A post-Trade Deadline anthem for those of us who follow the Chicago Cubs’ farm system closely is that they are as loaded as they’ve ever been in “legit prospects,” but as thin as ever in surer-fire, upper-level, impact-prospect types. Sure, I can go 20 deep on guys I believe *could* seriously break out as big-time prospects within 12 months, but there is really only one prospect at the moment who is an obvious, unanimous top 100 type (Brennen Davis, who is really more like top 20).
Against that backdrop, and in a fun bit of synchronicity with the one-year anniversary of the Yu Darvish trade marking the moment when the Cubs went all-in on building the farm back up, I really enjoyed reading one of Sahadev Sharma’s predictions for the 2022 Cubs: “The Cubs have will five top-100 prospects on a midseason prospect list.”
Bold stuff, not only given where things have been/are, but just given the general rarity of seeing five of a single organization’s prospects on a top 100 at a given time. Right now, the Orioles, Rangers, Rays, Mariners, Dodgers, and Pirates have five prospects on the latest MLB Pipeline top 100 (and no organization has more than five). Those are considered elite systems, so it is kind of a useful, if rough, guideline for when things are going very well on the “impact prospect” front.
Could the Cubs really be in a group like that as soon as midseason 2022?
Well, Sharma sees it. Heck, in his most optimistic case, he sees the Cubs reaching five midseason top 100s *even if* Davis has graduated by then.
Owen Caissie seems destined to shoot up prospect lists once he proves it at full-season levels. His exit velocities are some of the best in baseball and he gets power comps to the likes of Joey Gallo but with a better hit tool. There’s little defensive value here, but that’s still a special profile on offense.
James Triantos is a different profile on offense but has impressed similarly on that side of the ball — though there are questions about how he fits defensively. If he can show that he can handle third base, the bat he displayed after being drafted has talent evaluators wondering if the Cubs got a big steal in last summer’s draft. I also think Caleb Kilian showed enough with the development of his curveball and the jump in velocity during the Arizona Fall League that he could find himself on the backend of these lists and then making his big-league debut soon thereafter. The changeup is a work in progress but traditionally is a little harder to learn when it’s not naturally picked up.
That’s three, and I just have a feeling another offensive name will pop, whether it’s Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Alcantara, Pete Crow-Armstrong or someone else. Going for a fifth beyond Davis is probably a bit too optimistic — heck, four seems like I’m very bullish on the group, perhaps it’s the holiday cheer talking. But I’m gambling on someone like Jordan Wicks opening eyes, maybe D.J. Herz taking a step with his command or Drew Gray becoming another 2021 draft success story for the Cubs.
It isn’t crazy. And I’m here to tell you, Sharma is not one to be overly optimistic on the Cubs’ farm system. Yeah, I think he tends to skew on the rosier side compared to some, but he is in constant contact with the folks in the organization who know what’s up, and are candid and self-critical. When Sharma talks about Caissie and Triantos and Kilian like this, it all the more cements for me the real possibility that the breakouts we feel like we’ve seen starting for them are real.
Beyond those three, is it really that hard to see two of the other six names popping? Or Reggie Preciado? Or, heck, Brailyn Marquez? None of that is even to mention the guys who have the tools to be top 100 types, but who are just a little less likely to put themselves on that radar in a single half season.
It’s all very plausible. I don’t know that I’d bet on it happening – at least not without Davis in the mix – but this is the KIND of system the Cubs have built now. Loaded with impact potential that simply (ha, “simply”) has to be developed to get to that point. Here’s hoping the strides we’ve seen from the org on the development side are carried into 2022.
For much more on the farm system, and Sharma’s other four predictions for the Cubs – it’s great reading – check out what he’s got over at The Athletic.