It’s kinda been the anthem of the week, since we got two new top 100 lists (BA and BP), and what’s been particularly interesting is how many different Cubs prospects were either on those lists or just missed. It is certainly suggestive of a farm system that is particularly deep in legit prospects – which has been our suspicion going back to the fall – even if we already know and accept the Cubs actually have to successfully develop the very young talent for the farm system overall to take a step forward.
Further confirming our sense about the state of the system, Baseball America today released the names of all 203 prospects who received at least one top 150 vote from the staff as they were putting together their top 100 list. It’s not quite a proxy for the top 203 prospects in baseball, so I won’t quite take it that way. Instead, it’s a proxy for how many different prospects an organization has who are the TYPE that could be considered top 150 prospects, and/or future top 100s.
For the Cubs? That number is a whopping eleven. That’s how many Cubs prospects received at least one top 150 vote from the BA staff. Only one other organization had that many prospects represented, and it’s the one you’d perhaps most associated with having absurd depth: the Tampa Bay Rays.
Now, the BIG AND IMPORTANT difference between the two systems is that the Rays had five prospects in the top 100, including four in the top 60. The Cubs had just two prospects that made the top 100. The *hope* is that the Cubs’ system can look like the Rays system in the future. For now, the systems are not comparable, even if the “legit good prospect” number is the same.
Nevertheless, even if the Cubs have to actually develop the guys from here, this is a pretty good starting place for the 2022 season. Having the most “hey, that guy isn’t a top 100 yet but COULD be by midseason” prospects in baseball is really the best the Cubs could have possibly dreamed off when they started the process of rebuilding the farm system a year ago.
Oh, the 11 prospects who got at least one vote: Brennen Davis, Cristian Hernandez, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brailyn Marquez, Owen Caissie, James Triantos, Caleb Kilian, Kevin Alcantara, Jordan Wicks, D.J. Herz, and Nelson Velazquez. What’s fun about that is that Reggie Preciado did not get a vote, and some services have him as one of the five best prospects in the Cubs’ system (i.e., he’s another of this type of could-be-a-top-guy-soon prospects).
Some other Cubs prospect bits for your Friday afternoon …
⇒ Speaking of that group of Cubs prospects who are legit, but outside top 100 consideration by most services, Caleb Kilian came in for some follow-up love from BA as one of 10 prospects who don’t fit the mold of a type 100 type, but who could be quality big league regulars:
An eighth-round pick by the Giants out of Texas Tech in 2019, Kilian lived on average stuff and plus control before adding velocity in the leadup to a breakout 2021. He was acquired by the Cubs in the deadline trade for Kris Bryant and finished the year with a 2.42 ERA and 112 strikeouts against just 13 walks in 100.1 innings across High-A and Double-A. Kilian’s fastball now ranges from 92-98 mph and alternately cuts, rides or sinks, leaving batters guessing which way the ball will move on any given pitch. His sharp, 86-90 mph cutter has added power to become another swing-and-miss pitch and his twirling, mid-70s curveball freezes hitters at the knees for called strikes. Kilian ties it all together with plus control and a feel for moving the ball around the strike zone, which he showcased with six perfect innings in the Arizona Fall League championship game en route to winning MVP honors. With three put-away pitches, pinpoint control and an aggressive, efficient mode of attack, Kilian has every chance to become a mid-rotation starter.
⇒ Seems notable, in addition to the performance results, that 2021 was Kilian’s first real full pro season, and he made it to Double-A and the AFL. It’s a year you would’ve hoped to see a developmental leap, and clearly, you did. Kilian figures to open the season at Triple-A Iowa, where he will have a chance to get reeaaaalllll buzzy in prospecting circles if he looks at all like the guy he was late in the AFL.
⇒ Nelson Velazquez has had quite an offseason, winning the AFL title and now also winning the Puerto Rican title:
🐎¡BACK TO BACK!🏆
— Edwin Hernández Jr. (@LBPRCinEnglish) January 21, 2022
Nelson Velazquez celebrating after winning the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente Championship pic.twitter.com/4Y5MyFsuBv
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) January 21, 2022
⇒ A good reminder from Brad here, even as we get excited about the huge cache of young prospects. A big leap in competitiveness lies ahead for most of them:
It’s going to be tough. Set your expectations for Preciado, Alcantara, Triantos, etc. accordingly. Still hoping they add an intermediate level between the complex leagues and low-A (just have a beginner and advanced level at the complexes). https://t.co/u5JXnvbKWe
— Brad (@ballskwok) January 19, 2022
⇒ Can I offer that up as a reminder, too, that what was asked of Ed Howard – to make his pro debut out of high school, having basically not played a senior season, at Low-A – was really tough. That’s not to say the Cubs were wrong for doing it, nor is it to say he deserves a total pass for a lack of production (it did improve as the year went on, which was good to see, but overall it was very disappointing). It’s more just a note on what a challenging assignment it was in his particular situation, and maybe a slight nudge in favor of hopefulness that he takes a big step forward this season. Howard, who turns 20 next Friday, has the benefit of a pretty clear big-league caliber glove at shortstop, so the bat doesn’t even have to be above average for him to be a future big leaguer in some capacity. That has value. Not what you’d want out of a mid-first-round pick, no. But at least that floor is there.
⇒ More miscellaneous praise for James Triantos:
I’m just sitting here thinking about how James Triantos led all high school hitters in showcase contact rate, reclassified to the 2021 draft class, and hit .712 with 4(!) swings and misses his entire HS season before going out and slashing .327/.376/.594 in the ACL.
📸 @biest22 pic.twitter.com/Zo9C9NX1hs
— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) January 19, 2022
Tucked away in Elijah Green's report @fangraphs is this gem: "…swung and missed more than he put balls in play during the 2021 summer/fall showcase circuit (several other top HSers put two times as many balls in play as they swing and miss; **James Triantos** had a 7:1 ratio)."
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 20, 2022
⇒ Richard Gallardo was the top IFA pitching prospect a few years ago (not just for the Cubs, for the whole class), receiving a rare seven-figure bonus for pitchers. Since then, although he has established a floor as a capable minor league pitcher young for his level, we haven’t yet seen flashes of a real pop in the stuff. There were questions whether he was already maxed out physically and in terms of his velo at 18/19, but here’s hoping we’re going to see development this year:
Some post-hype sleeper potential for Richard Gallardo in 2022. Has continued to add strength, particularly in chest and shoulders, which should translate to increased velocity soon. Still just 20. Improved as 2021 went along. Here’s a recent bullpen in Venezuela: pic.twitter.com/k19KwwuPaw
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 20, 2022
⇒ Pitching at High-A in his age 20 season would be another good step for Gallardo, but what we’ll really want to see is steps forward in the projectability up the ladder. Otherwise, it’s easier to think he was a guy who maxed out early, and might not make it to the highest levels, despite his young age.
⇒ Some visuals from Arizona, where a number of prospects have been getting after it:
Lots of position player talent in #Cubs mini-camp as they head in after BP! PCA @BrennenDavis__ @jgnwogu42 @Bradleelow Cristian Hernandez, Moises Ballesteros, Kevin Alcantara, Kevin Made and Ismael Mena pic.twitter.com/zssUJ6Sb5a
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) January 20, 2022
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) January 21, 2022
Some of your @Cubs MiLB Starting Pitchers to keep your eyes on in 2022! @cjkilian97 @rystacks24 @camsanders24 Maybe all 3 will break through and pitch at the MLB level this year #Cubs #CubsProspects #baseball pic.twitter.com/VWQgC0pVBv
— Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22) January 21, 2022
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) January 19, 2022