In my first post with BN, a year or so ago, I wrote a piece about what the Cubs needed to do for 2019 to be considered a successful season on the farm. Here’s what the checklist looked like …
- 3-4 Firm Top 100 Guys. [Check.]
- Someone, anyone sticking in the big league bullpen. [Check. Thanks Rowan!]
- An Upper Level Starter Looking Ready for a rotation opportunity. [Eh, not sure Alzolay quite is there.]
- The arrival of power changing a position player’s ceiling. [Brennen D the only pick here]
- Breakout from a complex league pitcher. [Kohl Franklin, hello]
- One of the baby middle infielders grows into a real prospect. [Chris Morel?]
- Multiple. Sleepers. [Jack Patterson and … Robel?]
In all, I would say that 2019 was a nice year. A solid B grade. The system unquestionably improved from its depths in 2017/18.
And so this is what I’d say about the Cubs system: in terms of the top tier, I feel good about the Cubs’ top four prospects. You’d like one of the guys to elevate himself to the “Can’t Miss” impact variety, but beggars can’t be choosers.
The Cubs lack in the second tier, which is players in that 101-250 overall range. The Cubs depth has improved a lot, and the third tier (guys you might say are #250-600 prospects – actual prospects) looks good. The key for the system in 2020 is getting some of those third tier players to move a level (or two!) up.
This is what the investment in coaching and strength training, and the overhaul of the player development side of the front office, is all about. This is a season where growth in the middle needs to happen.
This year’s Bleacher Nation prospect list will be 30 names deep, but will begin with a four-part honorable mention series, because there were just so many guys worth a mention. An honorable mention!
In total, I’ll be writing about 69 Cubs prospects. I have decided to make Robel Garcia, Duane Underwood, Dillon Maples, and Mark Zagunis ineligible. Everyone is familiar with the strengths and weaknesses; they’re pushing the boundaries of what we’d consider a “prospect”.
As I ranked and re-ranked and tweaked and re-tweaked the list this year, I found myself re-balancing the scales of what I value in a prospect. This list will give a little more credence to ceiling than I maybe have in the past. A big market team that carries the Cubs payroll needs mostly be concerned with cost-controlled difference makers, as end-of-roster depth should be able to be bought if necessary. Gimme the lotto tickets, the potential multi-WAR guys.
Of the 69 players you’ll read about in the next two weeks, 37 are pitchers and 32 are hitters. Ten were drafted in the first 3 rounds, 15 were drafted after round 10. Eight are from the Dominican Republic, eight are from Venezuela, four are from Mexico, two are from Cuba. The Cubs also have representation from Panama, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Curacao.
Over the next four days, I have four categories of Honorable Mention’s covering 35 players. Below are the four players I couldn’t fit into any category. Wet your beak with these four, and come back for the remaining 65.
And as Brett says: get into this system before it’s too late to be hip.
[Note: all players in Honorable Mention will appear in alphabetical order. The age listed will be their 2020 baseball age, the affiliate is my projection at their Opening Day assignment.]
Josh Burgmann, RHP, 22, South Bend (Stats). I could see things going two ways for Burgmann. In his debut, you saw a fastball he ran as high as 95 mph on one occasion, that he controls really well. You saw the curveball/slider offerings both thrown for strikes and for strikeouts. This could all play well and build into a back-end starter profile. Or, you can see fastball control that is ahead of fastball command, as Eugene opponents routinely fouled off Burgmann fastballs that caught too much of the zone. Eventually, at some level, hitters won’t be so generous. And the reason I wrote ‘curveball/slider’ above? Because, for me, the two pitches bleed into each other, and neither jumps out as reliably plus yet. (Acquired: 5th round, 2019.)
Soph eligible RHP Josh Burgmann, currently 156th on our top 200 Draft Board, was very sharp in 1st before ASU scored 4 runs in the 2nd on 2 errors and a 2R HR.
— Dan Jurik (@PBR_DanJurik) April 28, 2019
Bryan Hudson, LHP, 23, Myrtle Beach (Stats). Make or break season. Hudson came into 2019 looking, by far, the best he had in his career. Then he suffered an injury and missed three months. Hudson has one weapon – a bowling ball of a sinker – that is darn near unprecedented for a 6-foot-8 lefty. The rest of the package has been pieced together and gradually improved upon, but it’s not quite there. I want Hudson moved to the bullpen, where he can throw 75% sinkers and worry about little else than that pitch’s command. (Acquired: 3rd round, 2015.)
Zach referenced an arm slot change that began late last season, it seems to have unlocked some extra options (and improved velo AND command). Had 10 swinging strikes.
Hudson had more K’s than IP twice last year, did it in his first 2019 start. Something to keep an eye on.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) April 6, 2019
Adam Laskey, LH SP, 22, Extended Spring Training (Stats). The Cubs were happy to get Laskey signed after a disappointing and oft-injured junior season following a good 2018 on the Cape. Laskey has that competent three-pitch mix that’s enough for a lot of lefties, and the Cubs will take the time to get him healthy and work on developing him as a starter. Good draft pick, we’ll need to see more to really have a handle on what he can be. (Acquired: 19th round, 2019.)
Adam Laskey just threw his first inning of the season for @DukeBASE. 89-91 mostly, touched 92. Solid change in the 84-85 range that got a strikeout and a groundout. 77-78 mph CB. Here's a look at the CB. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/ushJPmqsAY
— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) March 22, 2019
Nelson Velazquez, OF, 21, Myrtle Beach (Stats). Just missed the top 30. I see Velazquez as a bit of a tweener, a guy who has lost some athleticism as his body has filled out, but whose power is not guaranteed. I see his upside more as a fourth outfielder that can play center in a pinch, and someone who you give some starts to against left-handed pitchers (he OPS’d 1.010 against them last year). But if you believe that power is coming, your mileage may vary on the upside. (Acquired: 5th round, 2017.)