The Marquee Re-Ranking of Top Cubs Prospects Loaded with Scouting Info

This week, Marquee put out its own updated top Cubs prospects rankings. Normally, you might be circumspect about the value of a prospects list from a team-owned broadcast network. But the thing is, the dude who does the prospecting and analytical work at Marquee – Lance Brozdowski – is freaking awesome. So it’s definitely something you’re going to want to read if you’re into Cubs prospects. (Who isn’t right now?)

The rankings, sure, are great to take in, but let me suggest that the deep dive on each prospect is even better. I learn so much every time I read Brozdowski’s work, and this time is no exception. He not only digs into the data, but talks with scouts, execs, etc. in other organizations to get a deeper sense of the players. I feel like I just picked up so much more about the top Cubs prospects, especially the younger guys who we haven’t been able to watch much with our own eyes:

Among the general things that jump out at you: Pete Crow-Armstrong all the way up at number two, with Jordan Wicks, Owen Caissie, and Kevin Alcantara just behind. That’s a pretty incredible group in the 2 to 5 range, in terms of how many outsiders to the organization would see the top of the Cubs’ prospect list. In other words, Brozdowski, who is very tapped into the org, is quite high on those four relative to other services. It’s definitely interesting.

Note that Brailyn Marquez, whom MLB Pipeline just ranked 95th overall in baseball, and second in the Cubs’ system, is down at number 11 for Brozdowski. The risk of Marquez becoming a reliever, particularly given the last two years, is pretty strong at this point, and it’s hard to argue against this placement (especially since a lot of the guys ahead of him have so much upside, too).

Oh, another thing that jumps out: on a top 20 list, lefty D.J. Herz winds up only an Honorable Mention … and I don’t think it’s crazy. But the thing is, I’m pretty sure Bryan is going to have Herz in his updated top ten, and I don’t think that’s crazy, either. Herz has become a lot like the young positional prospects in the system: clearly has a ton of upside, but the nature of any breaking-out pitching prospect at Low-A is that the risk is substantial. Thus, anyone who wants to rank Herz more conservatively is being fair. But if you want to go big on the upside – where Herz is looking like he has number two potential – I’m good with that, too. Really, it speaks to the incredible depth in the farm system right now.

Let me wrap this with a tease on one of Brozdowski’s player write-ups, and you really should go over to Marquee to see the rest so that you can get a better sense of these prospects. How about a new guy we haven’t heard quite as much about, and one on whom Brozdowski is much higher than most. It’s righty Anderson Espinoza, acquired for Jake Marisnick, who is ranked 13th in the system – the best righty pitching prospect, according to Brozdowski (at the front of a group of four righty pitching prospects in order: Espinoza, Alexander Vizcaino, Ryan Jensen, Caleb Kilian). From Brozdowski:

Once a Top 50 prospect in all of baseball, Espinoza has undergone two Tommy John surgeries since signing with the Red Sox out of Venezuela back in 2014. The sample of pitchers who have had multiple injuries of this caliber before Double-A is infinitesimal. While one could extrapolate this to mean there is no precedent for a player like Espinoza having an impact in the majors, if data tells us anything, it’s not to predict anything based on small samples.

What we do know about Espinoza is that he throws four polished pitches. His fastball sits 95-96 mph and his best secondary is an 85-mph slider that could be classified as a true “gyro” slider. This means only a small percentage of the ball’s rotation contributes to the movement of the pitch. Instead, gravity does most of the work. To picture this, imagine a perfectly spiraled football thrown to home plate. It moves down only because of gravity. The spin of the football itself is not contributing to the movement of the ball. This stands in contrast to a pitch like a curveball, which is spun with an element of top spin, causing the ball to almost accelerate downward on its way to home plate. Gyro sliders are effective because they have a drop-off-the-table effect and can often neutralize left-handed hitters coming from a right-handed pitcher due to absence of the pitch moving in on a hitter’s hands.

Espinoza’s curveball and changeup — both of which grade out as above-average major league pitches — are merely icing on the cake that clearly projects him into a starting role if he can maintain his health. 2021 is his first season of affiliated baseball since 2016 and he has yet to throw more than 3.1 innings in an outing. Remove the two Tommy John surgeries from his track record and Espinoza has a case to be the top arm in this system.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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