Our prospect guy Bryan is working through his own set of Cubs prospect rankings right now, with the top ten due later today (you can catch Nos. 40-21 here and Nos. 20-11 here in case you missed them). After the top ten drops, he’s going live on the BN Instagram account with top prospect Brennen Davis for a chat, which is all kinds of awesome. I’m really looking forward to it.
But in the meantime, we have another set of external Top-100 prospect rankings to examine, this time from Kiley McDaniel at ESPN.
Unsurprisingly, McDaniel has Davis (no. 63) as the Cubs’ top prospect, which has become a pretty universally held belief. Marquee had him at No. 1 for the Cubs. Keith Law had him as the Cubs top prospect and No. 51 overall in MLB. And Baseball America had him as the Cubs top prospect, No. 52 overall, and the sixth best center field prospect in the game.
MLB Pipeline has Davis as the Cubs second best prospect, but at No. 62 overall, and just one spot behind Brailyn Marquez.
Point being, on the whole, it’s clear to us: Brennen Davis is the Cubs’ top prospect, and McDaniel explains why it’s all about the upside: “… he’s easy to dream on and what information we have is almost universally positive, so his All-Star-level upside gives Cubs fans some hope during a cost-cutting time.”
For what it’s worth, this continues to be the message I see across publications: Davis is the guy with the nearest-term, most-significant upside in the organization. He’s the sort of prospect who can be built around if things work out, and the kind you can expect to make an actual impact shortly after he arrives in the show. The Cubs had a lot of that type from 2014-2017, but the pool has since dried up with the focus being so heavy on supplementing the big league roster. So my feeling is that it’ll be really dang nice to add potentially high-impact talent without solely hoping the Cubs start spending huge in free agency (because who knows when that’s going to happen again). That’s why I’m excited for Davis.
Also similar to some of the other rankings we’ve seen, the Cubs landed just two prospects on this list. But surprisingly, it’s not Marquez taking the second spot here. It’s Miguel Amaya at No. 83, and with a pretty nice compliment at the end (emphasized by me):
Amaya is 10th of the baker’s dozen of catching prospects on this year’s list, and he falls somewhere in the middle of a lot of them in almost every way. He has been up to high-A so he’s probably at least another year away, but he’s already on the 40-man so his clock is ticking.
He’s a below-average runner with above-average to plus defensive chops and arm strength, but his offensive game is a little harder to peg. He possesses above-average raw power but his swing is more geared for contact with solid plate discipline.
A strong 2021 in Double-A and Triple-A could get him to where Tyler Stephenson is now, but Amaya could also fall into the many pitfalls we’ve seen young catchers fall into as they approach the big leagues. My best guess is he’s one of the top 30 catchers in baseball for at least a few seasons of his career.
Maybe we have higher hopes for Amaya than that, but if the “best guess” is that he becomes a sure-fire starter (or elite back-up, I suppose, if you do the math) in the big leagues for at least a few seasons, that’s a pretty nice baseline for any prospect, let alone a catcher. And for what it’s worth, McDaniel believes Amaya can quickly become one of the top 35-or-so prospects in the game (Tyler Stephenson’s range) with just a strong showing at Double-A and/or Triple-A this year.
Given that Amaya was an above average hitter as one of the youngest hitters *and* a catcher at High-A in 2019, I believe he’ll make quick work of dispelling any offensive concerns as soon as he’s back on the field.
Broadly speaking, I am surprised Marquez didn’t make the list, but not necessarily peeved. For one thing, we know how good he is and his ranking won’t change that. For another, we’ve seen him ranked as high as the top-50 on some other lists and his upside is obvious. But most importantly, this is the one year when information is harder to come by than ever. A consensus top-100 was never going to happen and guys like Marquez, and Amaya, and Davis, and Ed Howard, for that matter (i.e. guys already at the back end of the top-100 on their best days) are just going to be tough to rank until they’re back out on the field.
The mid-season and post-2021 prospect rankings could look a LOT different than these do today, and I have a feeling the Cubs have as much ability to shoot up these lists as any team out there. In the meantime, their ranking doesn’t change their performance. Generally speaking, the Cubs have roughly three top-100 prospects (Davis, Marquez, Amaya) and then another 3-4 guys you could conceivably rank in the top 150 or so (Ed Howard, Cristian Hernandez, Ryan Jensen, and Adbert Alzolay until he graduates).