Thank God for prospects. I will still take any MLB rumors I can get during the lockout, but there’s little right now to get me quite as excited as prospecting. Part of that is the lockout, part of it is the state of the Cubs’ competitive/org-building cycle. But whatever the source, I cannot wait for minor league spring training to start late next month (regardless of the lockout!).
⇒ Eric Longenhagen hosted a prospects chat at FanGraphs, and the first question he got on the Cubs system elicited a really fun response. He was asked why FanGraphs is so high on outfield prospect Kevin Alcantara (second in the system at FG), given how little pro experience he has. Longenhagen’s response: “If you can believe it, Alcantara has had the same FV grade for literally several years, so was this high on him back when he had played even fewer games. He’s freakish. Elite size and rotational athleticism, rare capacity for movement.” Longenhagen then shared the following video of Alcantara, saying, “That’s not normal.”
⇒ I am #NotAScout, so I won’t pretend to be able to see the same things Longenhagen can see in that video. The only things I can see for sure are (1) really long levers (which can be a benefit if you develop a good bat path and keep good bat speed; or it can be a detriment if you don’t); and (2) a frame that could support quite a bit more muscle (again, a big benefit if you can keep the athleticism). At 18, Alcantara was pretty much too good for Complex ball, so that also seems a pretty good sign.
⇒ Speaking of Alcantara, the recent Yankees prospect post at FG notes that Alcantara, formerly of the Yankees system, is going to be a top 100 prospect to FG. It’s clear that FanGraphs is going to be the high source on Alcantara, but it’s not as if others don’t see the upside. If he goes to Myrtle Beach to open the season and rakes (or even if he just looks as freakish to scouts as he does to Longenhagen), you could see him emerge as a top 100 type to more services. As for FanGraphs, it’s possible the Cubs will have more than two top 100s (Brennen Davis, Alcantara) when that preseason list is released – the other 50 FVs, according to FG, are Owen Caissie, James Triantos, and Reggie Preciado. Gut says Caissie and Triantos have a shot at the back end of the list, which will drop next month.
⇒ Kevin Goldstein also touched on a couple Cubs items in his chat, offering more praise for James Triantos (“It looks like he can REALLY hit.”), and generally describing the Cubs system in the way I see it, too (“They have a ton of potential stars. It’s an incredibly young system and it will take years to know just how good (or not) it is.”).
⇒ Absolutely love this info from Rich, which means that both pitchers should be on a normal spring ramp-up schedule:
Good news is that both Kohl and Riley Thompson were working out with the mini-camp players and not the rehab group!
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) January 18, 2022
⇒ You’ll recall that both Kohl Franklin and Riley Thompson missed the entire 2021 season with (mostly) shoulder issues, which came on the heels of missing the 2020 season because of the pandemic. Each had been among the Cubs’ top ten prospects as of mid-2020, and although the system has changed considerably since then and each guy’s risk factor has increased, there is still a lot of upside there. It isn’t *common* to miss that much time and then break out, but it does happen. And it’s not as if these guys haven’t been able to throw and work on their pitches when healthy, even if there weren’t competitive games going on. Given the state of the pitching in the system, *IF* either guy surprised in his return, it’s not at all hard to see him reaching Double-A sometime this season, and being right back on the radar as one of the best pitching prospects in the system. Franklin is just 22, so there’s more runway there. Thompson is 25, though he’s pitched a little more as a professional.
⇒ More from what’s going on in Arizona right now via Rich:
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) January 15, 2022
⇒ I’m thinking PCA’s surgically repaired non-throwing shoulder probably feels pretty good, eh? (But also, maybe try to limit the wall-climbing in January, just to be safe!)
⇒ Very early heads up on a Cubs affiliate name change:
When the Tennessee Smokies move to a new Old City ballpark in 2024, they'll also return to a familiar moniker, as fans will welcome back the Knoxville Smokies. #MiLB #sportsbiz https://t.co/AnNfIfnCRZ pic.twitter.com/6dwbiQRafn
— Ballpark Digest (@ballparkdigest) January 13, 2022
⇒ The fun part is when you scroll to the pitcher stats (spoiler: James Triantos was apparently also a dominant pitcher in high school):
James Triantos won the Northern Virginia batting title in 2021 after hitting a ridiculous .712 in 75 plate appearances. Check out all of last season’s stat leaders > https://t.co/eLbrYOSFXl pic.twitter.com/EWqgOlFLya
— NOVA Baseball Magazine (@NVBaseballMag) January 16, 2022
⇒ Always enjoyable to see a signing spot (and if you missed this weekend’s initial post on the IFA class):
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) January 17, 2022
⇒ And adding to the signings, the Cubs’ first signing out of Aruba. You have to scout everywhere if you can:
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 17, 2022
⇒ The latest Bain Campaign pod has Cubs pitching prospect Ryan Jensen sliding in for a discussion:
Loved talking to Ryan Jensen (@rystacks24) on The Bain Campaign this week. Fascinating to hear about 2 specific times he had some real struggles (soph yr college, June this yr) knowing the dominance that followed both times. @mbain_38 @TurnAPairChris https://t.co/3LVgKtw4h7
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 18, 2022