After weeks of positional rankings and top individual team prospects, we finally have an all-inclusive Top 100 list to dissect! Woo!
At ESPN, Keith Law has provided “Insiders” with a full ranking and write-up on each of the top 100 prospects in baseball. He split the list down into five separate posts, which you can find here:
Because the content is subscriber-restricted, I won’t share the full list or write-ups with you today, but I can point out where the Cubs prospects wound up, and a bit about how Law sees them. So let’s do that, and then discuss!
Listed below are the Chicago Cubs prospects that made their way onto Keith Law’s Top 100 for 2017:
- #86 – Dylan Cease, RHP
- #63 – Ian Happ, 2B/OF
- #12 – Eloy Jimenez
So … not as many players as we’re used to seeing, but there are some encouraging things to note. But before we get to that, I want to talk about the NL Central’s showing on the list. Aside from the Cubs – who placed the fewest prospects in Law’s top 100 out of any team in the NL Central – the rest of the teams actually did quite well. The Cardinals (4 prospects), Reds (5 prospects), Pirates (6 prospects) and Brewers (8 prospects) each placed more than their theoretical fair share (3.333) on the list. Indeed, if everything came out exactly even, each division would place about 16.5 prospects in the top 100. The NL Central, on the other hand, wound up with 26 prospects. As we discussed recently, the Cubs’ long-term road in the NL Central is going to be lined by other teams’ prospects.
The Brewers had an especially impressive showing, although their highest ranked prospect came in at #34 – which is a very important distinction to make. Even still, they have as much young talent as almost any other team in the game, and we won’t stop beating that drum anytime soon.
I’d also like to point out – and we can’t act too surprised, because we knew this was possible – that Gleyber Torres finished fourth in the rankings, behind only Andrew Benintendi, Dansby Swanson, and Amed Rosario. Although Torres has always been obviously talented, I’ll admit that I never thought he’d be a top-five prospect-type. Yes, the Cubs won the World Series; and yes, we’ve had this discussion a thousand times before, but I think it’s probably all right to cringe a little bit at the sight of the single digit next to Torres’ name.
But onto the Cubs!
The Cubs placed just three prospects in the top 100, but I don’t need to remind you how OK that actually is. Unlike most teams – who would probably be bummed about placing just three prospects in the top 100, and just 1 in the top 50 – the Cubs have a number of young, talented players already at the big league level. Most of them – Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards Jr. – are heading into just their second or third full season. The Cubs are loaded with young talent and their system is very healthy …
… But prospects do still matter and the Cubs’ limited representation is pretty telling of where the system is at right now (trading away your top prospect (Torres) the same year you’re drafting without a first or second round pick and are also in the IFA penalty box will do that to a team).
But hey, there’s plenty to be excited about, even if we set aside the deep reserves of lower-level talent in the Cubs’ system that is just outside top 100-type consideration.
Like, for example, the utterly awesome – and clearly widely-accepted – ascent of Eloy Jimenez. This ranking is, so far, as high as we’ve ever seen from him, and Law’s praise is as encouraging as it comes: “Listed at 6-foot-4 … Jimenez has a swing that plays shorter. He repeats it very well, getting his hands to the zone quickly … with enough loft in his finish to hit line drives and hit for power. If you’re looking to nitpick, he could walk more, but he was the age of a college freshman and just destroyed a full-season league. It’s so nice to see those downtrodden Cubs have some good news on the horizon.”
As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that Jimenez is just the fourth outfield prospect in the rankings, behind Andrew Benintendi (#1), Victor Robles (#8), and Austin Meadows (#9) (he was also behind only that trio in the MLB Pipeline outfield rankings). And given the Cubs’ crowded infield – Kris Bryant (3B), Addison Russell/Javy Baez (SS), Ben Zobrist/Javy Baez (2B), and Anthony Rizzo (1B) – one might even consider Jimenez a better overall fit for the organization than Torres (SS) anyway.
Ian Happ is certainly ranked a bit lower than you might like to see, but that’s more about a lack of superstar upside than anything else. In fact, Law’s comments on Happ are actually pretty encouraging, as he envisions him as a switch-hitting everyday second baseman, with the positional flexibility to add value in left field, center field, first base, or even shortstop in very small doses. In addition, he might not hit for a high average (.260-.270), according to Law, but Happ looks set to deliver roughly 20 homers a year with a good OBP in the near future … uh, yes please.
And finally, Dylan Cease.
The story with Cease hasn’t changed, and there’s not much more I can add to it. He’s got top of the rotation stuff, past injury issues (including Tommy John Surgery), and as much upside as any starting pitching prospect the Cubs have seen in over a decade. Law claims his fastball has been clocked as high as 103 MPH, and that he would have been a top ten draft pick in 2014, if it weren’t for the elbow injury.
With his plus breaking ball getting more consistent, and the ability to throw between 96-99 MPH with ease, Cease has the profile of a starting pitcher if he can hack it. This year will be an extremely important one, as he’ll be entering it fully healthy. If he can simply stay on the field, Cease “has No. 1 starter stuff with the physique to match,” according to law.
So in the end, the Cubs have a high-ceiling, high floor outfielder in Jimenez, a lower-ceiling, high-ish-floor switch-hitting infielder in Happ, and a high-ceiling, low-floor starting pitcher in Cease. For an organization with as much young Major League talent as the Chicago Cubs, I think that’s perfectly swell in the top 100.