The week+ of prospect content for Cubs fans at The Athletic has Keith Law dropping his top 20 organization list today, and I highly encourage you to check it out if you’re a subscriber. As usual, I don’t really want to post too much subscriber content here, but I do want to share some of the tidbits and comment on the overall feel for a system Law ranked 16th in baseball, despite having only one top 100 prospect. Law doesn’t just have his top 20 rankings and a write-up for each player, he also digs in a bit on the system overall and another nine prospects of note.
As you might expect, if you’re ranking a farm system middle-of-the-pack but with only one top 100 guy, that means you probably really like the very young upside potential and the depth. That’s definitely the sense you get from Law’s list, with all the increasingly-familiar names in the top 10 – at this point, how you choose to order guys like Owen Caissie, Reggie Preciado, Cristian Hernandez, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Caleb Kilian, Jordan Wicks, James Triantos, and Kevin Alcantara is just a matter of personal preference. I honestly go back and forth on all of them behind Brennen Davis, and I’m not sure how much it is worth kvetching about since we’re going to be able to really start sorting them out better by midseason. As it relates to Law’s list, yes, that’s confirmation that all the familiar names are there in the top ten.
Among the guys thereafter on whom Law is higher than some other services: outfielders Yohendrick Pinango and Christian Franklin (I remember Law was the high man on Franklin coming out of the draft last year, when the Cubs got him in the 4th round), shortstop Kevin Made, and catcher Pablo Aliendo.
Much of the best pitching in the system, for Law, has big questions on whether they can continue starting at the higher levels, so the list is definitely position-player heavy.
I want to share Law’s description of Christian Franklin, in particular, since he’s not a guy who gets as much attention as many of the other top 30 type prospects in the system:
Franklin is a plus defender in center, maybe a 70 out there, with plus power, but punched out 78 times in the SEC last spring because he struggled with breaking ball recognition and some mechanical issues that had him swinging uphill. He has electric bat speed, and at least has some ball/strike recognition; add in his athleticism and the Cubs at least have a lot to work with here as they try to get him to stay level and get his weight over his front side sooner. I think he’s a boom-or-bust guy — either he becomes an above-average regular in center, hitting 20-25 homers with great defense, or he stalls out in Double or Triple A.
A 70 defender in center field?!? Holy smokes. I knew he was considered very good out there, but that’s incredible if it holds throughout his minor league career. It would make his offensive floor pretty darn low for him to stay useful as at least a big league bench guy. Though it sounds like Law doesn’t see much in between for him: either the bat develops enough that he’s a very good starter type, or it doesn’t develop enough for him to even reach the big leagues at all.
We didn’t get a whole lot of data on Franklin last year after the draft. He appeared in 20 games at Low-A Myrtle Beach, but he walked or struck out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, without hitting for much power (though Myrtle Beach is where power goes to die), and without showing much usable speed on the bases. Not much you can or should take away from the super small sample .200/.402/.292 (112 wRC+) slash line.
You don’t necessarily expect to get a ton of useful information from a draftee’s stub year, though, so it’s not really an issue. Instead, you want to see how a guy looks after his first offseason in pro ball, and then in his first full pro season. That tells you a whole lot about what his potential can be. I would tentatively expect Franklin to open the year back at Myrtle Beach, with a quick promotion to South Bend possible if he’s not challenged.