Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

willson contreras smokiesWith promotions and ascensions and the general changes that happen throughout a farm system in a given season, it’s nice to get a midseason prospect update from Baseball America on the Chicago Cubs‘ farm system, specifically. It’s an encouraged read if you’ve got some time.

Having seen BA’s top 50 overall prospect list update, you already knew the top three Cubs prospects. The rest of the top 10 has shuffled considerably:

4. Duane Underwood, Jr., RHP – Myrtle Beach

5. Mark Zagunis, OF – Myrtle Beach

6. Carl Edwards, Jr., RHP – Iowa

7. Dylan Cease, RHP – AZL Cubs

8. Albert Almora, Jr., OF – Tennessee

9. Willson Contreras, C – Tennessee

10. Pierce Johnson, RHP – Tennessee

You can and should read the write-up for discussion on each prospect and why they landed where they did, but you’re undoubtedly already noticing the rocket climb for Underwood and Zagunis – the former because he’s continued to develop in the eyes of scouts after always having the raw material, the latter because of how impressive his bat has been in his first full season of professional ball.

Dylan Cease, who has been impressing down in Arizona with his speedy return from post-draft Tommy John surgery last year, is likely to see time in the Northwest League or maybe even the Midwest League before the year is up. Which is remarkable for a guy who was a high schooler last year and had TJS in June.

Perhaps the biggest mover on the list is catcher Willson Contreras, about whom I’ve wanted to write for months (I’ve had a “the Cubs’ other top catching prospect at Tennessee” draft waiting to be written since long before Kyle Schwarber left Tennessee). The 23-year-old back-stop has been a steady mover through the system after being an international signee back in 2008. Folks always liked his offensive potential, but he never showed it … until a stint in the Venezuelan Winter League this past offseason, and then again at AA this year. He’s currently hitting .322/.397/.487, and, although the .359 BABIP is considerably higher than he’s shown in recent years, the 9.8% walk rate, the 12.5% strikeout rate, and .165 ISO are fantastic. I don’t have a great sense of Contreras’s receiving skills, though I’ve heard that they are developing – BA describes his defense as solid average. Contreras is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after this season, so, assuming he’s not dealt sooner, you can expect him to be added to the 40-man roster after the season.

All in all, this is approximately the group of prospects – or at least guys within the group of prospects – I’d expect to see in this range, excluding draftees. Graduations have sapped the Cubs of some of their most elite talent on these lists, but the depth is strong, and they’ve had several prospects pop up this year.

The BA article has bits on each prospect, as well as some more on risers and fallers in the system.

Picture via Tennessee Smokies on Twitter.

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