Not only has the offseason arrived with sudden, aggressive force this week, we have to remember that prospect ranking season will also be arriving soon.
Like, very soon. Like, today.
Baseball America is always among one of the earliest outlets to start putting out their offseason top prospect lists, and the Cubs were on the extreme front-end this year (coming first after the NL East was completed). You can and should check out the full article here for complete write-ups on the prospects and the system, but here’s the top ten list:
- Gleyber Torres, SS
- Willson Contreras, C
- Ian Happ, OF/2B
- Duane Underwood, RHP
- Dylan Cease, RHP
- Albert Almora, OF
- Billy McKinney, OF
- Oscar De La Cruz, RHP
- Eloy Jimenez, OF
- Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that you’re going to see Torres and Contreras emerge as a consensus top two in the system when it’s all said and done at the end of rankings season. At the time of the mid-season update here at BN, Luke was higher on McKinney, ranking him behind only Contreras, but I wonder if the knee cap injury and the additional information we get in the offseason will shuffle things heading into the 2016 season.
As I think about it, this is a tough group to rank. Previously – and I mean not only the last couple years, but even before that – it was always very clear who were the top tier guys in the Cubs’ system, then who were the next few, and then you got into the debates. Now, I think you can have very reasonable debates at the top, as well as anywhere from 3 through about 15, which is crazy. The Cubs might be lighter on obvious impact types thanks to graduations last year (that’s not a knock on the present system – it’s an acknowledgement of how historically strong the Cubs’ system was at the top coming into last season), but the quality depth is as strong as it’s been since I’ve followed prospecting.
I’m guessing that might be the highest you’ll see on Happ, who had a great debut in 2015, but will need to show the bat off at higher levels and also settle into a defensive home (and/or show off adequate chops at multiple positions, which would be valuable in its own right) before most will put him in the top three. My big question for next year: are the strikeouts the product of swing-and-miss because he’s got an aggressive swing (to produce power, which is acceptable to some extent), or will he have to also improve his pitch recognition? It sounds like scouts believe it’s only the former, which would be good.
We expected Underwood, Cease, and De La Cruz to be among the pitchers with helium this offseason, and sure enough, each has rocketed up into the top ten.
I like seeing Jimenez and Candelario cracking the top ten, and Almora is deservedly right there still in the mix. Guys falling off include Pierce Johnson and Carl Edwards, Jr.
Interesting, by the way, that BA calls Candelario the Cubs’ “best defensive infielder thanks to a plus arm, soft hands and smooth actions,” while others have questioned his ability to stay at third base at all. That just goes to remind you that these things are not an exact science, and all you can do is incorporate as much reliable information as is available (and hopefully watch for yourself, too), and keep an open mind.