Keith Law, on the other hand, zigs when everyone else zags.
Late last week, for example, we discussed Law’s Top 100 Prospects and the three Chicago Cubs – Eloy Jimenez, Ian Happ, and Dylan Cease – that made the cut.
Today, however, we’ll be discussing his just-released list of Cubs (only) top prospects. In addition, we’ll hit on some of the highlights from his 2017 Top Prospects Media Call which you can read in full here.
Law’s article, for what it’s worth, is restricted to ESPN Insider’s only, so I will not share everything with you here today. However, if you do have an Insider’s account, you’ll be able to see, in addition to the list, individual write-ups on the seven Cubs prospects from Law’s Top 10 that did not make his Top 100.
Okay, the list:
- Eloy Jimenez, OF (#12 overall)
- Ian Happ, 2B (#63)
- Dylan Cease, RHP (#86)
- Albert Almora, OF
- Oscar de la Cruz, RHP
- Trevor Clifton, RHP
- Jeimer Candelario, 3B
- Eddy Julio Martinez, OF
- Thomas Hatch, RHP
- Jose Albertos, RHP
Overall, I don’t think that list will ruffle too many feathers.
Dylan Cease is ranked high (relative to the other Cubs on other lists), but if you value upside more than other qualities, he’s got as much of it as anybody. After that, Albert Almora’s proximity (and arguably already established presence) to the Majors keeps him in the top five, while Oscar de la Cruz’s talent/injury combination has kept him from rising any further.
But let’s pause on de la Cruz for a moment, because Law seems to like his potential quite a bit. Despite missing a lot of time last season with elbow soreness, de la Cruz came back strong with a 93-95 MPH fastball. In addition to his plus curveball and change-up, Law believes he simply overpowered low minors hitters last year.
In fact, in the prospect chat, Law later revealed that had he been healthy for more of 2016, de la Cruz would have very likely been in his top 100.
Also in the chat, Law reveals a compelling *conspiracy theory* surrounding #10 on his list, Jose Albertos. The 18-year-old righty signed with the Cubs for $1.5 million during the 2015-2016 IFA period, and has been ranked as highly as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs’ organization (FanGraphs). In addition to being just 18 years old, however, he made just one appearance (four total innings) in all of 2016.
… so how does an 18-year-old pitcher with 4 professional innings under his belt become an across-the-board top 10 prospect in the Cubs system?
Well, scouts that did see Albertos saw an easy, mid-90s, “electric” fastball,” as well as a projectable frame and a good delivery. But maybe there’s even more to the story than that.
According to Law, when Albertos was shut down this past season, it was rather “mysterious”. Apparently so much so that it “has spurred a lot of commentary among scouts whether [Albertos] was actually hurt, or whether they were simply hiding him so teams wouldn’t be all over him at the trade deadline.” Pretty crazy, and definitely a conspiracy theory type thing, but not totally unbelievable.
This isn’t an entirely provable (or even a negative) accusation, of course, but it will be interesting to see how healthy Albertos is in 2017, how many innings he’s permitted to throw, and how quickly he moves.
One last comment: it’s interesting to see how high Thomas Hatch – the righty the Cubs took with their third round pick last year (the top pick they had) – ranks for Law. Hatch didn’t pitch professionally last year after the draft (he was coming off a long collegiate season, which was itself a year after he’d been shut down with an arm injury), so he, too, will be someone to watch closely this year.
There is plenty of more information in Law’s article, as well as the Top 100 prospect chat (wherein, Law calls Tim Tebow “the worst player I’ve ever seen in the ten years” he’s been going to the Arizona Fall League). Be sure to check it out, and share anything you find useful or interesting.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.