Chicago Cubs 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat
Following the release of today's 2021 Chicago Cubs prospects list, Kyle Glaser answered questions below.
Kyle Glaser: Hey everybody, thanks for joining me for the Cubs chat today. Look forward to talking baseball with you all. Let's get started.
- Awesome list! Would you say Ed Howard and Miguel Amaya are borderline top 100 guys?
Kyle Glaser: Amaya more than Howard. Ed Howard is a very talented young shortstop, but by the time he takes the field in 2021, it will have been nearly two years since he played in an official game. There are some questions about how much he's going to hit, which he's going to have to answer before he moves into Top 100 consideration. Amaya is on the cusp.
John Levin (L.I., N.Y.):
- Cole Roederer ranked #6 on last year's Cubs list. Did you receive intel from the alternate training site that caused him to drop out of the Top 10?
Kyle Glaser: There are two parts to this. The first is the steps Adbert Alzolay took in the majors and the growth of Christopher Morel at the alternate site pushed them up over Roederer, and that's about what they did right more than anything Roederer did wrong. Add Ed Howard into the mix and that pushes Roederer down three spots to No. 9. The second part, though, is Roederer needed to show significant improvements to his approach and did not do that. At instructional league it was the same deal as last year - swinging from his shoes, all pull, uphill, lot of cheating to catch up to velocity and, as a result, a lot of holes in his swing. You wanted to see at least a little bit of an improvement in his approach, and it didn't happen. No one I spoke to in the Cubs organization or any opposing scouts felt Roederer was one of their 10 best prospects.
- I notice you had Kyle Schwarber in your projected 2024 roster. Didn't he get non-tenderer? What are your thoughts on Kohl Franklin? Starting caliber OF or backup OF? Would you say Kohl Franklin, Miguel Amaya and Ed Howard are all borderline top 100 prospects? Or is Franklin more far off? Thanks awesome list!!!
Kyle Glaser: Schwarber isn't listed on the 2024 lineup. He was non-tendered and is no longer in the organization. Franklin is a pitcher, not an outfielder. He shows a lot of promising ingredients and the Cubs think he could be a mid-rotation starter, but it will take time. Amaya is a borderline Top 100 prospect. Howard isn't there yet but could be in a year. Franklin really isn't in the conversation at this point.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Of the pitchers moving from short season ball to class A in 2021, who are your favorites?
Kyle Glaser: Franklin technically got a start at South Bend at the end of 2019, but 2021 will mark his first full season at the Class A levels. I'm intrigued to see how he looks after another year of physical development and fine-tuning his breaking ball.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Pick a sleeper or two from the former Eugene team or the AZL Cubs.
Kyle Glaser: We'll see Yohendrick Pinango in the AZL this year. He's a very promising young hitter to keep an eye on. Don't sleep on Luis Verdugo. He was in the AZL in 2019 , shows a lot of promising traits as a hitter and had teams interested in him at the 2020 trade deadline.
- Hello Kyle, thanks for taking questions. I see that Kohl Franklin & Christopher Morel moved up on the list. I'm curious to see what caused them to move up the list?
Kyle Glaser: Hey Zak, my pleasure. Franklin moved up because of some of the growth he showed in 2020 (the Cubs kept close tabs on their pitching prospects and had detailed plans for them to pitch about a season's worth of innings remotely). The velo started ticking up, the breaking ball kept improving, the changeup was still advanced, the body and control were moving in the right direction. Just arrow up all the way around, although seeing it in a game environment will be key to know how much of it is real. As for Morel, just the fact the Cubs brought him to the alternate training site as one of the few low-level players they invited was telling, and the way he progressed over the course of camp facing Triple-A pitchers and guys with major league time was incredibly encouraging. He has a lot of tools and the way he developed over the course of camp, given his age and experience level relative to his peers, really increased the level of confidence he can be a solid major leaguer in time.
- How did Burl Carraway look at the alternate site? Is a 2021 debut a realistic expectation?
Kyle Glaser: The stuff was good, the control was below-average. He's going to have to throw more strikes to make his debut in 2021. It's possible and I'm not saying he can't do it, it's just what's going to have to happen.
Brennan Davis (Best Comp?):
- Thanks for chatting with us today! I broke out in a big way at LoA in 2019. How did I look at the Cubs alternate site in 2020? Is George Springer a good comp for the type of player I could become?
Kyle Glaser: Davis did some good things at the alternate site. He was one of the youngest players there and made a lot of strides in terms of understanding his swing, understanding how pitchers are going to attack him, what adjustments he needs to make at-bat to at-bat...it was a big learning curve facing upper-level pitchers and he handled it well. There are still things to work on - namely getting on time against good velocity, which is a biggie - but he's progressed and is moving in the right direction. George Springer is a bit much. Think more Jayson Werth, which is still a damn good player.
- Can you tell me what you saw or heard from instructs pertaining to Kevin Made? He sounds like a very toolsy young SS.
Kyle Glaser: The main thing with Made is he added about 10 pounds of muscle. He's still very young and has a long way to go, but he fared pretty well in a small sample at instructs and the strength gains were encouraging to see. He's definitely a player to watch this upcoming season in the AZL.
Hidden Gems (Not in the top 10):
- Hi Kyle, who are some of the Cubs prospects you're most excited about currently not in the top 10 that could break into it come 2021?
Kyle Glaser: You can find Cubs officials who think Luis Verdugo is already one of their top 10 prospects. Chris Clarke, Michael McAvene, Yohendrick Pinango and DJ Herz are some of the other top candidates to take a leap.
- The Projected 2024 shows Howard (not Baez) at SS. Is Howard projected to be better by then than Javy, or is the assumption that the Cubs won't be able to afford Baez after '21 when he becomes a free agent? Thanks!
Kyle Glaser: It's a reflection of the uncertainty surrounding whether the Cubs will keep Baez after 2021 (same goes for Bryant not being in the future lineup at 3B).
Navin (Pasadena, CA):
- How close is the gap between Marquez and Davis?
Kyle Glaser: You can find evaluators and front office officials who think they are 1A and 1B, but most have Marquez ahead of Davis. I could not find anyone who went Davis ahead. It was either Marquez or tied. So in that sense, Marquez is the clear No. 1, but as you'll see when you get your Prospect Handbooks, there's only a half-grade difference between the two of them. It's not a monumental gap.
Navin (Pasadena, CA):
- I have to ask - where would Christian Hernandez rank when he signs next month?
Kyle Glaser: I could see as high as 6. The 6-10 range is probably fair.
Joey (North Side):
- Marquez and Bryant for Trout. Who says no?
Kyle Glaser: The Angels.
Navin (Pasadena, CA):
- Thanks for the chat! How hard was it to get info on players who weren't at the alternate camp? And did you get meaningful updates on the younger Latin American players who might have stayed in their home country during the season (I'm thinking of guys like Gallardo, Quintero and Made who signed with fanfare in recent years)?
Kyle Glaser: This obviously was a difficult year because so many guys either didn't play at all or played very little in environments that don't come close to approximating a full, competitive, professional season. The fact that those three you mentioned were at instructional league helped, and speaking generally across all teams, some of the Latin American players who participated at Dominican instructs we were able to get updates on. We were actually able to get a good amount of updated information on guys. The question is sorting which of those updates are meaningful and/or sustainable.
- What have you heard on Josh Burgmann and where do you see his ceiling. Thanks!
Kyle Glaser: Burgmann didn't really get a whole lot of mention from either Cubs officials or outside evaluators. There's not a plus pitch in there so there is some question about how Burgmann will fare against upper-level hitters, but at the same time there are plenty of guys who make a living throwing three solid pitches for strikes. His move to full-season ball in 2021 will be telling.
- How does the industry as a whole view the Cubs' updates to their player dev infrastructure? Are they still lagging behind/catching up, or have they put themselves on par with some of the better orgs out there?
Kyle Glaser: The Cubs hired a lot of people who are very well-respected in the industry. At the same time, without a full minor league season, it's tough to really grade anyone on their progress. The 2021 season will be instructive as to where they are compared to the rest of MLB.
Ed Howard (Tim Anderson?):
- Thanks for the chat Kyle! I grew up a die hard Chicago White Sox fan and ended up being drafted by the crosstown rivals. Do I remind you of current White Sox SS Tim Anderson? We seem to be comparable athletically but maybe Tim has louder tools on offense while I have louder tools on defense. Is that fair?
Kyle Glaser: My pleasure. Howard isn't quite the explosive, plus-plus runner Anderson is. They're different types of athletes. Howard is more about body control and fluidity whereas Anderson is more explosive. It is fair to say Anderson is a better hitter than Howard projects to be while Howard projects to be the better defender. Anderson is a star-level talent and a lot of that is driven by his bat. There's a little more uncertainty about what Howard's bat will look like, which ultimately makes it hard to make that direct comparison.
- Of Davis, your report concludes he "has all the tools to become an everyday outfielder for the Cubs." Is it unreasonable to hope for something more than "everyday outfielder" from a #2 prospect?
Kyle Glaser: Ah, the eternal question of realistic upside. Does Davis have a chance to lock in and become an All-Star-caliber player? Yes. He's very talented and by all accounts has the intelligence and maturity it takes to transform raw tools into productive, standout skills. At the same time, we've studied this extensively and the very best farm systems in recent years generally have had around four All-Stars. Having 2-3 is a great outcome. Systems that aren't in the top 10 or so in their respective years rarely have one. Given that history and where the Cubs system ranks compared to its peers (it's getting better but it's not top 10), the only player with an All-Star level grade on him is Brailyn Marquez. All that said, it is not unreasonable to hope for more with Davis. I referenced Jayson Werth as a potential comp earlier, and he was an All-Star and middle-of-the-order cornerstone on top playoff contenders at his peak. It's certainly possible.
- Any update on Richard Gallardo? Also Keegan Thompson is listed as 'best control', but last year was 29th overall - has something changed? Last, any update on Justin Steele or Rafael Morel? Thanks!
Kyle Glaser: Gallardo flashed some velocity bumps and still has a good delivery. Have to see if he can maintain the velo bumps over a full season. Thompson fills up the strike zone and hits his spots better than anyone else in the Cubs system. His ability to do that at the alternate site was a big reason why the Cubs added him to their 40-man roster after the season. Steele showed a nice uptick in stuff pitching in relief at the alternate site, but he got hurt again (hamstring) and has to show he can stay healthy. The Cubs like him as a potential lefthanded reliever if he can stay on the mound. Rafael Morel has become kind of a boom or bust prospect in the Cubs eyes. He has more power than his brother did at the same age, but he's not quite as athletic as his brother was. He's going to be an interesting one to watch in 2021.
- Hey Kyle. Great list, as always. Just curious how close Cory Abbott was and would mind sharing some of your thoughts on him? I know he made the 40 man and I've got my fingers crossed that he has a chance to make the back end of the 2021 rotation. He seems ready to take on the work load and I think he's much more valuable as a starter as opposed to being placed in a relief role.
Kyle Glaser: I hated leaving Cory Abbott off of this list. He's pitched well everywhere he's been, he's durable and from a production standpoint, few in the Cubs system can match him. I've liked what I've seen from him in person and the scouts who aren't super high on him even acknowledge he's pitched well when they've seen him. Ultimately, there was just too much concern voiced by both Cubs officials and opposing scouts about if his stuff will play against major league hitters. Ultimately, a lot of people think he ends up in the spot starter/swingman/long reliever bucket. Now, even with those concerns, he's still No. 11 on the Cubs Top 30 (spoiler alert). You can't ignore what he's done so far and I think he gets to the majors and does enough to carve out a career for himself - which in the end, may very well be more than what a lot of guys on the list ahead of him do. I wouldn't doubt him for a minute.
- Been following Strumph all along. Chances he sticks at 2B and also chances he unseats your projected 2B starter, Hoerner (or maybe plays another position)?
Kyle Glaser: Very real chance Strumpf sticks at 2B and yes, there is a chance he unseats Hoerner. It's a bat-first profile all the way and we're talking playable defense at second, but that's enough. The more interesting development is Strumpf's arm strength has improved a little since college and the Cubs began getting him some reps at third base during instructional league. He's still a second baseman primarily, but if his arm strength improvements hold and he can handle third base, that opens up a lot of additional possibilities.
Navin (Pasadena, CA):
- Did anyone stand out at the fall instructs?
Kyle Glaser: Chase Strumpf was the biggest standout. He started showing some opposite-field power which was an exciting development. Ed Howard made a really positive first impression and Jordan Nwogu and Matt Mervis got some plaudits as well at the plate. On the pitching side, Manny Rodriguez showed some huge stuff and that he was fully healthy. Bailey Reid, another NDFA signing with Mervis, showed some impressive swing-and-miss stuff in relief.
Joseph (Toledo, OH):
- Brendon Davis, can he get to the majors by Sept 2021?
Kyle Glaser: That would be a big jump. Never say never, but we're talking about a newly-turned 21-year-old yet to play anything resembling a normal season above low Class A. I think it's going to be a little longer.
- Sorry, spellcheck goof, Brennen Davis
Kyle Glaser: I gotcha. No worries.
- Which prospects (Top 10 or not) are you keeping an eye on during the 2021 season? Do you have an off-the-run prospect you are especially interested in following?
Kyle Glaser: Keep an eye on Andy Weber and Yonathan Perlaza. Each show some good things. I'll be watching to see how they do in high Class A in 2021.
- Can you go over the catching depth in the system? Is all we need to know is Miguel Amaya and forget about everybody else?
Kyle Glaser: It's more like "Miguel Amaya and check back in a few years." Ronnier Quintero, Ethan Hearn and Brayan Altuve all have some promising aspects of their games. They are also mostly teenagers (Hearn turned 20 in August) who have yet to play above the very lowest levels of the minors and have a long, long way to go. Catchers take longer and the physical and mental grind of the position can sidetrack even the most promising young backstops. P.J. Higgins is still around. He might have a shot at an Erik Kratz-type career where he comes up at an older age and provides defense and leadership in a reserve/up-and-down role.
- Who are some likely MLB debut players during 2021? Anyone likely to see significant playing time? (I'm excluding Alzolay and Marquez here since they already debuted)
Kyle Glaser: If we're excluding Alzolay and Tyson Miller, who also debuted in 2020, Cory Abbott and Justin Steele are the ones with the best shot to have some type of regular roles on the Cubs roster. (Steele technically received his first callup in 2020 but didn't get into a game). Both should make their first MLB appearances and get the chance to show they belong in the majors. Given the Cubs are going to need pitching, keep an eye out for Keegan Thompson, Jack Patterson and possibly Manny Rodriguez at some point.
- In 2020, the Cubs only debuted Brailyn Marquez and Tyson Miller. Tell us more about Miller. Will he have a Wrigley bullpen role?
Kyle Glaser: He certainly has a chance to. Miller generates a ton of natural movement on his pitches and is hard to square up when he's going well. It's more soft contact than swings and misses, but it works. He's a starter by trade and it's certainly feasible he wins a rotation spot. Most just see his fastball-cutter combo working best in relief.
- With all this talk about Marquez maybe, someday, possibly, going to the bullpen, isn't is usually true that where there's smoke there's fire? What's your best guess- When he's 27, is Brailyn Marquez in the bullpen or rotation?
Kyle Glaser: Not necessarily. The list of players I've heard scouts say "I have him as a reliever" and who ended up being very good starters is a long one. It's mostly command concerns that cause that, when in reality a lot of times those guys can get better. Given the strides Marquez made over the course of the 2019 season, primarily with the way he finished at Myrtle Beach, I think you see enough with the command trending in the right direction to give him the benefit of the doubt. The strides need to continue though. He's not there yet, as we saw with his major league debut.
Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):
- Thanks for taking our questions. No disrepect towards any of the individuals on your list, but seems like the Cubs have lingered in the bottom third of prospect rankings over the past few years after some absolutely outstanding years (with Baez, Bryant, Schwarber, others). Seems like they "hit" on some great upside talent a few years ago, had a great manager help develop them (Maddon), had a great leader in the front office and with a combination of all these ingredients, they won big. Just seems long odds that will happen again with this farm system, this manager, and this new leader in the front office (although all Cubs fans must have hope!) but love to hear your take!
Kyle Glaser: It's the natural life cycle of baseball. Bring up prospects, win, trade more prospects to win more, major league wins go up, farm system goes down. The Cubs have made the playoffs five of the last six years, went to three straight NLCS's and, of course, won a World Series. That's worth whatever farm system drop that comes with it. When you win, you start picking toward the back of the first round as opposed to the top of it (Bryant, Baez and Schwarber were all top 10 overall picks) and no longer have access to those caliber of players. Then you add in trades of guys like Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez to try supplement your major league team - which again, is the point of all this - and it's only natural the farm system is going to do down. I really wouldn't worry about it, even if a few down years follow. It's very hard to sustain success and the Cubs, despite the frustration from a portion of their fanbase, have done it better than most.
- Gray Fenter seemed like an odd Rule 5 pick for the Cubs. There seemed to be other higher skill and closer the majors pitchers available. Fenter, even though a starter so far in the minors, seems to be at best a low leverage long reliever if he makes the club. Any insights into what the Cubs saw? Over/under on sticking with the Cubs?
Kyle Glaser: I don't think the odds are very high. You never know. Maybe the Cubs unlock something in Fenter. But, like most Rule 5 picks, the odds are he probably gets returned to his original team.
- In the midseason top 100, Marquez was #34. Will he be in that same range this time?
Kyle Glaser: I can't speak for where my colleagues have him. For me, Marquez fits more in the 50-60 range of prospects, but the Top 100 is a collaborative effort that involves many different people's opinions.
Kyle Glaser: All right everyone, that will do it for today. Thanks for coming out. Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.