We’ve come a long way from counting and hoarding top 100 prospects like precious metals or the last Snickers bar on a deserted island [Brett: more like a dessert-ed island, AMIRITE?], but if the Cubs keep finding these prospects, we’ll keep checking into them.
For example, as of a few days ago, the Cubs had only two top 100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline (Ian Happ (22) and Eloy Jimenez (24)), but after a couple of graduations from other players on the list, two more have entered the conversation.
You should be familiar with Cease’s story by now, but in case you’re not, I’ll give you the short version. The Cubs drafted Cease in the sixth round of the 2014 June Amateur draft, despite previously (and widely) being considered a first-round talent. The reason he fell to the Cubs in the sixth round was because Tommy John Surgery was going to be part of his future (which he underwent shortly after the draft). Thus, despite the obvious and well-documented talent, Cease was at least a project and certainly a risk. Still, the upside was sky-high, so the Cubs bit the bullet and gave him a seven-figure signing bonus.
He returned to pitching last season, throwing 24 innings at rookie ball, but 2016 was to be the first real step forward in his professional career. He did start the season late and miss some time later on, but Cease managed to make 12 starts this year with the Low-A Eugene Emeralds, most of which were very successful. Overall, he finished with a 2.22 ERA (2.92 FIP), a huge 36.3% strikeout rate and a hey-let’s-watch-that 13.7% walk rate.
He still has a battle ahead of him, but if he can overcome his command issues and stay healthy, he has enormous potential.
Jeimer Candelario is another Cubs prospect with whom you should be intimately familiar, as he was an AFL and then Spring Training darling and (brief) member of the Chicago Cubs earlier this year. He was recently an honorable mention for the Yahoo Sports 2016 All-Minor League Team and here’s what I had to say of him at the time:
Jeimer Candelario was the 2016 Spring Training darling, before beginning his season out at Double-A Tennessee. He struggled a bit there, but flourished upon his promotion to Triple-A Iowa. Through 76 games at that level, Candelario slashed .333/.417/.542. He did get a quick taste of the Majors earlier this season, but ultimately finished his year up in Iowa. And although he’s on the 40-man roster, he wasn’t a part of the September call-ups, and will not likely play again with the Cubs this season. Next year, however, he’s a candidate to make the team right out of the gate and could play in a variety of roles around the infield.
Altogether, the Cubs now have four top 100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, including Cease and Candelario (two in the top end and two at the back end), to look forward to over the next couple of years. With a nice mix of immense upside (Cease, Jimenez) and lower risk (Happ, Candelario) the Cubs’ future remains bright.
[Brett: Note that these prospects will be re-ranked during the offseason by MLB Pipeline, but given that Cease and Candelario were among the “next two” to slot into the rankings when others fell off, that’s a very good sign that they’ll be in the top 100 after the re-rank, too.]