Among the most highly-anticipated annual prospect series is Baseball America’s look into each individual system.
That’s because outside of their usually excellent analysis on a team’s top ten, Baseball America digs deeper, offering looks at the best tools, projected future lineups (if entirely internal), top prospects of the decade, detailed write-ups for all the relevant youngsters, and a lot more.
So, that end, I’m glad to share that BA just released their look into the Chicago Cubs organization, and it’s a great one. Of course, I can’t share all of the information with you today, because it is premium content, but I can hit on some of the more notable bits, including the new top ten names (which features quite a surprise at the top):
- Aramis Ademan, SS
- Adbert Alzolay, P
- Jose Albertos, P
- Victor Caratini, C
- Alex Lange, P
- Oscar De La Cruz, P
- Brendon Little, P
- Thomas Hatch, P
- Jen-Ho Tseng, P
- Nelson Velazquez, OF
Now that we’ve seen a few top prospects lists over the past several months, I can say with some confidence that eight of the ten names above are almost entirely unsurprising, both for their inclusion and their placement.
Of the two names that weren’t necessarily expected, one is outfielder Nelson Velazquez at #10, a 2017 draftee who blew up in the Arizona Rookie League. In 32 games, Velazquez hit eight homers as an 18-year-old making his professional debut after being selected in the 5th round as something of a sleeper. The 31.0% strikeout rate was gaudy, but the Cubs have to be happy about the early returns.
With that said, the back-end of a middling system’s top ten is hardly an appropriate place for shock, because it was most likely a coin flip among many interesting names there at the 10 spot.
Instead, the biggest surprise on the list comes all the way at the top: Aramis Ademan – the Chicago Cubs new top prospect according to Baseball America.
The Cubs signed Ademan out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015 for a fairly significant $2 million bonus. At the time, he was considered a light-hitting, good-fielding shortstop, but that perception may soon change.
Starting the year out at Low-A South Bend, Ademan slashed .286/.365/.466 with a 7.7% walk rate and just a 16.4% strikeout rate. He managed to hit only four home runs, but that was in just 39 games. And with nine other doubles and a four triples, his .180 ISO was plenty impressive, especially for a player born in 1998(!).
According to Baseball America, Ademan is advanced for his age in his approach at the plate. Moreover, he has a projectable frame and is expected to continue getting stronger: “He has a feel for barreling the baseball, repeats his smooth swing and has shown some selectivity as well, allowing his average power to play. He should be a steady above-average hitter.” As I mentioned, his fielding is very well-received all ready, which is why BA believes he’ll be a fast riser in the Cubs system.
While we’ve long known that Ademan is someone to keep an eye on (Luke had him 4th in the system in the August Top 40), I must say this is a surprisingly encouraging scouting report and ranking. You’re really going to want to pop over to Baseball America and get the full story.
As for the rest of the top ten, like I said, there’s not many surprises. Albertos and Alzolay always find themselves near the very top, Lange and Little, without much professional experience, stick within the middle of the top ten, De La Cruz is always around there thanks to the talent (and despite the health), and Tseng’s proximity to the Majors keeps him in the mix.
The Cubs system isn’t nearly as strong as were used to – in its current form – but there are a lot of interesting arms loaded into this system. With a little bit of luck (and even more health) they could quickly develop into a quality overall pitching organization … which would be good because the Cubs need some help on that front in the coming years.
To that end, I want to share one snippet to keep in mind – both generally, and specifically in reference to De La Cruz, since his was the context in which BA said it: “The Cubs won’t waste his bullets in the minors; if he stays healthy, he’ll zoom to Wrigley Field.” That certainly could be the case for De La Cruz, who still hasn’t pitched above High-A, but it could also apply for a number of the young arms in the system. The Cubs may have needs sooner rather than later, and if the Cubs think they can get some productivity out of a still-developing arm, they may roll the dice earlier than you’re used to seeing. We haven’t seen a Cubs farm system looking quite like this in a very long time, so we might see moves we haven’t seen in a very long time.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.