The Cubs’ Minor League system hasn’t generated anything close to the level of interest or excitement for fans since the golden years of the rebuild (between 2012-2016). Surely, that was a historic group of prospects and not something we may see for the Cubs ever again.
But I can say with some degree of certainty – and for the first time since the beginning of 2017 – that the farm system appears to be on the upswing, even if ever so slightly. At last, there are some relatively high-upside positional prospects over which to obsess, and the pitchers, while having endured some struggles last season, are at least finally reaching the upper levels, where a stroke of good fortune (or good coaching) might just help squeeze out a useful arm or two this season.
No one will confuse this with a top tier (or even top half) farm system, so don’t get me wrong. It’s just that, relative to the last couple years, I feel good.
And it is to that end I present to you the latest top ten Cubs prospect rankings from Baseball Prospectus. It’s got a fresh new look, and it’s something else to get excited about for the year ahead.
- Nico Hoerner, SS
- Miguel Amaya, C
- Alex Lange, RHP
- Adbert Alzolay, RHP
- Aramis Ademan, SS
- Justin Steele, LHP
- Brailyn Marquez, LHP
- Cole Roederer, OF
- Brennan Davis, OF
- Alec Mills, RHP
Alright, let’s rip the band-aid off: I have some issues with the rankings above. While I do believe Nico Hoerner and Miguel Amaya should be leading the pack – indeed, Baseball America and MLB Pipeline (albeit in a different order) came to the same conclusion, – I’m a little surprised by the relative rankings of the three prospects that follow.
Don’t get me wrong, all three guys had high hopes entering the 2018 season – and could still have a bright big league career ahead of them – but Alex Lange experienced a less-than-inspiring second-half drop-off (especially for a 2017 first-round pick out of college), Adbert Alzolay got injured just as the big leagues came into focus, and Aramis Ademan didn’t hit a LICK in his first trip to High-A (albeit in a very challenging assignment). I still think all three of these guys should be top-ten prospects right now, but since I’m allowed to be nit-picky, I’m picking nits.
But most of all, I think their relative rankings stand out specifically because they’re above Brailyn Marquez and Cole Roederer, two guys I’ve heard more about than anybody else in the Cubs system lately.
The Cubs signed Marquez out of the DR back in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he broke out of rookie ball and reached short-season and full-season A ball. In ten starts at short-season Low-A, Marquez delivered a 3.21 ERA (3.80 FIP) with a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 7.1% walk rate. And remember, he was only 19(!) years old while doing that. Marquez finished the season at A-ball, and although he tossed only 7.0 innings, they were really good (2.57 ERA). According to Baseball America, Marquez stands out because of his power fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, but touches 98 MPH, but he’s got a slider and changeup that both project as above-average at the moment. BA believes his ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter, and that would be one fantastic outcome if it happened.
The Cubs drafted 19-year-old outfielder Cole Roederer in the second supplemental round of the 2018 MLB draft and he’s got an interesting story, as well. In short, Roederer has the instincts to play center field, but the speed of a corner outfielder, which doesn’t actually strike me as a problem. Maybe he’d have more value if he could stick in center, but if he’s a plus defender in a corner, that’s got plenty of value, too.
But the more exciting read of his profile is the latent power that slowly begin to reveal itself before the draft and upon becoming a professional. He slashed .275/.354/.465 in rookie ball, with a .190 ISO. If he can maintain that level of production (relatively speaking) and pair it with plus defense in the corners, he’s going to be a regular big leaguer one day. And, hey, for however bad the Cubs have been at developing pitchers, they’ve been at least as good at developing hitters. If Roederer has it in him, the Cubs system is one of the best places to get it out.
And therein lies my excitement for the upcoming season: the Cubs do their best work with drafting and developing hitting prospects, so it’s good to see them back in the system! I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for one or two of the pitchers to break through, but between Amaya, Hoerner, and Roederer, I’m ready for minor league baseball to return.