Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

willson contreras smokiesBaseball America has been rolling out its lists of top prospects for each league in recent weeks. Michael recently had a rundown of the Cubs’ top prospects in the Carolina League, and Arizona Rookie League, and Brett recently posted about Gleyber Torres and the rest of the top prospects in the Midwest League, as well as the top prospects in the Northwest League.

Not to be left out, the Cubs landed three of the Southern League’s top 20 prospects. Kyle Schwarber headlined the list ranking fourth, while catcher Willson Contreras (11) and outfielder Albert Almora (19) also earned spots in the top 20.

Minnesota was the team most represented on the list with five in the top 20, including four in the top 10. You can check out Baseball America’s list in its entirety here.

Contreras had a breakout season at Tennessee, hitting .333/.413/.478/.891 in 126 games en route to being named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. He hit only eight home runs, but smacked 34 doubles and notched 75 RBI. Contreras’ offensive numbers are impressive across the board, especially considering the rigors that go with catching.

It’s the kind of thing that sometimes gets overlooked, but Contreras’ .333/.412/.467/.878 in 126 plate appearances with runners in scoring position with two outs stands out to me.

Albert Almora, the first draft pick of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime, can get lost in the shuffle at times. But he hit a respectable .272, with a .327 on-base percentage. Almora posted a 7.1 percent walk rate, which represents his best showing in that category as a minor leaguer and an improvement from the 1.4 BB% he posted in 36 games at Tennessee last season. He also dropped his strikeout rate to 10.4 percent after it had been 16.0 percent during his 2014 Double-A stint.

Almora is no stranger to the prospect lists, ranking as the Arizona League’s No. 2 prospect in 2012, and making two top-20 lists (Florida State League, No. 11; Southern League, No. 18) in 2014.

The Southern League was loaded with up-and-coming talent this season. So much so, prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton (Twins) and Frankie Montas (White Sox) joined Schwarber in making their big league debuts this season. And it appears more will be on the way in 2016 and beyond.

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