospect even after missing all of ’22 with an injury?

Kyle Glaser: Franklin wasn’t in the Cubs Top 30 last year and he won’t be again this year. He was a good college player but he was never a guy anyone inside or outside the org considered one of their best prospects. We’ll see if that changes, but that’s been the case since he was drafted.

Marcus (Boston):

     Do evaluators view Alexander Canario’s 2022 as a breakout, or is he still all power with risk? From the outside it looked like he improved his contact and swing decisions as the season went on.

Kyle Glaser: Canario definitely improved as a hitter over the course of the year. He really improved at not swinging at breaking balls out of the zone and showed the ability to make adjustments fairly quickly. He still projects to be a low-average slugger, but there is more confidence now he’ll make enough contact to get to his power, whereas before it was a stretch to say he would. That all said, the broken ankle and dislocated shoulder he suffered in the Dominican Winter League are obviously concerning. We have to see what he looks like when he comes back.

Navin (Pasadena):

     Considering Kilian’s command struggles at both AAA and the big leagues, I was surprised to see him still in the top 10 and Jordan Wicks left off. What has Wicks behind Kilian for you?

Kyle Glaser: I mentioned this earlier, but will repeat it here. It’s important to remember as good as Wicks was this year, Kilian was even better at the same levels a year ago. Kilian has better stuff and more physicality as well. Both are good back-end pitching prospects, but Kilian is a tick better and is higher up the ladder, too.

Scott (Boston):

     Is the power Yohendrick Pinango showed sustainable and is there more he can tap into? Does he project as an everyday OF?

Kyle Glaser: Pinango added power last year, but at an uneven tradeoff with his contact and on-base skills. You don’t want him to sustain what he did last year. His swing got more violent and he started getting overaggressive and expanding the zone. Despite his career-high home run total last year, his average exit velocity actually dropped from 2021 to 2022 because he had so many more mishit balls and poor quality contact. He needs to back to that smooth, high-contact stroke he showed prior to this year and let power develop with natural strength gains – not do what he did last year.

Paul (North Side):

     Does Ben Leeper project as a high leverage reliever? What does he throw, and how do his pitches rate?

Kyle Glaser: At his best, Leeper shows that potential, yes. His fastball will sit 95-98 and his power slider in the upper-80s is a plus pitch. The issue with him is health. He’s long struggled to stay on the mound for an extended period and he frequently needs 3-4 days between appearances. The stuff is there, but the ability to throw back-to-back days or three times in four days is a necessity to be a high-leverage reliever, and his health makes it questionable he can do that.

Gregg (Chicago):

     It sounds like Cristian Hernandez is no longer thought of as a potential “uber-prospect.” Is that a fair assessment? Do you think the odds of him blossoming into a prospect on the value of guys like Acuna, Tatis, Soto, J-Rod etc. have plummeted to near zero after 2022, or is there still time for that kind of outcome? If not, what’s his most likely trajectory?

Kyle Glaser: Hernandez is a good prospect but yes, it’s fair to say he’s not in that tier. Acuna, Tatis, Soto and J-Rod are some of the best players in baseball – those guys are very, very rare and it’s not really fair to knock Hernandez for not being at that level. He’s got a chance to be an above-average everyday player who hits for power while staying in the dirt. He has the ability to play shortstop, it’s just a question of whether he outgrows the position and has to move to third base. Either way, he projects to be a good player.

William (Somerville):

     What does Triantos need to improve on to leap into t100 territory? Felt like he had a good year in A ball, but a little underwhelming with all the hype.

Kyle Glaser: I talked about Triantos earlier, but I do need to say it seems like he’s being unfairly measured against the “hype” you mention. You’ll remember we didn’t have him in the Cubs Top 10 last year, either. It’s important to separate hype from reality, and that’s a big part what we do at BA. Nothing has really changed about Triantos – he’s a good young hitter with solid plate discipline, good contact skills and a chance to grow into power. He’s also a poor defender who needs to find a position. That was true at this time last year and it’s still true today. What others may be saying, inaccurately, is their problem, and the kid shouldn’t be measured against that.

Chauncey (Centennial):

     How far off of the top 10 are Kevin made and Alexander Canario and what are you hearing about their potential future upside?

Kyle Glaser: Canario is in the early teens, so not far off. Made is in the early 20s, a decent way off. Both have things to like (Canario – power, Made – shortstop defense) but both have contact and approach shortcomings they’re going to have to work on. Both improved year over year, so at least they’re moving in the right direction.

GoCubsGo (Indiana):

     What should we expect from Jordan Nwogu in 2023 and will he make the upcoming 40 man roster decision a tough one?

Kyle Glaser: Probably not. Nwogu is strong and he has power, but he’s not great defensively and he’s not a very good hitter. He’s not in the Cubs Top 30 and no one in the Cubs organization thought he should be.

One Million Cubs (Madison, WI):

     What’s happening with Cristian Hernandez that he ranks only 7th?

Kyle Glaser: Hernandez is still a good prospect. The swing and approach were just less refined than expected. He still has plenty of upside, there’s just more than expected that has to happen for him to fulfill it.

Kevin Klanderman (Springboro, Ohio):

     Your notes say that Matt Mervis was projected to go in rounds 6-10 in the 2020 draft. Based on Matt’s current scouting grades (with his “Power” rating among the best at 60), should he have been projected to go in a higher draft round?

Kyle Glaser: Based on everything we’ve seen so far, yes, Mervis absolutely should have gone in the top five rounds of the 2020 draft. Compare him to some of the other senior signs who went in the second round, and he looks pretty good next to them.

Tom B (Bountiful Utah):

     Projected lineup for 2026. Where does Christian Hernandez fall with his debut?

Kyle Glaser: Hernandez is talented, he’s just very young and going to take time. Saying he’ll be an everyday starter in the majors at 22 years old would be aggressive. I think he’ll need another year beyond that, but at the same time, if everything clicks, he has the ability to expedite that timeframe and get there. He’s talented, no two ways about it.

Stan (Kalamazoo):

     Was Bryce Ball anywhere close to the top 10? Top 30 at least? Does he project to hit enough to be a big league first baseman someday?

Kyle Glaser: Bryce Ball was not near the top 10. He’s also not in the top 30. He doesn’t project to hit enough to be a big league first baseman, either for average or power.

Kyle Glaser: All right everyone, that will do it for today. Thanks for coming out, and have a great rest of your week.

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