Minor League Ball's Top 20 Chicago Cubs Prospect List is Out

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Minor League Ball’s Top 20 Chicago Cubs Prospect List is Out

Chicago Cubs

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As the offseason winds to a close – at least, that’s normally something you can say in late January – the various analytical/prospecting sites around the web begin to roll out their top prospect lists.

So far, we’ve gotten top Cubs prospect lists in from Baseball America and FanGraphs, as well as Chris Mitchell’s KATOH prospect system. Interestingly, all three rankings have been decidedly different. The Cubs, it seems, have replaced their former no-doubt top tier, with an extremely deep, well-rounded system – one that includes at least 15 prospects who could arguably be in the top 10.

Joining them, and adding yet another, different top five is Minor League Ball, which released its iteration of the Chicago Cubs Top 20 Prospects for 2016. You can see the list below, as well as some of my own thoughts, but for more context and a write-up on each player I encourage you to read the entire article on Minor League Ball. Given stark differences in the various rankings so far, it’s worth checking out as much information as you can, eh?

First, the list:

  1. Gleyber Torres, SS
  2. Ian Happ, OF-2B
  3. Billy McKinney, OF
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Duane Underwood, RHP
  6. Carl Edwards Jr., RHP
  7. Oscar De La Cruz, RHP
  8. Eloy Jimenez, OF
  9. Albert Almora, OF
  10. Pierce Johnson, RHP
  11. Dylan Cease, RHP
  12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  13. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
  14. Ryan Williams, RHP
  15. Victor Caratini, C
  16. Donnie Dewees, OF
  17. Trevor Clifton, RHP
  18. Carson Sands, LHP
  19. Bryan Hudson, LHP
  20. Ryan Kellogg, LHP
Before I dive into any specifics, I want to address the makeup of the list as whole, forming two unrelated conclusions.

First, take a look at the overall positions. By my count, I see exactly 10 pitchers and 10 position players. Alongside the compliments of the Cubs’ former glut of positional talent, there was a narrative that the organization lacked any pitching. Now, to be sure, the Cubs’ pitching prospects never held a candle to their positional talent, but no one team’s prospects could. This list should serve as a reminder that the Cubs system does have talented pitching prospects. They may not be top 100 types (yet), but the depth is there and should show up at the Major League level soon.

Second, if you are unfamiliar with the way Minor League Ball ranks and evaluates their prospects, take a look at the original article. Essentially, their analysts assign grades to each player (like A, B, C, etc..) as well as pluses (+) and minuses (-) to indicate that extra bit of confidence or concern. To reinforce just how deep, but not top heavy, the Cubs MiLB organization is, take a look at how many “B” grade players they have. The answer is 13. That means, according to John Sickels, the Cubs’ top 13 prospects all have a good chance of enjoying successful MLB careers. That is an extraordinarily deep pool of MLB-caliber players and should not go unnoticed.

Like FanGraphs and Baseball America before him, John Sickels pegs Gleyber Torres as the Cubs’ top prospect, overall. It’s becoming clear he has the highest ceiling of the bunch, and his performance to date hasn’t done anything to make you think otherwise. Despite recognizing the obvious talent, though, Sickels isn’t quite positive on any of the specifics. He posits that Torres could stick at shortstop … or he could outgrow the position, he could grow into a power hitter … or be more of a high-average/doubles type of guy; such are the reviews of a 19-year-old prospect. This should be a big year for Torres, who we just found out will head to High-A Myrtle Beach to start the season.

It’s also becoming increasingly common to see both Ian Happ, the Cubs 2015 first round pick, and Duane Underwood in the top five of every list. Sickels is impressed with Happ’s strike-zone judgement, power and speed, but is uncertain about his ultimate future position. We did just hear that Happ will be committing to second base for at least the entirety of the 2016 season. On Underwood, it remains all about his ceiling. With the capability to hit 95-96MPH with his fastball, as well as two near-plus pitches (changeup and curveball), Sickels places 3rd starter upside on Underwood’s future, which would be just swell.

For me, this list reflects the closest set of rankings that might resemble my own top five, the particulars of which I’ll keep to myself. Although I would rearrange the order, the top five listed above represent, to me, the clear upper echelon of Cubs’ minor league talent. From there, the depth and legitimacy of the next 10-12 players is so consistent that separating them or rearranging them further becomes a matter of preference and value (and many of the “just missed” group in Sickels’ piece could all be in there, too). It’s a good time to be fan of the Major League Cubs, but the minors are still roaring and loaded with talent.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami