Although we all knew the Cubs had a load of really good prospects down in Arizona this year, it’s hard to know how good they are relative to league-wide perception unless you’re getting some third-party data points. So for the Arizona Complex League, specifically, I was very happy to see Baseball America bust out its top prospects list this week.
I’ll lead with the small bit of disappointment up top: shortstop prospect Reggie Preciado did not make the top 10. The 18-year-old infielder who was one of the pieces in the Yu Darvish trade got off to a hot start in the ACL – especially impressive given his age – but tapered off a little as the season went on. He nevertheless finished with a strong .333/.383/.511 line (132 wRC+, 7.1% BB, 22.7% K, .177 ISO), and he’ll still be considered a top ten Cubs system prospect by most this offseason, I expect. It was a very good year for Preciado. But my guess is in a league loaded with so many players (18 teams of 25 to 35 players apiece shuffling in and out), he was just on the outside looking in.
As I said, that’s the one disappointment on the list. Because otherwise, the Cubs landed a whopping three prospects on the list, all in the top six: Owen Caissie (3), Kevin Alcantara (4), James Triantos (6).
To put that in context, consider that this league featured a number of first round draft picks making their pro debuts, and three of them showed up in spots 8, 9, and 10. The Cubs trio (which includes second rounder James Triantos) all slot in ahead of those guys.
By now, I figure you’re at least passingly familiar with the trio of named prospects. We most recently gave a lot of love to Triantos, who was among the best hitters in the league, and among the best prep hitters in the draft. Caissie, you’ll recall, was also in the Darvish deal, and destroyed the ACL so thoroughly that he wound up at Low-A Myrtle Beach to finish the year. He hits the snot out of the ball and takes a ton of walks. The questions with him are tied primarily to deep counts and enough swing and miss to keep the strikeout rate elevated, and then a probable corner outfield limitation defensively. But reaching Low-A in what was his age 18 season and first pro experience? Excellent year for Caissie, and his ranking reflects it.
As for Alcantara, one of the prospects in the Anthony Rizzo deal, it was a real breakout campaign, hitting .337/.415/.609 (159 wRC+). As with Caissie, the strikeout rate was up there, but he took his walks and he hit for so much power in his age 18 season that you remain deeply intrigued. From the BA write-up:
Alcantara projects to be a total package of tools and performance, with the ceiling of an all-star-caliber center fielder. His swing is balanced and works well despite his long limbs, and he should add more power to what already grades as plus when he fills out his frame. With instincts and confidence in the field Alcantara could become a plus defender with a plus arm, giving him a good chance to stay in the middle of the outfield.
“He’s young and he’s got to keep learning and playing the game,” said Cubs manager Lance Rymel. “You see the tools that he has, and everything will iron itself out when he starts playing more.”
Without short-season leagues above rookie ball anymore, each of Triantos, Caissie, and Alcantara could begin next season at Low-A Myrtle Beach, despite being only 19. It’s typically a tough assignment at that age, but it’s not like any of the three showed any real struggle in the ACL. Together with Preciado, it’s possible the Cubs could have FOUR top ten-ish 19-year-old positional prospects playing on the same team to open 2022. Heck, if Kevin Made isn’t bumped to South Bend to open the year, it could be five!