Although whatever happens on the MLB side is going to be a huge bummer, at least Cubs fans are in a disproportionately good FANDOM spot on the minor league side. Right now is a huge moment for the Cubs’ farm system, and that was gonna be getting a lot of the attention anyway. So we still have that part 100%, and that’s … something?
Some Cubs prospect notes for your Friday afternoon …
⇒ In his chat about the various rankings this week, Keith Law joined the group of folks who see the Cubs’ farm system as having significant potential upside in the near-term. The Question and the Answer:
Pat K: It seems the Cubs farm system could go either direction the next year or so. Develop more Brennen Davises and there’s a shout for a top 5 farm system. If they struggle more, like Ed Howard, and it could fall back a bit. Am I putting too much emphasis on the next year?
Keith Law: Oh, actually, the Cubs are the best answer to a high variance system that could make a big jump. They have a group of maybe a half-dozen prospects who would all fit in the ‘sleeper’ bucket – I use that term in my writeups to refer to non-top 100 guys who could jump firmly on to the list next year, not just sneaking on to the end. Caissie, Alcantara, Preciado, PCA, Triantos … yeah, it’s a good group, but it would have been premature to juice any of them off what was mostly rookie ball.
⇒ A half-dozen prospects currently outside the top 100 who could jump up HIGH on the next top 100. It just makes me so happy to keep seeing outside pundits saying the kinds of things we already thought about the Cubs’ system and this tier of prospects. I don’t want to sleep on the fact that most of these types of prospects don’t actually make that leap – but the Cubs have SO MANY of them right now. Hence Law indicating the system could make a huge jump from where he ranked it presently (16th).
⇒ Just a fantastic read here at Northside Bound, with check-ins on five Cubs positional prospects (Brennen Davis, Jordan Nwogu, Jacob Wetzel, Bryce Windham, and Parker Chavers), including what they’ve been working on this offseason and what’s in the plans for this season. For example, a bit on 2020 third rounder Jordan Nwogu, who has so much potential, but came to the Cubs with a lot to work on:
Through July 12, Nwogu’s 34.3% K rate paved the way for a .576 OPS and 65 wRC+. Nwogu not only faced professional pitching for the first time but adapted to missed time because of the 2020 COVID-shortened season. But for a player with Nwogu’s work ethic and unbelievable skills, the hope would be that eventually some of the work that he and the hitting coaches were putting in behind the scenes would lead to a breakthrough. And breakthrough he did. From July 18 on, Nwogu slashed .297/.384/.446 (128 wRC+) while cutting his K rate to 24.5% and keeping his walk rate at a healthy 11.6%. The real Jordan Nwogu arrived. Heading into 2022, he’s ready to show that his second-half improvements are just the start. (Brett note: Don’t forget that Myrtle Beach is one of the worst home parks in all of minor league baseball for power hitters.)
2022 development and goals: Speaking with Jordan, he discussed several mechanical steps he is working to refine. First, he noted an emphasis on “using the ground”. I reached out to an individual who is involved in hitting instruction to shed some light on what this meant. According to the expert, “using the ground” is related to establishing a solid foundation at the launch position. Nwogu described his goal of barreling the ball more consistently by finding a better rhythm. Watching at-bats in May and June versus later months, he was changing his mechanics through the course of the season. The hope is that Nwogu can find a rhythm that allows him to feel most comfortable at the plate while showcasing his upper-level power. Jordan also spoke about the need to continue to work on the mental game. He looks forward to continuing to improve on defense and while he enjoys centerfield the most, he’ll play wherever the Cubs organization needs him.
⇒ From the third rounder in 2020 to the 5th rounder – another pitcher who wasn’t able to get into action last year, but for whom the hopes are high in 2022:
⇒ Moreno was the Cubs’ 5th rounder in 2020, signing for way over slot – it’s something the Cubs have done quite a bit in that range of the draft with high school pitchers. That was Kohl Franklin a couple years earlier, and he, too, will be pitching this year after missing 2021 (and, effectively, 2020). You just want to see some of these many, many pitchers who missed so much time – those two, Riley Thompson, Michael McAvene, Brailyn Marquez, Chris Clarke, Josh Burgmann, Yovanny Cruz, Benjamin Rodriguez, and on and on – have full and successful 2022 seasons to put them right back on the prospect map for the Cubs. It really is a tremendous group of arm talent, but it’s pretty much impossible to know what you’ve got in them after so much missed time. The Cubs are not alone in this situation, but their pitching injury issues in 2021 were definitely at the extreme end of the league.
⇒ A fun look at a 2026 Cubs roster if you were just including current prospects:
Based on my Top Prospects List, I made a future Cubs Roster (I do Cubs stuff when I'm avoiding work!). 😉
— Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz) February 6, 2022
⇒ It is very cool to see this placard, both because it’s pretty awesome for the prospects who get to walk by and see their names on it, but also because it’s a fun(?) look back at the top pitching seasons in recent Cubs minor league years:
I got a pretty awesome text this afternoon while at practice. DJ sent me a pic of something that is pretty dang special. Not many people get to say they were an organizations MiLB Pitcher of the Year. So happy for this dude. @DavidjohnHerz @Cubs #CUBSROTATION2023 pic.twitter.com/AlEWW1JcFo
— FTS_BASEBALL (@FTS_BASEBALL) February 10, 2022
⇒ The interesting thing there is that the list is loaded with guys who had overwhelmingly good individual seasons, but who were considered high-floor/low-ceiling types, and not top prospects. Not exactly what you want to see in the long run, and pretty consistent with how the Cubs’ pitching development played out until the last couple years.
⇒ For the young prospects in the system, this was a pretty important winter to put on good weight, so you love to see this:
Feel like this didn't garner as much attention as it should. For comparison, here's Preciado last summer: https://t.co/PEgX2IpQek
— Brad (@ballskwok) February 10, 2022
⇒ Another fun way to sum up just how ridiculous Nelson Velazquez’s stats were in the AFL:
While researching winter league standouts, I also ran numbers for the AFL.
These young hitters had standout OPS+ figures:
201 Nelson Velasquez, CHC
162 JJ Bleday, MIA
162 Nick Gonzales, PIT
151 Triston Casas, BOS
162 Austin Wells, NYY
150 Jose Tena, CLE
140 Justin Foscue, TEX https://t.co/GbmDZ5it9A
— Matt Eddy (@MattEddyBA) February 11, 2022