If you haven’t yet seen, Baseball America unveiled its new top Cubs prospects list, complete with scouting reports, tools evaluations, and a lengthy chat. All good and interesting reading while you’re (1) whiling away the locked out hours, and (2) trying to get an updated sense on how the industry views the Cubs’ farm system.
Your big picture takeaway is that BA is still not especially high on the Cubs’ farm system, even as they, too, can see the increasing depth from this time last year. The lack of upper-level, impact prospects is an issue, as are the injuries throughout the system this past year. There’s a lot to like and even more to dream on if things go well, but the reality is that it’s still going to be regarded by most as a bottom half system *UNTIL and UNLESS* the very young, big-upside guys actually start really breaking out.
As we’ve discussed before, the nature of the Cubs’ system right now is a double-edged sword: they are loaded with as many could-be-really-interesting prospects as I can remember (everyone in the top 11 is described in the chat as someone who could pop to top 100 status next year), but when (virtually) your entire top 10/20/30/40 prospect groupings are that type of prospect, you’re also really missing the surer-thing, higher-impact types. So when you go through this BA top ten list – after Brennen Davis obviously at the top – you’re struck by how the Cubs have prospect after prospect who could be a really significant big league contributor down the road, but also (1) how far away they are, and (2) how much risk their projections come with.
I don’t want to offer up the full list player by player – it’s been moved behind the paywall this year – but I will remark that BA remains much higher on Brailyn Marquez than I suspect anyone else will be, and Caleb Kilian is flying up the lists thanks to an actual uptick in stuff and projection this year. Otherwise, there are no shocks in the top ten, as I suspect we will now start to see a little more stratifying between the top 10-15 types and the top 15 to 30 types, now that services have had an opportunity to do their evaluations, talk to scouts, talk to organization members, etc. I doubt you need me to name names in order for you to come up with everyone in the top ten, and behind Davis, they are all so closely-grouped.
(Apropos of this morning’s Bullets, BA had outfielder Yohendrick Pinango in the top ten. Really unfortunate news about his surgery.)
Among the prospects who just missed, and who get some very positive attention in the chat: infielders James Triantos and Reggie Preciado, and outfielder Nelson Velazquez.
If they are roughly the 11-13 guys, then the total composition of the top 13 would feature nine position players and just four pitchers. As it has in years past, the Cubs’ farm system remains position-player heavy, and they will really have to make sure guys like Marquez, Jordan Wicks, Caleb Kilian, D.J. Herz, Max Bain, and Ryan Jensen keep developing well if they want to have arms coming up to contribute as starting pitchers over the next few years (as well as finding some surprising pops). It still looks like a significant issue going forward.
A bit of particular praise for Owen Caissie, who figures to be a guy ascending rankings as more and more folks talk about the year he put together and gather data and eyeball scouting reports: “Caissie has the most power in the Cubs system and gets to it with remarkable ease. He has a compact, powerful lefthanded swing and keeps his barrel in the zone a long time. The ball jumps off his bat with his natural strength and leverage and frequently clears 400 feet to both his pull-side and the opposite field. He puts together quality at-bats, keeps a good direction in his swing and controls the strike zone enough to project to be an average hitter with 35-plus home run power.” He’s gotta work on the defense, but when you’ve only just reached Low-A and the scouting reports are already talking about a PROJECTION of being an average big league hitter with 35-homer power? Yeah, I’d say some folks really saw something special in him this year.