With the All-Star Game on tap, we’re officially halfway through the 2017 MLB season.
That means some players will get a rest (unfortunately, that applies to 96% of the Chicago Cubs), some fans will reset their expectations, rumors will keep brewing, and, of course, top prospect lists will be updated.
Just last week, for example, we watched as the Cubs’ own Eloy Jimenez received a sky-high ranking in Baseball Prospectus’ Midseason Top 50 update (8th overall!), and I’m happy to say, his Baseball America follow-up is even better.
- Yoan Moncada, 2B – White Sox
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B – Blue Jays
- Gleyber Torres, SS – Yankees
- Amed Rosario, SS – Mets
- Eloy Jimenez, OF – Cubs
- Rafael Devers, 3B – Red Sox
- Brendan Rogers, SS – Rockies
- Victor Robles, OF – Nationals
- Nick Senzel, 3B – Reds
- Ronald Acuna, OF – Braves
Yeah. That’s Eloy Jimenez breaking into the top five prospects in all of baseball. And, as you can probably tell by the position players in front of him, he is the first, and thus, most highly ranked, outfield prospect in the game. OOOOH BABY.
What’s more impressive is that this list features the 2017 draftees for the first time, as well. So while you wouldn’t necessarily expect any of them to crack the top five immediately, there is clearly some more competition.
During the last iteration of this list (May 11), Jimenez ranked 11th overall. Jimenez actually started his season just three days later (he was out with a sore shoulder to start), and has hit .271/.351/.490 as one of the younger players in High-A. And, after moving up a level from last season, Jimenez has nearly doubled his walk rate, while lowering his strikeout rate ever so slightly. He’s also hit for more power (.219 ISO) and has earned a 131 wRC+ despite a BABIP some 87 points lower than last season.
If you’re looking for something Jimenez can work on, it’s worth pointing out that he’s hit into more ground balls and gotten a lot less fly balls than last season. Given the benefits of the recent fly ball revolution, you’d like to see that turn itself around. But yeah, he’s killing it and getting noticed.
Of course, he’s not the only Cubs’ prospect in the update. Jimenez is joined by the Cubs’ top pitching prospect (at least, by ceiling), Dylan Cease.
Cease moves up to #83 on the list from an early season ranking of 90, and for good reason. Through his first 13 starts of the season, Cease has done nothing but dominate: 2.79 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 3.09 xFIP. His 12.2% walk rate is still really high, but he’s managed to work around it, in part, due to a fantastic 34.7% strikeout rate.
And, to be sure, he’s posted a 9.4% walk rate in his last eight starts, so there has been some improvement there.
Looking around at the rest of his peripherals, you might notice that his strand rate is almost identical to what he posted last season (which is also fairly normal, overall), but his BABIP has ballooned to .339 (career .296). Given that his ground ball rate has actually fallen a bit (which isn’t, itself, a good thing, but stay with me), you can actually say he’s been getting great results despite some bad luck overall.
And, finally, I’d like to point out that opposing batters are hitting just .211 off Cease, despite that ridiculous .339 BABIP. As far as pitching prospects go, the Cubs haven’t had one with the upside of Cease in at least a decade. Now, we just wait to see if he can follow through on the promise.