It’s usually more fun to get into the various top prospects rankings after your team’s offseason is complete and you have a full picture not only of the season ahead, but also the actual final group of prospects in the system (who knows who’ll be added to the Cubs between now and the spring). But we haven’t had that luxury this year (or last year, come to think of it), so … no surprises here. Baseball America, you’re up.
We already checked in on BA’s Top-10 Cubs prospect rankings back at the beginning of December and were pleasantly surprised to find Brailyn Marquez name up top (the Cubs have a top pitching prospect!). Of course, we weren’t quite sure how high he’d land until the full top-100 was released.
37. Brailyn Marquez, LHP
40. Nico Hoerner, SS/2B
94. Brennan Davis, OF
Generally speaking, this is a fine showing for the Cubs, with bits that inspire, bits that enrage, and bits that … sound about right. For example, if you assumed a fairly normal distribution of prospects among each of MLB’s 30 clubs, an average team would likely have three total prospects in the top-100 (and if it were completely average, it’d be about one around No. 15, one around No. 45, and one around No. 75).
The Cubs did land three prospects in the top-100 overall (hooray!), but did not get one in the top third of the league. They did manage to sneak two into the top-50, which is swell and a refreshing improvement over recent years, but their third best prospect just barely snuck into the top-100 at all. So while this is probably the closest to average the Cubs system has looked in years, it’s still probably just below-average overall, even if going only by the top-100 type prospects.
As for inspiration … HOW ABOUT OUR BOY BRAILYN?!
I have little doubt Marquez, the Cubs big lefty with an 80-grade fastball and 60-grade slider deserves this high of a ranking after his performance last season, but I also suspect this is about as high as he’ll go this ranking season. There’s no doubt he’s the best and most legitimate pitching prospect the Cubs have had in a while and BA thinks he might be their best homegrown pitcher since Carlos Zambrano (beating who else … Jeff Samardzija, I guess?), but he’s still got plenty to prove – particularly in terms of developing a third pitch (so his path to the rotation is more clear) and getting results at a higher level.
As for enraging … the list is seriously not going to include Miguel Amaya?
I know we’re a little higher on Amaya around here than most, but that’s because we’re a Cubs blog and know a whole lot about him. And while it’s true he’s mentioned among the 98 other prospects who received some consideration for the top-100, he wasn’t even one of the most-likely to crack the list. That’s pretty baffling, considering:
- He’s young (20)
- He’s young for his level (A+ in 2019)
- He plays a premium position where offensive development typically slows (C)
- He plays a premium position very well (by most accounts)
- He hit well for his position, age, and league … and just overall (122 wRC+)
Honestly, what more can a 20-year-old catching prospect do than hit 22% better than the league average hitter in his first trip through High-A while more than holding his own behind the plate? That’s a top-100 prospect. In fact, other pundits do rank him much higher (FanGraphs has him at No. 1 in the Cubs system), and I know Brett might call him the Cubs’ top prospect, as well. So … perhaps it just depends on your prospect preferences.
Want a high-upside starter? You go Marquez. Want a close-to-the-big leagues middle infielder? You go Hoerner. Want someone whose unexpectedly MASSIVE results speak for themselves? You go Davis. Want the positionally-advantaged, young slugging catcher with more than just a shot to stick behind the plate? Amaya is your guy.
In that way, I kind of love the diversity of the Cubs top prospects right now. We might not all agree on where they rank – and that, itself, might reveal some underlying uncertainty – but there’s no denying this is the healthiest look the Cubs system has had in years.
I could see them in the 16 to 22 range or so at this point. It’s progress!