Baseball America is the next of the prospecting services to unveil its top 100 prospect list in advance of the 2017 season, and the top names should all be familiar to you: Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, Dansby Swanson, Alex Reyes, Gleyber Torres.
Interestingly, there’s (at least) a Cubs-adjacent connection for all five of those guys. Benintendi was rumored to be connected to the Cubs in the first round of the 2015 draft before the Red Sox took him two spots before the Cubs picked. Moncada was an uber Cuban prospect for whom Cubs-related rumors swirled for months, but they couldn’t get him to wait until they were out of the penalty box to sign. Swanson was the headliner Diamondbacks prospect that netted them Shelby Miller after rumors swirled for months about the Cubs’ own attempts to land him (and, given how horribly that has all played out for the Diamondbacks, there’s not too much regret there about not being able to top the insane purchase price). Alex Reyes is the Cardinals’ young could-be ace, whom the Cubs will have to face for years to come.
And then there’s Gleyber Torres, who, come to think of it, has no Cubs connection whatsoever. Never heard of him. I don’t know the man. I can’t hear you.
As for the rest of the list, which you can see here, the Cubs’ first entrant shows up at number 14, and you know who it is. It’s powerful outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who is likely going to be ranked in this range by the services when the final lists are all out.
From there, it’s a steep fall for the Cubs, all the way to numbers 63 and 64, where Ian Happ and Albert Almora show up back-to-back.
When Almora’s been ranked as a prospect, that’s about where he’s been, but the opinions on Happ are extremely divergent. MLB Pipeline, for example, has Happ all the way up at number 28. The numbers were not overwhelming for the Cubs’ first round pick in 2015, but the fact that he reached AA in his first full professional season, was re-learning second base in the process, and then really only saw his numbers take a hit at the end of the year when he was wearing down, taken together tells me we haven’t seen peak offensive performance from Happ just yet. It’ll be a big swing year for his prospect status. Happ figures to start the season back at AA after appearing in big league camp. From there, he could get a quick promotion to AAA if the Cubs believe his bat is ready for the next challenge.
The only other Cub on the list is Dylan Cease, who sneaks in at number 97. Everyone seems to agree he has major breakout potential this year. He’s just gotta stay healthy, and show it against more experienced competition. The pitches and the physical ability is all there.
The lack of national love for Jeimer Candelario persists, despite his overwhelmingly solid 2016 season (which came on the heels of an overwhelmingly solid second half of 2015, AFL, and Spring Training). So far, Candelario appeared at number 96 on MLB Pipeline’s list, and also made the ZiPS top 100 (but that’s not a traditional prospect list). Candelario did not make BA’s list, and also did not make Keith Law’s list.
Given that these prospect lists are, among many other things, the product of tons of conversations with scouts, executives, and experts in the industry (in addition to the service’s own scouting), I think we probably have to accept at this point that the industry sees flaws in Candelario that his numbers (and our eyes) are not showing us. I have a hard time believing that bat won’t play, given the type of offensive success he has (high BB%, low K%, high ISO, switch hitter), so it has to primarily be the defense. After another season of eyes heavily on him, the best guess here is that the plurality of scouts see him as below average overall at third base (and unable to play anywhere else besides first base), and the bat is not quite strong enough to make up for the defense and profile him as an everyday player in the big leagues. That’s not *me* saying these things, mind you – it’s just the best conclusion I can draw after a guy is a back-end top 100 type, has a huge year offensively at AAA, and then somehow drops off of these lists.