We are quickly approaching the reveal of the BN top Cubs prospects list, which will be the first top Cubs prospect list to include the most recent wave of international free agent signings. Under normal circumstances, those signings would’ve initially arrived on July 2, and would show up in the main offseason prospect rankings. But since this year’s class was pushed back to January 15 because of the pandemic, virtually all team rankings took place before the IFA period opened.
Under normal circumstances – hey, there’s that line again! – it wouldn’t be a huge issue to have IFAs excluded from top prospect lists for a year, because you’re generally talking about 16-17-year-old prospects without any meaningful game experience, which means only the very best of the best even show up in the 20 to 30 range of top prospect lists. Some lists just categorically exclude them.
But this year, we already knew there was going to be at least one IFA prospect we’d want to include on our Cubs list immediately. The moment he was in the organization. He’s the most hyped Cubs IFA signing since the Eloy Jimenez/Gleyber Torres class seven and a half years ago, and he’s probably going to show up in the top ten of Cubs prospects pretty much anywhere that puts together a list over the next year.
The first time Alex Suarez saw Cristian Hernandez play, his "eyes lit up."
A couple years later, the Cubs signed the international prospect. https://t.co/F8SQyXmO0N
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) January 25, 2021
Internally, among the things the Cubs are saying, per NBC:
“Over the course of his time as an amateur,” [Cubs Senior Director of International Player Development and Operations Alex] Suarez said of Hernandez, “it just felt like every time we went back and saw him, he was improving, and he was asking where he can improve. Those types of players that are hungry to get better and make adjustments, and at that young of age to be as good a self-evaluator as he is, to know that there’s parts of his game that he needed to work on, I think is what drew him to so many teams and to us specifically.”
Hernandez’s “scary raw power” as a teenager reminded Suarez and others of a workout Astros shortstop Carlos Correa had at Wrigley Field when he was draft-eligible.
Said Cubs vice president of player development Matt Dorey: “It’s not often that you get tools, athleticism, upside, with this other package of humility, work ethic and desire to be great. So, when that happens, it just gets you really excited about the possibilities for his future.”
Hernandez only just turned 17 in December, so if he comes stateside for minor league Spring Training, he’ll be among the youngest players there, to say nothing of whether he sticks around to play rookie ball. Typically, IFA signings don’t show up in the states for a couple years, but we’ve seen the Cubs more frequently challenging the top youngsters. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Hernandez play rookie ball in Mesa this year (neither would it be a shock or a disappointment if he instead stays in the Dominican Republic at the Cubs facility and then plays in the DSL).
I can’t wait to hear about his progress this year, and about how he’s physically grown and strengthened since he was last scouted extensively pre-pandemic.