Very few (baseball-related) things make me happier than reading, hearing, and watching national analysts heap praise on the Chicago Cubs’ farm system.
Of course, in recent years that praise has mostly shifted to the Major League team – as have the players graduating from Iowa and Tennessee – but the Cubs are far from finished being in that prospect conversation.
In fact, they arguably have two of the hottest prospects in baseball right now, in Jeimer Candelario and Ian Happ. I know these are far from our favorite statistics, but Candelario’s 18 RBI lead the entire Pacific Coast League (Triple-A), as do Happ’s six home runs, through their first 12 games.
Both switch-hitters are typically considered to be top 50-75 prospects in baseball, but both seem to be playing like guys who belong in the top 30.
And given their versatility (both at the plate and in the field (more so Happ than Candelario at this point, though)), they are both theoretically nice fits for a Joe Maddon-led Chicago Cubs team. You know, if there were any vacancies. Perhaps we’ll see them in Chicago sometime this summer, but in the meantime, they’ll look to continue tearing up the Minor Leagues.
- As you can imagine, given their stellar starts to the year, both Happ and Candelario made the MLB Pipeline Team of the Week at second base and third base, respectively.
- You can check out their stats, catch some highlights, and see what Jonathan Mayo has to say about both Cubs’ prospects at MLB.com.
- Keith Law has updated his Top 50 Prospect Rankings to account for some graduations and subtle movements. Among the notable Cubs’ bits, Eloy Jimenez (who has just returned to semi-action – but we’ll get to that in a minute) snuck into the top 10 (now #9, previously #12) overall, while Ian Happ moved up from #63 to #46. Gleyber Torres is ranked as the second best prospect in baseball, but I think we’ll stop pointing that our from now on.
- I have to imagine that if Happ continues to hit the way he has, he’ll be a shoe-in for the top 30 when the real mid-season re-rankings come out around baseball. His ability to play both infield and outfield, and to do so with a polished approach from both sides of the plate are what got him near the top 50 last season when he wasn’t really hitting/slugging (at least not in Double-A). If, however, he can prove that his offensive explosion is at least somewhat sustainable, then there’s no reason he can’t be the guy to make the biggest rankings’ jump. His current slash line: .286/.352/.673; 9.3% walk-rate, 14.8% strikeout rate; .388 ISO, 170 wRC+.
- For comparison’s sake, Kris Bryant had a 163 wRC+ at Triple-A Iowa. I am *not* sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
- But as strong as Happ’s performance has been, he still doesn’t quite take the Cubs’ top prospect spot just yet. Instead, that honor remains squarely in the bat of Eloy Jimenez. During Spring Training, you’ll recall, Jimenez bruised his shoulder (apparently on a throw from right field, though it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint these things, as it may have happened earlier and then been exacerbated by the throw) and has been out ever since. At least, until yesterday, when he returned to extended Spring Training action as the DH.
- Batting second in the order, Jimenez didn’t waste any time, going 1-3 with a walk, per Arizona Phil at TCR. Better, his hit was a broken-bat double off the left-field wall (yup, he’s still got that crazy bat, apparently.):
— John Arguello (@CubsDen) April 17, 2017
- Jimenez was also caught stealing later in the game, but the optimist in me simply sees that as a player who is almost back to 100%. According to Arizona Phil, Jimenez can “hit, run, and field,” but is not yet throwing the ball. For obvious reasons (his potential, his position, his relative youth), the Cubs are taking it very slow with him, as they should. But when he gets back to full strength, he’ll be among the most fun prospects to track this year