With the graduation of Willson Contreras, the trade of Gleyber Torres, and the slight (second-half) step backwards from Ian Happ, I think I can safely herald Eloy Jimenez as the current Cubs top prospect.
I know, I’m out on quite a limb.
But after a good, but not great year at the plate in 2015 (113 wRC+) the Cubs young outfielder broke out in a big way in 2016 (162 wRC+), while rocketing up the various prospect rankings.
It’s a nice honor/recognition for Jimenez, who had possibly the biggest breakout season of any player in the minors. Through 464 plate appearances, Jimenez slashed .329/.369/.532 with 14 HRs and 81 RBI, a .204 ISO, and just a 20.3% strikeout rate as a 19-year-old outfielder in A-Ball.
Check out where some of his stats fell, league-wide:
- AVG: .329 (3rd)
- OBP: .369 (12th)
- SLG: .532 (1st) – by .050 points!
- OPS: .901 (1st)
- HRs: 14 T-6th
As you can tell, he was basically the single best offensive performer in the Midwest League … his first time through … as a 19-year-old … which is three years younger than the average age for the league.
Needless to say, Baseball America was impressed: “Jimenez took another giant step forward in his development in 2016, when the 19-year-old took home Midwest League MVP honors in a season in which the left fielder ranked third in the league batting race (.329) while leading the circuit in doubles (40) and slugging (.532).” They later added that, while he doesn’t walk too much and still has holes in his swing, he makes more than enough contact “to thrive” as a hitter.
And while being named to the BA Minor League All-Star may seem like some shrug-worthy recognition, I’ll note that the team is filled with very impressive company like Yoan Moncada (Red Sox), Alex Bregman (Astros) and many others. It’s hard to believe, but the Chicago Cubs still have at least one more (truly significant) impact prospect left in the system.