This week, with Spring Training underway and prospects headed for their chance to crack the big league team, Baseball Prospectus released their always-anticipated Top 101 MLB Prospects rankings.
And every time I see a new list/set of rankings like this, my first three questions are always the same:
- Who’s at the very top?
- Where are the Cubs?
- Who ranks behind my favorite Cubs prospects (so I can brag about it)?
To that end, BP’s top 101 prospect rankings should be exceptionally interesting to Cubs fans this year. So before we get more detailed below, be sure to check out the full list and corresponding scouting reports on each of the Cubs prospects.
To answer question #1: the Cardinals’ Alex Reyes was listed as the top overall prospect in MLB. However, that ranking came out just before we learned that he will be out for the entire 2017 season. Obviously, that’s hugely impactful to the Cardinals, and thus the Cubs (but we’ll mostly save this conversation for another time).
Moving onto question #2, here is how the four Chicago Cubs top prospects – according to BP – ranked among the game’s very best:
- Eloy Jimenez, OF: 9th
- Ian Happ, 2B/OF: 54th
- Albert Almora, OF: 77th
- Trevor Clifton, RHP: 87th
So then, the big news today is that Eloy Jimenez is officially a top ten prospect in all of baseball. To be sure, he’s already been ranked in the low teens earlier this offseason – and the difference between 14th and 9th isn’t too substantial – but it’s something of a fun, personal victory for Jimenez and the Cubs.
There’s not really much of a surprise for Happ (54th) or Almora (77th) who’ve frequented the back half of Top 100 prospect lists all offseason, and although Trevor Clifton (87th) doesn’t usually rank this highly, we did already know that he was BP’s pick for the next best prospect in the Cubs system after a breakout 2016 season.
So who’s included in the answer for #3? Well …
Ranked 15th overall in BPs’ top 101 – i.e. a handful of spots behind Cubs outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez – is former Chicago Cub shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres!
Torres, you’ll recall, was traded to the Yankees from the Cubs as part of the package for Aroldis Chapman in July. Since then, he’s blown up into a widely-regarded tippy-top prospect in all of baseball. In fact, each of Baseball America and MLB Pipeline had Torres within their top 5, so Jimenez’s relatively ranking today notable.
And, let’s be honest (petty?), it’s a bit of a moral victory, right?
After all, despite the World Series win, I know plenty of fans still struggled with just how much the Cubs were forced to give up in exchange for Chapman. Sure, they may have needed him to win and the trade probably made good baseball sense (especially considering the Cubs’ context), but it’s not like it didn’t hurt to lose such a talented young player.
Well now, by at least one measure, hey, the Chicago Cubs didn’t give up their best prospect for Chapman. They arguably gave up their second best prospect at a position of organizational redundancy. I think I can live with that.
And beyond our three answers and personal, moral victories, there’s one final note.
Following the release of their Top 101 prospect rankings, the staff at Baseball Prospectus made a short list of the next best ten prospects who just missed sneaking their way into the final cut. Among the familiar names, you’ll find the Cubs’ high-ceiling pitcher, Dylan Cease.
According to BP, Cease’s lack of consistency beyond his “electric” fastball is what kept him near the back end of the list. More specifically, his change-up and overall command is dragging him down. BUT his curveball made strides in 2016, and, if it plays well, Cease will have two plus pitches “to torture hitters with.”
If he eventually gets relegated to a reliever role, it’ll be of the top-shelf closer variety, but if he can stick it out as a starter, Cease might be among the best Cubs pitching prospect in years. So there you go.
According to BP, the Cubs once again have one of the top ten prospect in all of baseball (Jimenez), some near-ready positional guys in the second half of the top 50 (Happ and Almora), and a couple of pitchers with some upside near the back end of the top 101 (Clifton and Cease). Not a bad place to kick off the new era.