If you’re like me, you’ve had a set of very specific prospect-related injury questions for a while now, and it can be really difficult to get answers in-season on that stuff. And in a year when so many of the Cubs’ top prospects who could have been at the higher levels missed virtually the full season, it feels all the more important to understand what the heck happened. So up top, I want to give big shouts to Gordon Wittenmyer for finding out so much.
Here’s what you want to read at NBCSC for the full context and color on four of the Cubs prospects dealing with injury issues this year. It’s a deeper dive than I’ll hit here, because, hey, you should go read Wittenmyer’s piece. It’s not like it’s *good* news stuff, but it’s important information.
Among the prospects whose situations are illuminated …
⇒ Pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez, who was the clear top pitching prospect in the system before the last two years saw him pitch basically not at all, is at least throwing bullpens again. We knew he’d missed the start of the season with COVID, then a shoulder strain, and then a setback in his ramp up. But the Cubs say they’ve simply been taking it extremely slow and cautious with Marquez, who has no structural issues with the shoulder. There’s a chance he could pitch in the Arizona Fall League and/or in the Dominican Winter League, but it sounds like the focus is more about putting him in a position to have a normal (but conservative) ramp-up process next Spring Training. What Marquez can be next year for the Cubs is completely up in the air, ranging from as low as “the lost two years and more injury issues totally scuttled things” to as high as “wow, he is completely back and is dominating at Triple-A and is probably going to contribute in MLB in the second half!”
⇒ Catching prospect Miguel Amaya, also a clear top prospect in the system until the forearm injury this year, is still rehabbing in Arizona. This wasn’t a surgery situation, so that’s good, but it’s not clear whether he’ll be able to get some at bats in winter ball. Given the desire to have him on the big league radar for next year (he’s already on the 40-man, and the Cubs would love to be able to bring him up at least periodically to catch when needed), you really would’ve wanted to see him break out this year at Double-A. Alas, he just didn’t get in the games (and when he did, the power wasn’t there yet). Where that leaves his standing in the organization – future Willson Contreras partner? Successor? Up-down guy? – is, like Marquez, totally up in the air.
⇒ Righty Kohl Franklin was looking like a steal for the Cubs out of the 6th round in 2018, but you had the pandemic season taking away a minor league year, and then a shoulder strain giving him problems all year. It’s really similar to Marquez’s situation, in terms of the injury, the time lost, and what otherwise would’ve been an opportunity to emerge as a top arm at Double-A or Triple-A. Franklin was getting that kind of buzz before the season. Again, no structural issues, but you still hate to see any missed developmental time. There’s a chance he could get in some competitive innings in the Arizona Fall League, but at this point, he might also be a guy where your focus is just to see him in a really good spot by Spring Training. With a pitcher like him, at least he can do a lot of the work on his own, and could theoretically kick off next season at an elevated level if he’s been developing behind the scenes in ways that don’t require in-game at bats (not unlike the way we saw Max Bain and Cam Sanders really fly this year).
⇒ Outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong may have been the biggest name prospect the Cubs acquired at the deadline (for Javy Báez, Trevor Williams, and cash (thanks, Mets!)), but the Cubs knew he wasn’t going to return this year after early-season surgery to repair the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. You always wonder in a situation like that what impact the recovery will have on a guy’s hitting ability – especially a guy for whom there were already power questions – but at least PCA is still so young. He’s not yet swinging, and he might not until a minor league mini-camp after the flip of the calendar. The focus, instead, is still on that rehab and conditioning and strengthening. Winter ball at bats are presented as possible, but I think the tea leaves suggest that won’t happen. Not unlike the other three, you just want to see him in a place to have a normal Spring Training ramp-up, and then he can head on out for a full season at High-A if he’s looking really good.