Some Friday afternoon Cubs prospect goodness for you to enjoy …
• ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel named one possible breakout prospect for each organization, and if you’ve been following prospect coverage over the past two months, I don’t know that his choice will surprise you: it’s young shortstop Reggie Preciado, who has drawn massive comps and actually just wound up making the FanGraphs top 100. From McDaniel:
There are a number of intriguing young bats in this system, with a group of potential risers coming back from San Diego in the Yu Darvish deal and added in the last two international signing classes for the Cubs. Since I’m looking at who will jump up the list in the next year – not over the next three – I’ll lean to one of the older prospects of that bunch who still has plenty of untapped potential in Preciado.
He is a 6-foot-4, switch-hitting shortstop who was one of the top players in the 2019 international class and has already shown progress in two instructional leagues for San Diego before heading to the Cubs in the Darvish trade. He’ll turn 18 just as the minor league season gets started and has a chance for four above-average tools (excepting speed) at third base, where he likely eventually ends up.
• Former Cubs first round pick Brendon Little started getting a little buzz earlier this offseason when Bryan unearthed some pitch data on how he was looking lately, and wouldn’t you know it, he gets a little more buzz at MLB Pipeline as the non-roster prospect to watch this spring on the Cubs: “Little has struggled to maintain the quality of his stuff and throw strikes since the Cubs took him in the first round out of the State JC of Florida (Manatee-Sarasota) in 2017. But that wasn’t an issue in instructional league, where his fastball reached 99 mph and his slider hit 87, so Chicago hopes that he has turned a corner.” I’m sorry, did you say 99 mph?! You’ll recall that Little was known to be an “upside” pick that year – a big swing on the talent, with an acknowledgment that it might take a while and might wind up a relief profile. Maybe we’re seeing that now, but in a good way? It was a modest surprise that Little, who hasn’t pitched above High-A, was a non-roster invitee this year, but now you can see why he was.
• More from MLB Pipeline, with Cristian Hernandez named among the most anticipated players to (hopefully) make their stateside debut this year. In Jim Callis’ Q&A for the piece, Christopher Morel also gets a nod on the “all underrated team” as the third base prospect.
• The Cubs’ number two signing in this year’s IFA class – who doesn’t turn 18 until November – is a big strong lad with a lotta line drive power:
Moises Ballesteros spraying the ball around in BP. pic.twitter.com/9qNjzF4JEa
— Brad (@ballskwok) February 19, 2021
• Ranked the 31st prospect in the class, here’s how BA described the catching prospect: “Ballesteros has experience representing his country at international tournaments going back to when he hit cleanup as the youngest player on the Venezuelan team in the 2015 U-12 World Cup in Taiwan. Ballesteros is an offensive-oriented catcher with a stout, boxy frame and a strong upper body. He has performed well in games in Venezuela, with good bat control and ability to drive the ball well with a sound approach for his age. Ballesteros has a strong arm, but he will need to stay on top of his mobility and bring along his defense to stay behind the plate.”
• I dug this read at Ivy Futures, featuring an interview with Cubs Director of Player Development Bobby Basham. Among the topics, would a controlled developmental environment like the alternate site at South Bend last year actually be a useful tool in the toolbox even in a non-pandemic year? Certainly the Cubs feel it was helpful for the players who participated, but there is also a time-will-tell element. From Basham: “I think in anything, you need to be challenged to grow. And so that was certainly a challenge for our younger hitters there in South Bend because they were facing MLB quality pitching every night, right? So, I think we’re going to learn a lot coming out of this into this year and next year about some creative things that can make our guys better. And certainly we will examine all those situations. And if all of a sudden, Chris Morel and Brennen Davis and [Miguel] Amaya, if those guys have taken this huge step forward, certainly we’re going to look at why, right? That could be a reason.” I’m sure across baseball there will be looks at which prospects spent which time in 2020 at which locations (alt site, instructs, winter ball), and how that translated (or didn’t) into evidence of their development in 2021.