Earlier this week, Eloy Jimenez was identified by Baseball America as the second best prospect in the deep Midwest League for 2016.
The recognition was especially impressive given Jimenez’s age and the fact that the only player ahead of him, Nick Senzel, was the second overall pick in the 2016 draft and received the highest signing bonus.
Well, Baseball America has continued down their list of leagues, arriving most recently at the Carolina League. There, two (and a half) Cubs prospects’ made the list of top 20 players in the league, in yet another impressive showing for a system with so much young talent at the Major League level.
Gleyber Torres, the former Cubs prospect who was sent to the Yankees as part of the package that brought back Aroldis Chapman, is ranked as the fourth best player in the Carolina League. Although he didn’t finish his season there, he played enough to qualify for the list. We knew the Cubs gave up some serious talent to acquire Chapman and apparently the folks at Baseball America agree.
But after that, the Cubs placed two more players on the list who are actually still in the organization.
The first is the Cubs’ last first round pick, Ian Happ, who ranked 10th overall. Happ is a switch-hitting, polished, patient, and mature college bat who made his way all the way up to Double-A in his first full professional season. He did struggle a bit at that level, but dominated during his time with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League before that.
Although he is still learning and improving his defense at second base, the consensus is that Happ will hit and hit for power, (although his on base skills might be his strongest suit). He’s an exciting player (number one or two in the Cubs’ system, depending on who you ask) who could potentially reach the Majors as soon as next season.
Following Happ and coming in at number 12 is the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Trevor Clifton. Clifton had a breakout season in the Carolina League, posting a 2.72 ERA and 129 strikeouts through 23 starts for the Pelicans. His fastball sits between 93-95 MPH, but he is said to have good command of at least three pitches. As a 21-year-old starter who dominated his league, I’d expect to see Clifton begin 2017 with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies – once you get to that level, though, the Majors are just a phone call and a plane ticket away.
Be sure to pop over to Baseball America for a more detailed write-up on each of these players; I could only share so much, because it’s premium content. The Cubs have plenty to focus on at the Major League level right now, but it’s comforting to know the future still looks bright.