Late last month – Oh! Hello, February – Keith Law unveiled his top 100 Prospect Rankings, placing Cubs shortstop prospect Aramis Ademan (#78) and right-hander Adbert Alzolay (#84) near the back end of the list – you can check out our discussion of those rankings right here.
Later on, Law revealed his overall farm system rankings, which, depending on how he values the Marlins’ trades this winter, places the Cubs somewhere among the bottom five systems in baseball. In that process, however, he also revealed that the Cubs third best prospect, Jose Albertos, just nearly missed joining Ademan and Alzolay at the back end of the top 100. You can check that discussion right here.
So, piecing his various thoughts/posts together, we could surmise that, according to (the) Law, the Cubs’ top three prospects, in order, are Ademan, Alzolay, and Albertos, but now we can fill in the rest of the top ten, together with a lot of discussion from Law himself (which you’ll have to read over here).
- Aramis Ademan, SS/2B
- Adbert Alzolay, RHP
- Jose Albertos, RHP
- Brendon Little, LHP
- Thomas Hatch, RHP
- Oscar de la Cruz, RHP
- Alex Lange, RHP
- Victor Caratini, C/1B
- Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP
- Miguel Amaya, C/1B
There are no huge surprises here, as the Cubs’ top seven prospects – from Ademan to Alex Lange – seem to stay together (albeit in different orders) across multiple publications. I also think, at this point, the trio of college pitchers the Cubs took at the top of the last two drafts (Little, Hatch, and Lange) are somewhat in a group together, with hopefully at least one of them set to break out in 2018.
According to Law, Little and Lange (the Cubs’ two first-round picks in 2017) had two of the best breaking balls in the draft last year, but both carry the risk of turning into a reliever due to a lack of fastball life (96 MPH, but flat) for Little and a unrepeatable delivery for Lange. Interestingly, though, Law seems to believe that Hatch has what takes to be a starter in the big leagues (even if it’s nearer the back end of a rotation than the front), which has not necessarily been a consensus opinion.
In fact, much of what we heard about Hatch being available to the Cubs at the end of the third round in 2016 (where they first selected) was because of durability concerns that might preclude him from being a starter long-term. But there’s nothing wrong with a little optimism on Hatch, especially after a very good first full professional season, which saw him pitch at High-A.
But let me back up a step here and point something else out.
Although we obviously hope that all seven of the Cubs’ pitching prospects in the top ten become useful Major League starters, we have to remember how the game has changed at the Major League level. High-quality relievers are more valuable than ever before, which means “flaming out” in the rotation and resigning oneself to the pen isn’t as much of a loss as it may have once seemed.
More than that, these particular prospects, on the whole, boast the sort of high-octane, two-primary-pitch repertoires that succeed in the eighth and ninth inning (think Carl Edwards Jr., not Kyle Hendricks). And if you’re wondering why we haven’t already seen more of that in this system in the last few years, it’s because some of the more recent, “failed” starting pitching prospects did not have that same type of stuff and/or high-velo-fastball-plus-breaking-pitch profile.
In that sense, the Cubs’ Minor League system could help out the Major League team by helping the front office avoid huge price tags for high-quality relief (top relievers are getting $15 million annually, and the Cubs have had to trade other prospects to acquire closers in recent years). Incorporating in-house pitching prospects in the late innings can save money to be used elsewhere – including in the rotation. So their development even only as relievers can, in a way, help out the rotation.
Again, this isn’t the hope – starters are more valuable than relievers – but things have definitely changed.
Anyway, you should check out the rest Law’s article and individual write-ups at ESPN for more on each of the top ten. And, as always, the Cubs’ system may not be top-notch right now, but there’s so much potential value here, and the big league squad is as (almost as) young and strong as ever.