Today, we’ll tackle yet another one from FanGraphs.
As I mentioned in our last check-in, right now, prospect evaluators appear to agree on the very top end of the Cubs’ system (the first two or three prospects), but seem to have fairly different views immediately thereafter.
For example, with today’s rankings (Eric Longenhagen’s Chicago Cubs Top 23 Prospects at Fangraphs), you’ll once again find Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ leading the way, but some splits (from the previous rankings) in the order of the prospects that follow.
And more specifically, the Cubs appear to have formed a group of top-four pitching prospects, each with a wide variety of reviews so far. We’ll focus on that aspect of the rankings today.
The full list, including the scouting reports, comparisons, and KATOH projections – which are used to statistically project the amount of WAR each prospect is expected to produce in their first six seasons at the Major League level – can be seen here at FanGraphs.
- Eloy Jimenez, OF
- Ian Happ, 2B/OF
- Oscar De La Cruz, RHP
- Jeimer Candelario, 1B (projected)
- Jose Albertos, RHP
- Albert Almora, CF
- Dylan Cease, RHP
- Trevor Clifton, RHP
- Mark Zagunis, OF
- Jose Rosario, RHP
- DJ Wilson, OF
- Eddie Martinez, OF
- Aramis Ademan, SS
- Victor Caratini, C/1B
- Felix Pena, RHP
- Thomas Hatch, RHP
- Isaac Paredes, INF
- Chesny Young, INF
- Donnie Dewees, LF
- Jose Paulino, LHP
- Bryan Hudson, LHP
- Duane Underwood, RHP
- Bailey Clark, RHP
Let’s start with some general notes on these rankings, vis a vis Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. First, and most notably, each of BA and BP had Albert Almora, who should get about half of the Cubs center field starts this season, ranked third behind Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ. Here, however, he just misses the top five.
FanGraphs is expectedly high on Almora’s glove and general defense (including his arm, which is considered “plus,” despite a lack of raw strength), but is a bit shaky on his potential at the plate.
In place of Almora at number three, FanGraphs ranks Oscar de la Cruz as the Cubs third best prospect, and best pitching prospect overall.
At Baseball America, de la Cruz didn’t show up until number five overall, and at Baseball Prospectus he didn’t show up until number eight. But in both cases, he came in behind Dylan Cease, who is widely considered the Cubs pitching prospect with the greatest upside.
Here, de la Cruz is not only considered the Cubs’ third best prospect, then, but also the top pitching prospect in the organization. And while it isn’t hard to like what de la Cruz has to offer, it is certainly a diversion from the norm. Let’s see why.
Despite the lofty ranking, FanGraphs doesn’t seem to be enamored with de la Cruz’s ability to actually make it to the Major Leagues, but does believe he technically has No. 3 starter upside. When he’s “pitching well,” Longenhagen suggests that his 90-95 MPH fastball and mid-70s curveball can do a lot of damage as plus pitches, but when he’s not, the loss of command and recent forearm issues make him a fairly risky prospect overall. I didn’t really expect him to be ranked ahead of Cease, but as it turns out he’s not even the only pitcher ahead of Cease.
Instead, that distinction goes to number 5, Jose Albertos.
Previously ranked sixth (BP) and 10th (BA), there’s not a lot of consensus on where Albertos should fall, but as a very young, inexperienced international signing, it makes some sense. With that said, there is clearly plenty to like. Albertos’ fastball has been clocked in between 93-98 MPH and is projected to be a very valuable partner to his already above average and “arguably projects to plus-plus” change-up. In addition, his curveball is considered to be a work in progress at best, and inconsistent at worst. With that said, Albertos is considered to be an extreme risk, albeit one with similar No. 3 upside as de la Cruz.
Dylan Cease (7) and Trevor Clifton (8) appear at the back end of these rankings, although each has been previously ranked within the top four of the Cubs prospects overall.
Meaning that, relative order aside, it appears that the Cubs have collected a group of four top pitching prospects consisting of (in some order) Dylan Cease, Oscar de la Cruz, Jose Albertos, and Trevor Clifton. Although there is at least some mid-upper rotational projection in almost every one of those arms, each comes with more than their fair share of risk.
However, in terms of pitching prospects, that’s par for the course. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some Cubs pitching prospects really break out after so many years of almost exclusively dreaming on position prospects?
There’s much more to read and digest over at FanGraphs, including more prospects of note who did not make the top 23.