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Jimenez's father Luis played and coached basketball in the Dominican Republic, so Jimenez grew up around athletes and some degree of fame. He was ready for the spotlight when his baseball career took off as an amateur and he ranked as the top talent in the 2013 international signing class. The Cubs signed both of the top players that year, Jimenez for $2.8 million and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres for $1.7 million. They have grown into exactly what the Cubs thought they were, with Torres the savvier, steadier middle infielder and Jimenez the high-risk, high-upside corner bat. When Torres was traded to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal in July 2016, Jimenez emerged as the Cubs' top prospect with a breakout season at low Class A South Bend. He led the Midwest League in doubles (40) and slugging (.532) while ranking third in batting (.329). He also played in the Futures Game, where he homered and made a highlight-reel over-the-fence catch in foul territory down the right-field line. Jimenez was signed for his bat and his body--one club official admiringly called him "a physical animal"--and has started to deliver. His body evokes comparisons with former Cub Jorge Soler and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but he is more than just a power-first hitter. Some scouts rate Jimenez's pure hitting ability on par with his power, or put 60 grades on his hitting and 70 on his power (on the 20-80 scouting scale). While his walk rate is modest, Jimenez improved his strike-zone judgment in 2016 by seeing more pitches per at-bat, identifying spin better and applying the Cubs' selective-aggressive mantra. When he turned it loose, he barreled balls and made plenty of hard contact. He added a knee tuck and a bit of a hand pump to his swing, getting less rotational and on time more often, and it aided his ability to drive the ball to right-center field. Some scouts see long levers and a long swing, which could be exploited more by advanced pitchers. However, he has tremendous plate coverage and the aptitude to adjust quickly, and scouts laud his hitting intelligence. Jimenez is an average runner limited to a corner defensively, and he mostly played left field in 2016. An average defender, he may move to right field if he improves his below-average arm. He must continue to work to improve his throwing mechanics, which remain inconsistent. His throws lack carry, though he has become more accurate He had only one outfield assist in 2016 and has five in his career. He has a chance for an average arm, though, if he dedicates himself to a throwing program. The Cubs are working to keep him lean and athletic physically so he doesn't get too big. Some scouts question Jimenez's ultimate level of athleticism, as he's not graceful, but the Cubs believe he is still growing into his body and will gain body control with natural physical maturity and added strength. While the Cubs don't need Jimenez soon, considering their wealth of outfield options, he may force their hand if his bat continues to progress. He has polish to add against lefthanded pitchers--who handled him with a steady diet of offspeed stuff--and to his defense to be more than just a left fielder. But his bat will play. Jimenez likely will take one step at a time, reporting to high Class A Myrtle Beach for 2017, with a big league ETA of 2019.
Happ prepped at Pittsburgh's Mt. Lebanon High, which also produced big leaguers Don Kelly and Josh Wilson. His college career at Cincinnati featured a star turn in the Cape Cod League in 2014 and he won the American Athletic Conference player of the year award in 2015. He signed for $3 million as the ninth overall pick in 2015 and finished his first full season in Double-A. He ended his 2016 with a 4-for-4, two-homer day--one from each side of the plate--in the Arizona Fall League championship game. Happ combines power and speed offensively. He's an above-average runner and solid basestealer who draws walks and could fit at the top of a lineup. He has present strength and plus bat speed with above-average power from both sides of the plate that plays more with line drives to the gaps for now. Happ goes deep in counts, but doesn't shorten up with two strikes and has a track record of striking out a lot. The Cubs gave him plenty of reps at second base, where scouts see stiff actions, rigid hands and below-average overall defense. His solid-average arm plays in all three outfield spots, which he also played in 2016. Happ hasn't mastered a position yet, mostly because he's not truly average at one. His versatility could help him break into a Cubs roster brimming with young regulars. He should hit enough to earn an everyday lineup spot eventually, just as similarly defensive-challenged players Matt Carpenter and Daniel Murphy did before him.
The sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Almora has starred for numerous U.S. national teams as an amateur and professional. He had his best pro season in 2016 when he stayed healthy, playing a career-high 127 games, and he earned his first big league callup in June. Almora made the Cubs postseason roster and, while he went 0-for-10 at the plate, he scored the go-ahead run in Game Seven of the World Series, pinch-running for Kyle Schwarber and alertly tagging up from first base on a Kris Bryant fly ball deep to center field. Scouts long have loved Almora's baseball instincts, evident on the tag-up play, and his defense. While he is a below-average runner out of the batter's box, he is a smart baserunner and has exceptional range in center field thanks to his ability to read hitters' swings, position himself and get tremendous jumps. He's a potential Gold Glove winner in center and has a plus arm that plays in any spot. Almora had his best offensive season in 2016 because he used the whole field and got away from his pull-oriented approach. His over-aggressiveness at the plate tends to short-circuit his solid-average power and may limit his offensive ceiling. With Dexter Fowler leaving Chicago, center field is up for grabs. Almora figures to contend with free agent import Jon Jay and holdover Jason Heyward for the everyday job in 2017, but should at least earn at-bats as a fourth outfielder.
An UnderArmour All-American in 2013, Cease already has pitched in Wrigley Field, where the event is held. He also already has had Tommy John surgery, which he had as a high school senior after hitting 98 mph that spring. The Cubs signed him for $1.5 million and have handled him carefully, but they were eager for his short-season Eugene debut in 2016 and he delivered, ranking fourth in the Northwest League in strikeouts (66) even though he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for its ERA title. Cease fires the best fastball in the Cubs system, with reports of him hitting 103 mph in extended spring training while sitting 93-98 in the NWL. His arm is loose and he has quick hands, which also allow him to throw a power curveball that improved. While his fastball earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, Cease's average curve has plus future potential if not better. The Cubs slowly have introduced a changeup to his repertoire, and while it's a fringy pitch at this time, it's serviceable. Hitters' best chance for now is to work walks off Cease, because his fastball command lags behind the pitch's velocity and life. Cease has the athleticism to tame his wild ways and remain a starter. Many scouts see his raw arm strength and power breaking ball and see a closer in the Craig Kimbrel mold. He's an impact arm headed to low Class A South Bend in 2017.
A big-bodied infielder as an amateur, de la Cruz shifted to the mound and signed for $85,000 as a 17-year-old. It took him two years to get to the U.S. because of his lack of pitching experience, but he took off in 2015 at short-season Eugene. His progress was stalled in 2016 by a bout of forearm tenderness, and he didn't pitch in games until July. However, he finished with a flourish at low Class A South Bend, including a six-inning start in the Midwest League playoff opener. His combination of size, stuff and ceiling makes de la Cruz exciting even though he hasn't pitched a full season yet. He uses his size and extension in his delivery to drive his fastball downhill with above-average velocity and life. He pitches with angle at 92-94 mph at his best and touches 97, though he frequently sat 89-92 in 2016 due to his lack of consistent activity. Both of de la Cruz's secondary pitches, a hard curveball and a developing changeup, earn future plus grades, with the curve better at present. He knows how to use his power breaking ball and can throw it for strikes, while he has improved the arm speed on his changeup. De la Cruz has yet to pitch more than 75 innings in a season, but he threw in instructional league and is slated to advance to high Class A Myrtle Beach in 2017.
Zagunis played catcher and outfield at Virginia Tech and focused on catching as a junior, when the Cubs drafted him with their third selection. After catching in his pro debut, he shifted to an outfield-only role and reached Triple-A Iowa in 2016, a season in which he achieved career bests with 25 doubles, 10 home runs and a .469 slugging percentage. His season ended early when a pitch hit him on the foot in late July, breaking his big toe. Cubs officials have compared Zagunis' strike-zone judgment with Kevin Youkilis. While he still drew walks in 2016, he also became more aggressive on pitches in the zone. His ability to identify pitches early out of the pitcher's hand allows him to lay off tough pitches and attack mistakes more confidently. He has average bat speed but good strength in his hands and wrists, giving him solid-average power potential. He's still learning to stay on time and pull the ball in the air, which would produce more homers. An average runner with an above-average arm, Zagunis still needs reps to be an asset defensively. He's capable in either corner and should make defense more of a focus. The Cubs' big league outfield remains crowded even after trading Jorge Soler, meaning Zagunis is ticketed for a full year at Triple-A. Scouts are split on his potential to become a first-division corner regular, and a club that does would value Zagunis as one of Chicago's better trade chips.
In his sixth pro season, Candelario made a strong impression in big league camp in spring training, then struggled to open the season in Double-A. He still was promoted to the big leagues July 3 to replace the injured Chris Coghlan. He got his first hit off Noah Syndergaard, then crushed Triple-A Pacific Coast League pitchers after he was demoted five days later. A switch-hitter who controls the strike zone, Candelario has impressed scouts with a solid swing from both sides of the plate. He set a career high with 72 walks in 2016 and has the strength and plate discipline to get to his average raw power. He's at his best when using the whole field, not when he's trying to pull the ball in an effort to live up to his spring hype. Candelario's pre-pitch anticipation and consistency on routine plays have improved at third base, where he is a solid-average defender despite modest range. Better footwork has sharpened the accuracy of his above-average arm. He's a below-average runner. Candelario doesn't run well enough to try the outfield but added some first-base experience in 2016. His path to playing time in Chicago is as an infield extra backing up Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Otherwise, he is a trade chip whose value will depend on his 2017 performance.
Four of the first 36 players drafted in 2016 were members of the state of Tennessee's prep class of 2013. Clifton was one of just two preps to turn pro out of the Volunteer State that year, signing for $375,000. He had his breakout in 2016, earning high Class A Carolina League pitcher of the year honors while leading Myrtle Beach to the league title. He led the league in ERA (2.72), WHIP (1.16) and opponent average (.225) and won both of his playoff starts. With a body that elicits comparisons to Cubs reliever Justin Grimm, Clifton has filled out physically. Club officials put him closer to 6-foot-4, 220 pounds than his listed weight. With added strength has come more consistent velocity, namely an above-average fastball that ranges from 90-95 mph. Clifton throws both a slider and a curveball. His solid-average curve is the better pitch, with shape and depth at its best. When his arm slot floats, though, his breaking balls do as well. He has an average to above-average changeup and shackled lefthanded batters (.205/.280/.268) in 2016. He still needs to add polish, such as improving defensively and quickening his time to the plate. Clifton is the best bet the Cubs have for a homegrown rotation piece, though he's likely no more than a No. 4 starter. He will head to Double-A Tennessee, less than an hour from his hometown, in 2017.
Signed away from a Vanderbilt commitment for $1.3 million, Wilson wowed Cubs officials before the draft and in his 2015 pro debut between the Rookie-level Arizona League and instructional league. He got off to a slow start at short-season Eugene in 2016 before making significant progress in the second half, helping the Emeralds win the Northwest League title. Wilson packs power-speed swagger in a smallish frame that evokes Adam Eaton comparisons. He is a dynamic player with bat speed who made adjustments during the season by flattening out what had been a steep bat path. Wilson came to his coaches, took their advice and applied it, lashing line drives to dig out of a 12-for-76 (.158) start. Learning to hit lefthanders (10-for-57, one extra-base hit) will take reps. He has the juice to earn pitchers' respect, though his power will play more to the gaps than over the fence. Defensively, Wilson shines with surprisingly good instincts for a former prep football star, plus speed to run balls down in the gaps and a plus arm. Wilson's aptitude and tools make him a likely future regular, and if he learns to control the strike zone better he could fit the leadoff-hitting center fielder profile. He heads for low Class A South Bend in 2017.
The Cubs have scouted Mexico aggressively in recent years, with Albertos signing for $1.5 million as part of a package of players the Cubs signed from Tijuana of the Mexican League. He made his pro debut in June 2016 with four electric innings, wowing club officials who were on-hand, but he missed the rest of the season with tightness in his forearm. Albertos was a well-regarded prospect as an amateur, but his extended spring training performance had the Cubs excited. His fastball, previously in the 92-94 mph range, jumped to 94-96 and touched 98. Moreover, Albertos' showed signs of true fastball command when healthy, throwing strikes with his heater to both sides of the plate. His changeup flashes well above-average, overmatching Rookie-level hitters and projecting as a potential 70-grade pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. His breaking ball was considered ahead of his changeup before he signed, and he has shown the ability to spin a slider. Risk for teen pitchers is always high, and the Cubs handled Albertos extremely carefully, hoping he can gain strength to handle his extreme arm speed and fastball velocity. After pitching in instructional league, Albertos is set for either a repeat of the AZL or potentially short-season Eugene.
Martinez, a Cuban outfielder, cost the Cubs a $3 million bonus and $3 million more in overage tax. They knew he had athletic ability and speed, but his hitting track record in Cuba was mixed. Young enough to be age-appropriate for the low Class A Midwest League, Martinez dived into the deep end of the cold, raw Midwestern spring in 2016. He passed the test by getting hot in the summer before tiring and fading late. He did show plus athleticism and the best throwing arm in the system. His arm was plus when he signed, and it's now a premium tool that has garnered 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. A plus runner, Martinez can play center field but fits better in right thanks to his arm. His swing has an exaggerated load that produces a long swing and whiffs at pitches in the strike zone. His hand-eye coordination bails him out at times and allows him to make contact on pitches out of the zone. Martinez started to learn from watching video of his at-bats, and he adopted a wider stance and eliminated some pre-pitch movement to get more under control in the box. He draws walks but needs to polish his plate approach. He's ticketed for high Class A Myrtle Beach in 2017.
Dewees led Division I in slugging (.749), hits (106) and total bases (188) while ranking second in batting (.422) in 2015 at North Florida, which plays in an offensive ballpark. The Cubs often move college picks quickly, but they took it slower with Dewees, who signed for $1.7 million as a second-round pick. Despite his college success, he had to streamline his approach to eliminate pre-swing movement and a toe-tap timing mechanism in favor of a traditional stride. While Dewees may have lost a bit of pop as a result, that's not his game. He is a slasher with double-plus speed who thrives when he's using the whole field and keeping the ball out of the air. His speed played well on the bases with 31 steals in 36 attempts at two Class A levels, and he thrived in the playoffs for high Class A Myrtle Beach. Dewees could stand to walk more to be a true table-setter, and his average defense in center field would improve with refined routes and better jumps. He outruns mistakes now and has a well-below-average arm. Dewees has improvements to make, but is moving along just fine and should reach Double-A Tennessee in 2017.
Hatch teamed with White Sox farmhand Trey Michalczewski at Jenks (Okla.) High, the same school that produced Josh Johnson. Hatch ranked No. 128 on the BA 500 draft ranking out of high school but dropped to the 32nd round (Rockies), and an elbow strain caused him to miss the 2015 season. He returned in 2016 with a streamlined delivery engineered by Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton, winning Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year honors and leading the Cowboys to their first College World Series since 1999. Hatch didn't pitch for the Cubs after signing for $573,900 because he tossed 130.1 innings for OSU, though he threw in instructional league. His ability to pitch off his fastball attracted the Cubs the most. It's a plus pitch that sits 93-94 mph at its best with sinking life. He has advanced fastball command for a college pitcher and sets up hitters well by front-dooring lefthanded hitters with two-seam fastballs and back-dooring them with his slider. Nebraska coach Darin Erstad compared Hatch's above-average low-80s slider to that of ex-big leaguer Brad Lidge, and his solid-average changeup plays off his fastball well. Hatch's three-pitch mix and strike-throwing ability give him a chance to move quickly, though his lack of a plus secondary pitch gives him more of a back-of-the-rotation profile.
The Cubs' second pick in the 2013 draft after Kris Bryant, the Canadian-born Zastryzny endured a difficult 2015 season when he pitched poorly at Double-A Tennessee (6.23 ERA) when healthy and missed two months with a broken left ankle. He didn't get an invitation to big league camp in 2016 but finished the year in Chicago, pitching a career-high 136 innings in the minors despite a bout of shoulder fatigue before making his major league debut in August. Zastryzny has shown solid feel for throwing strikes with three pitches since his days at Missouri, but the improvement of his fourth pitch, a cutter, made a big difference in 2016. He came up with it on his own, showed it to Cubs officials and got the green light. His bread-and-butter remains his solid-average fastball that sits 88-90 mph but bumps up to 94 at its best. His herky-jerky arm action and high glove hand give his delivery needed deception, because his below-average curveball and fringe-average changeup aren't swing-and-miss pitches on their own. A multi-inning relief option in September, Zastryzny has shown the Cubs he can fill a versatile bullpen role. That's his immediate path to major league innings, but as a lefty with four pitches, he's a potential back-end starting option.
Underwood remains the pitcher with the highest ceiling in the Cubs system for some club officials, but his likelihood of reaching it keeps diminishing. Signed for $1.05 million in 2012, Underwood hasn't pitched a full season since 2014. Elbow soreness and inflammation interrupted his 2015 season, while similar issues in spring training delayed his 2016 campaign. He made 13 starts at Double-A Tennessee before being sidelined again for over a month with forearm tightness, and he finished the season at low Class A South Bend. He then left the Arizona Fall League after two modest appearances, where his fastball sat around 92 mph. At his best, Underwood sits 93-95 mph with late life on his fastball, though he doesn't hold that velocity deep into games. He flashes plus with his curveball and above-average with his changeup, but he lacks consistency with both pitches. The Cubs added him to the 40-man roster in November, and Underwood stayed in Arizona in the offseason to work on the club's conditioning program. He hopes to shed the "tease" label in a return to Double-A in 2017, but can only do so if his elbow stops barking.
Young ranked second in Division I in hits (105) at Mercer as a sophomore, when he hit .401, but he fell off as a junior and dropped to the 14th round of the 2014 draft. His hitting ability, which is his best asset, re-emerged in pro ball. He won the high Class A Carolina League batting title in 2015 and challenged for the Double-A Southern League batting title in 2016 when he hit .303. A career .314 hitter as a pro, Young has good hands, bat control, feel for the barrel and superior strike-zone judgment. When he gets the pitch he's looking for, he can serve line drives to all fields, though he has well below-average power. Young has improved his chances to be a big leaguer by showing greater defensive ability. He is a solid-average defender at both second base and third (where he played in the Dominican League in winter ball) with a good first step, and he surprised the Cubs in brief looks at shortstop. Despite an average arm, Young played 17 games at short in 2016 and made the routine play. He is a fringy runner but runs better underway, enough to see time in the outfield corners. If Young can continue to handle shortstop, his bat will help him get to the majors. He figures to hit near the top of Triple-A Iowa's lineup in 2017.
It feels like ancient history when the Cubs were sellers and the Braves buyers, but that's how the Cubs got Caratini. He had only been with the Braves for a year when they traded him for Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell in July 2014. Caratini played catcher and third base as an amateur and mixes in time at first base for the Cubs, but he's taken to the grind of being an everyday catcher. He is a decent athlete with good hands, playable footwork and a fringe-average arm. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers at Double-A Tennessee while consistently turning in 2.05-2.1 second pop times on throws to second base, with 2.0 being average. A poor runner, Caratini nonetheless hits for average and in 2016 ranked second in the Southern League in on-base percentage (.375) and sixth in batting (.291) thanks to a short, repeatable stroke from both sides of the plate. He controls the strike zone well, but the Cubs would like to see more aggressiveness. Club officials worked with him in the Arizona Fall League to try to get to his above-average raw power more often, encouraging him to turn his swing loose and hunt for pitches he can drive. Caratini is headed for Triple-A Iowa in 2017 and currently profiles as a future backup catcher.
Signed for $50,000 at the end of 2013, Galindo was in the midst of a breakout in 2015 in the Rookie-level Arizona League when a fractured left hand ended his season after just 19 games. At first glance, his short-season Eugene effort in 2016 offers a mixed bag, particularly his strikeout rate of 28.7 percent. Eugene's PK Park depresses offense, and Galindo hit just .172 at home, but on the road he hit .305/.389/.611. His plus raw power and present strength are evident. He is not just a pull-oriented hitter, either, having shown the ability to leave the yard to all fields. Galindo's raw offensive approach can be exploited with soft stuff away, and he has yet to make consistent adjustments. He'll likely never hit for a high average, and scouts also are mixed on his defensive future. His plus arm suits him for third base, where his inconsistent footwork and developing instincts lead to mechanical problems and errant throws. He runs well enough for now for left field to be an option, while some scouts see him as a future first baseman. Galindo's power will earn him development time. He is slated for low Class A South Bend in 2017.
A Colorado prep product and 2012 supplemental first-rounder, Johnson hasn't figured out a way to stay healthy. A partial rundown of injuries include: a forearm strain, blisters, knee and hand injuries from his amateur days, and hamstring, calf and lat muscle strains in the last year. A comebacker to the mound cost him time in 2016 when it struck his pitching arm. In short, Johnson couldn't stay on the mound as a starter, and he had run up a 7.75 ERA in July, when the Cubs pulled the plug on him as a starter. He finished the season in the Triple-A Iowa bullpen, stayed healthy and struck out 35 (while walking 13) in 22.1 innings in that role. Johnson's fastball can still reach 96 mph, and he pared down his repertoire as a reliever, focusing on his fastball and inconsistent, above-average slurvy breaking ball while shelving his changeup and cutter. He still struggles to pitch with conviction to his arm side with his fastball. The Cubs added him to their 40-man roster after the 2016 season, so if he can stay healthy, he could ride the bullpen shuttle to Chicago in 2017.
Moreno was a part of the Cubs' international class of 2013, which included No. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez and now Yankees No. 1 prospect Gleyber Torres. Moreno received a $650,000 bonus but lost a year of development to Tommy John surgery. The longer Moreno pitched in 2016, the harder he threw, and he topped out at 93 mph when he finished the year at short-season Eugene. Some scouts think Moreno has more velocity in the tank, and he hit 94 mph before surgery. Moreno's fastball plays above-average now and has future plus potential due to its heavy, late sinking life, and he got two groundouts for every airout with the Emeralds. His slider has its moments, but his solid-average changeup grades out above his below-average slider. Physical and bigger than his listed 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Moreno throws a lot of strikes, but his delivery has some stiffness to it. He's part of a glut of Cubs pitchers who could see time in the low Class A South Bend rotation in 2017.
Signed in 2011 for $140,000, Paulino finally reached full-season ball in the second half of 2016. He dominated early at short-season Eugene, then after a promotion he started and won low Class A South Bend's only playoff victory. Paulino had struggled with throwing strikes while growing into his listed 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame, but he is considerably bigger than that now. His fastball can touch 95 mph and regularly sits anywhere in the 89-94 range. He has flashed an above-average slider while also flashing a changeup that can be average. Paulino's crossfire delivery helps him pitch inside to righthanded batters, but he may lack the fastball command to start. One area for improvement is he needs to progress with his between-starts routine and mature with his preparation to take advantage of his fast arm and raw arm strength. Paulino may be pushed to high Class A Myrtle Beach in 2017 after his strong South Bend finish.
A Connecticut prep product, Higgins started for most of three seasons at Old Dominion, playing mostly second and third base while mixing in time at catcher, his high school position. The Cubs switched Higgins to catcher full-time during instructional league in 2015, and he took to it in 2016, anchoring the low Class A South Bend lineup and defense. Higgins is a good athlete who has the hands and footwork to be an average defender, if not more. He's an above-average thrower with a quick transfer, producing above-average 1.9-2.0-second pop times on throws to second base. He threw out 31 percent of basestealers in 2016. Higgins lacks game-calling experience but is a savvy leader. Pitchers love throwing to him and take to his leadership well. Offensively, Higgins controls the strike zone at an elite level, and he ranked third in the Midwest League with a .389 on-base percentage. He can shoot line drives to the gaps but lacks home run power. His modest size may keep him from ever being a 120-game workhorse catcher, but he has the skills to be a contributor if he keeps developing. His next step is high Class A Myrtle Beach.
Hannemann remains the best athlete in the Cubs system. He missed the second half of the 2016 season with a thumb injury, the latest in a long line of injury woes (shoulder, hamstring) due in part to Hannemann's all-out, aggresive style. He's a dynamic speedster with outstanding range in center field who outruns poor jumps to make highlight-reel catches. Scouts never struggle to get good run times on Hannemann because he plays so hard. Some scouts still give him 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for both his defense, despite a fringe-average arm, and speed. He ranked among the Southern League leaders in stolen bases (26) when he got hurt. Hannemann has strength and will flash a good swing path with strength to drive balls to the gaps, and he was just starting to get into his average raw power when he got hurt. Hannemann went to Puerto Rico to play winter ball but was benched after a 9-for-75 start. Added to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season, he faces a probable ceiling as an extra outfielder as he advances to Triple-A Iowa.
Originally signed for $1 million, Steele is so athletic he can get away with an unorthodox delivery in which his hands, set high, tend to drift. At times his arm doesn't catch up at foot strike and he leaves his 89-91 mph fastball up at belly-button level for hitters to feast upon. When he's on time, though, Steele can reach 95 mph with angle and late life and pound the bottom of the strike zone. That happened less frequently in 2016, though, a year when Steele actually was sent back to Arizona in June to work on his mechanics. He pitched better upon is return by working inside more effectively and challenging hitters with more conviction. His curveball ranks as his best secondary pitch, and he still varies the size and shape of it, but in the second half he threw his below-average changeup more. Due to the Cubs' pitching depth, Steele is likely headed for high Class A Myrtle Beach in 2017.
The Cubs' hunt for homegrown pitching has hit some bumps, and the 6-foot-8 Hudson hit his share in 2016. He jumped from extended spring training, where he pitched well, to short-season Eugene after just five outings in Rookie ball in 2015, and it was a rough landing. The Cubs fell in love with Hudson's size and plus curveball in the draft, signing him for $1 million. His curve backed up in the Northwest League, where at times it seemed he was pushing the ball, but he found better feel for it in instructional league. He competed with a fastball that backed up into the mid-80s at times as well, though in the past he hit 93 mph. Hudson pitched downhill at times and got plenty of groundball outs. He made progress with his changeup but struggled overall to repeat his delivery and walked as many as he struck out. Tall pitchers often bloom later, and the Cubs may have to push Hudson back to extended spring in 2017.
Bote hails from a baseball family. His father was a high school coach who coached Cubs farmhand Pierce Johnson in American Legion ball, and his older brother Danny actually coached David as a high school senior. Never a priority prospect, Bote struggled to get playing time and still has yet to receive 400 plate appearances in a season. He opened the 2016 season bouncing between high Class A, Double-A and even Triple-A, filling in for injured infielders, before finally getting regular reps down the stretch at high Class A Myrtle Beach. Bote controlled the strike zone and mashed mistakes to the gaps (he ranked second on the team with 26 doubles in just 72 games), then carried the Pelicans to their second straight Carolina League championship. He went 15-for-26 with five more doubles in seven playoff games. Bote has present strength, got in a hitting rhythm and has enough bat speed to produce solid-average power. He is athletic and has an average arm, with third base his best position. He grades as fringe-average at second base. An average runner, Bote has enough offensive potential and defensive versatility to hit his way into a future super-sub role. He is slated to be the Double-A Tennessee third baseman in 2017.
The Cubs' offseason bullpen makeover opens a door for Leathersich, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers in November 2015 and added to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season. Leathersich was coming off Tommy John surgery, which he had in July 2015. He has big league time with the Mets, and he got back on the mound in June 2016, finishing at Triple-A Iowa and pitching 23 innings overall. Leathersich has never had good control, but he has thrived with deception on a low-90s fastball that tops out at 94 mph. He's wild but gets swing-and-misses at an advanced rate with his high fastball and inconsistent, but at times plus, curveball. That has helped lead to a career mark of 15 strikeouts per nine innings. He will occasionally mix in a below-average changeup. Leathersich will compete with Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith, veteran Brian Duensing and prospect Rob Zastryzny for lefty bullpen innings in 2017.
The Cubs wound up selecting 27 pitchers among their 38 picks in 2016. The lean Clark, who has a prototypical pitcher's body, was the biggest lottery ticket of the bunch. He opened the season as Duke's Opening Day starter and finished it out of the rotation. Poor command plagued Clark, starting with his long arm action, then was compounded by lost confidence. The Cubs took it slow after signing him for $450,000, building him up before he made his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Clark threw just 11.2 innings after signing but didn't walk a batter, an encouraging sign after he walked 26 in 59 innings while posting a 5.61 ERA at Duke. Clark's fastball touched 98 mph this spring and sits in the 92-95 range with lively late movement. Both his changeup and hard 82-84 mph slider have had their moments, though his arm action makes it hard for him to repeat his release point on his breaking ball. Clark went back to school for the fall instead of attending instructional league, in part because of sports hernia surgery. Cubs coaches can't wait to get their hands on him in spring training.
The Cubs scout Mexico aggressively, in part because money spent on players there doesn't all count against their bonus pool. Only the portion the players receive counts, while the percentage that goes to the Mexican League club that owns those players' rights doesn't. Chicago signed Paredes away from the Mexico City Red Devils for $800,000, and he was advanced enough to jump to the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2016. There, he hit well enough to earn a late cameo at low Class A South Bend and started all three of its playoff games. He went 1-for-11 with two errors. Paredes is squat and somewhat thick for a shortstop, earning Jhonny Peralta comparisons. But, he has great hands that play at the plate and in the field, and he has surprising agility with nimble, quick feet. An average runner, Paredes has an above-average arm that may work at third base if he has to move. A veteran of Mexico's 15U national team, he is an advanced hitter for his age with an all-field approach, some pop and good plate discipline. He should go back to South Bend for 2017 as a 19-year-old.
The Cubs' pitcher-heavy 2016 draft helped provide plenty of playing time for Pieters, a Curacao native who signed for $350,000 in 2011 as a lefthanded pitcher. Short-season Eugene needed hitters, and he is one now after switching to hitting during Dominican instructional league in 2014. He has made quick strides, helping Eugene win the Northwest League title. Pieters has an athletic frame and the arm strength for any outfield spot, though his routes are so raw that he plays left field when not at first base. He has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs, has some barrel awareness and repeats his flat-planed swing well. He's also an above-average runner who surprised scouts by stealing 20 bags in 23 attempts. He has yet to reach full-season ball and was exposed to the Rule 5 draft in both 2015 and 2016, and it may be harder to hide him if he breaks out at 2017 at low Class A South Bend.
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