It's Time to Update the BN Cubs Top Prospects List, Part 1: 38-23

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It’s Time to Update the BN Cubs Top Prospects List, Part 1: 38-23

Chicago Cubs

For our latest update to the BN Prospect List, I want to change the rollout a little bit. For many of these guys, you don’t need me to give you a scouting report of strengths and weaknesses. We’ve either done that, or it’s out there somewhere else, or we’re going to do it in the larger offseason prospect list. And if you’re feeling like you want to hear more about a player, hit me up in the comments!

Instead in this August update, I’ll talk a little more generally about the process of ranking these guys, the natural groupings that form, and how I maneuvered my way into rankings. This is our first update since before the Draft, since before International Free Agency, and of course, since the Trade Deadline. We’ll do it again in the offseason.

38-29: Next Season’s Wild Cards

In some ways, this is the self-preservation spot of the prospect list. We know that *someone* will break out in 2020, fly up the prospect list and have people wondering where he came from. When coming up with the back end of the list, I tried to pick the names I thought would be likeliest.

38. Yohendrick Pinango, of, 17, DSL

37. Hunter Bigge, rhp, 21, Eugene

36. Ben Rodriguez, rhp, 19, AZL

35. Cameron Sanders, rhp, 22, South Bend

34. Nelson Velazquez, of, 20, South Bend

33. Ethan Hearn, c, 18, AZL

32. Jeremiah Estrada, rhp, 20, Eugene (IL)

31. Ronnier Quintero, c, 16, Unassigned

27. Pedro Martinez, if, 18, Eugene

Think of Bigge almost as a proxy for all the interesting 2019 draft arms, though he’s been my favorite so far, the Cubs just hope someone emerges among he, Chris Clarke, D.J. Herz, Tyler Schlaffer and more. In some ways, Bigge is sort of the 2019 version of Cameron Sanders, a Day 3 arm with a non-traditional college story but a nice big arm. In the same way, Pinango is a proxy for the talents in the DSL: Rafael Morel, Jose Lopez, Felix Stevens. Always hard to handicap who gets to the U.S. and immediately pops, but someone will.

Rodriguez and Estrada were two guys I needed to find a spot for, extremely raw arms with nice velocity, and secondary stuff that has flashed positively decent. Hearn and Quintero were the big dollar acquisitions from the Scouting Department this year, and you hope one puts together the power behind the plate package. All four of these guys will be a while.

Now check out Martinez’ ranking number, that’s not a typo. He belongs thematically in this group, but I want to signify that he is rising quickly here. Martinez has been a breakout in the last month, distinguishing himself from a short-season middle infield logjam that also includes Fabian Pertuz, Luis Verdugo and Reivaj Garcia (all of whom are not listed, but would be if we went not-too-much further). It earned him Player of the Month honors.

Velazquez will perhaps always be a tease with his flashes of power in a system otherwise devoid of it.

29-23: The High Floor Crew

As we get lower, I find safety in ranking these seven guys that I feel like you can handicap pretty well. In all likelihood, they’re bench players and middle relievers. But you feel good that they’re big leaguers, and each has their own unique chance to be something more. Note that this is the grouping where Alex Lange would have found himself if he hadn’t been dealt in the Nick Castellanos trade.

30. Duane Underwood, rhp, 24, Chicago

29. D.J. Artis, of, 22, Myrtle Beach (IL)

28. Trent Giambrone, utl, 25, Iowa

26. Michael McAvene, rhp, 21, Eugene

25. Dakota Mekkes, rhp, 24, Iowa

24. Brendon Little, lhp, 22, South Bend

23. Andy Weber, ss, 22, South Bend

Underwood, who was moved to the bullpen at Iowa, since the calendar flipped to June: 29.2 IP, 24 H, 2.12 ERA, 8 BB, 42 K. This ‘throw 30% changeups’ switch the bullpen has allowed has been a revelation. He’d be higher if he wasn’t out of options in 2020, which will necessarily accelerate his timeline for development as a reliever. Of course, if he can be anything like he looked last night …

There are some rumors the Cubs will attempt to transition McAvene to the starting rotation, but I just don’t see it. I see a high 90s fastball and slurve that can move quickly. It’s more likely that Brendon Little succeeds as a starter, as his three-pitch mix is more consistent this year, but I still ultimately see him fitting into the bullpen, too.

Mekkes is a guy who’s always been impossible to rank, because he’s so-very-very not traditional, and this year, he’s not been particularly effective (for the first time in his career). The fastball command has been an issue, but I believe in his talent, and he’s at the point in the year where he’s topping at 95 mph and that’s hard to ignore given the success he’s had at 91.

Artis is a traditional leadoff profile that people naturally cling to, and he just gets on base everywhere he goes. Giambrone is making a run at the 30/30 club in Triple-A this year, and has seemingly solved his inability to hit lefties, as he’s destroying them. If Giambrone was in the Cardinals organization, he’d have an incredible first year, draw comparisons to Joe Morgan in the Post-Dispatch, and exit quietly a couple years later. With the Cubs? I can’t be sure.

Once Weber started drawing walks to go along with his natural athleticism, I couldn’t deny him a spot on the list. And a guy who can stick at shortstop rises to the top of groupings pretty naturally.

In Part 2 I’ll rank it all the way from 22-8.



Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.