Depending on who you ask, some order of outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ are probably the top two prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ farm system heading into 2017. They both figure to be top 50 prospects in baseball, too, with Jimenez as high as top 20 when it’s all said and done.
Each was a standout in the recently-wrapped Arizona Fall League, too, with their Mesa Solar Sox winning the title. Happ, in particular, was huge in the championship game. Jimenez hit well throughout the league, but appeared to miss some time with a minor injury.
Jim Callis ranked the prospects in the league this year, and, as expected, Jimenez and Happ had strong showings, with Jimenez at number three and Happ at number eight.
At three, Jimenez is behind only former teammate Gleyber Torres and mashing Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger. Of Jimenez, Callis had this to say: “Another precocious 19-year-old, Jimenez wasn’t as spectacular in Arizona as he was when he starred at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and won the Class A Midwest League MVP award this summer. Yet he still exhibited as high a power ceiling as any Fall Leaguer, with scouts comparing his upside with Giancarlo Stanton’s.”
You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, because the mention of Stanton makes me lose consciousness briefly.
Physically, the comp makes sense, because Jimenez is truly a monster (a recent appearance where he made Jorge Soler(!) look small confirms it), and in this AFL hit a ball so hard that it was Stanton-esque. Expecting Jimenez to become a Stanton-caliber bat, of course, is unfair, but the scout comments do remind you about just how much potential – especially power potential – is there in the bat.
Jimenez, who turns 20 this weekend, figures to start out next season at High-A Myrtle Beach.
As for Happ, who ranked eighth in the prospect-heavy AFL, Callis wrote this: “Happ also has 20-20 potential and homered from both sides of the plate in the championship game. Though he’s athletic, most scouts think he’ll wind up on an outfield corner rather than at second base.”
All fair. This season saw Happ working hard at second base after he debuted in the outfield in the Cubs’ farm system in 2015. It’s not clear just yet that there will be an obvious big league starting spot available to Happ in the next couple years at second base or in left field, but that’s no reason for concern. Not only is Happ still a year or two away from breaking through in the big leagues, as we’ve seen, the Cubs have no issue with preserving player versatility well into their big league years. If Happ manages to be a guy who can keep developing his bat even as he works to become adequate defensively at multiple positions, then all the better.
Happ, who turned 22 in August, figures to begin the 2017 season at AA Tennessee, where he finished the 2016 season. If the bat continues to develop, depending on the defensive plan for Happ, he could move quickly to AAA Iowa.