Don’t get me wrong from the headline: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have only one Chicago Cubs prospect in the top 100 right now. It has become increasingly well-established, as reports have come in and rankings season has rolled out, that the Cubs have a huge volume of prospects who COULD BE top 100 types very soon. But putting any non-Brennen Davis Cubs prospect on your top 100 is a matter of pure projection. Doing so is you being a little bit “early” on that prospect, or finding some things you really like in particular.
That is all to say, it isn’t surprising or lamentable or offensive that Keith Law’s new top 100 prospects list at The Athletic features just one Cubs prospect. It’s fair to use it as an opportunity to temper the pre-season excitement just a bit, though, and remember how much the cache of young prospects actually has to show on the field this year to be consider for these lists.
As for Brennen Davis, he shows up at number 28 on Law’s list, which is actually on the lower end of what we’ll probably see for him (though BP had him at just 27). The write-up on Davis is very complimentary, though:
Davis is an outstanding athlete who starred in baseball and basketball in high school, and this year some of that projection he had as an amateur showed up in games, as he hit 19 homers in total across three levels, finishing in Triple A as a 21-year-old. Davis has gotten quite a bit stronger since the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, and now he’s driving the ball to all fields, with a balanced swing that generates that power from his upper and lower halves. He still runs well, although he’s lost some speed as he’s filled out, and there’s a greater chance that he’ll end up in right field than there was a year ago, although he could probably be an average defender in center for a team without an elite glove out there. The power/OBP skill is what really sells Davis, who looks like he’ll be a very different player than anyone who saw him as a skinny 18-year-old might have guessed, with 30-homer upside and a chance to stay in the middle of the field.
We should keep in mind that there are some risk factors on Davis becoming an everyday regular in the big leagues (let alone a star). There is still some swing-and-miss to be worked out. He has very little overall pro experience. His swing is still fairly unique and it’s not yet clear to me how advanced pitchers will try to attack him and how he will adjust. And as Law mentions, if Davis winds up in right field instead of center, that’s a hit to the overall value and threshold for starting. I tend to think it’s more likely than not that Davis becomes a multi-year (very good) starter for the Cubs, but we shouldn’t ignore the risks just because he’s the clear top prospect in the system. He still has a lot to show this year, too.
In case you were curious about the other NL Central orgs: the Cardinals have four prospects on the list, the Brewers have two, the Pirates have six, and the Reds have three. Law’s full list is right here.
As for the other new, pre-season top 100s we’ve seen so far, the Cubs placed four on BP’s list (Davis, Owen Caissie, Reggie Preciado, and James Triantos), and two on BA’s list (Davis and Cristian Hernandez). The MLB Pipeline list has Davis and Brailyn Marquez on it for now, but that’s likely to get another update closer to the season. Various comments at FanGraphs have suggested that Davis and Kevin Alcantara, at a minimum, will be on their top 100 when it drops. That’s seven different names on top 100s lists, and that doesn’t include a guy like Pete Crow-Armstrong, who is mentioned in multiple places as a guy who could be on a top 100 very soon. If Caleb Kilian and/or D.J. Herz shows in the first half what they were showing last year, they will get top 100 attention. And Jordan Wicks has already been mentioned at MLB Pipeline as a guy just outside the top 100.
So, to reiterate, yes, it’s pretty clear the Cubs have a ton of near top 100 types. I’m not saying the Cubs will suddenly have 11 prospects on a top 100 list by the end of the season, but some of these guys will continue popping. And also, the Cubs will draft a prospect at pick number 7 this year who might also show up on top 100s. Things could look very different later this year, as far as third party rankings services are concerned.
But it is up to the Cubs and the players to actually get there. (And then, obviously, it’s about translating that prospect value to big league wins … but that’s another story for another day.)