The Cubs *Basically* Have Five Top-100 Prospects, According to FanGraphs

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The Cubs *Basically* Have Five Top-100 Prospects, According to FanGraphs

Chicago Cubs

I know, I know. You want to know how a team cam basically have five top-100 prospects, when that’s pretty plainly a yes/no proposition, right? Depending on how you mark the cut-off, strictly speaking, the Cubs do not have five prospects within the top-100 names, according to FanGraphs’ most recent update.

But this wasn’t meant to be a ruse. FanGraphs does its rankings a little differently than what we’ve seen at ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, and Baseball America. And to whatever extent you’d feel more encouraged carrying on as though the Cubs *did* have five in the top-100, you can hold onto that thought, because basically they do.

The team at FanGraphs uses Future Value tiers to rank these players, and included all 114 prospects whose projected FV is at or above 50. They also spent a lot of time explaining that the difference in talent between most prospects of the same FV tier is relatively small. So when five Cubs show up among that final group of 114 prospects, it’s not all that different from having five tucked in under that magic and arbitrary number of 100.

The represented crew, and why I did so much tap dancing:

25. Brennen Davis, RF, 55 FV
87. Kevin Alcantara, CF, 50 FV
104. Owen Caissie, LF, 50 FV
106. James Triantos, 2B, 50 FV
114. Reginald Preciado, 3B, 50 FV

Some immediate thoughts before we jump in more thoroughly:

•   Everyone’s got Brennen Davis as the Cubs No. 1 prospect, and he’s generally fallen somewhere between 15-30 on most lists.

•   There is virtually no agreement on the Cubs’ second best prospect right now. We’ve seen that spot occupied by Owen Caissie (BP, Law) and Christian Hernandez (BA, BN) most often, but older lists had Pete Crow-Armstrong and Brailyn Márquez there, and now Kevin Alcantara makes the cut, some twenty spots ahead of the others on the list. It says a whole lot about the nature of the system, and how much *potential* this group has. But also how much uncertainty.

•   Speaking of which, you’ll notice that Christian Hernandez didn’t make the cut, despite some pundits believing he actually has the highest overall upside in the entire system. Well, FanGraphs put the 18-year-old shortstop at a 45+ future value this winter, most likely because he’s so young, hasn’t played state-side, and just doesn’t have a ton of pro experience to scout and judge just yet.

•   In addition to Hernandez (and all the prospects that actually made the cut), Pete Crow-Armstrong, Caleb Killian, DJ Herz, Jordan Wicks, and Brailyn Márquez are all theoretical candidates to crack top-100 lists come mid-season. It’s not particularly likely, of course, but if you’re keeping count at home, that means that the Cubs theoretically have 10 prospects that fit the potential-top-100 cloth.

•   Although the difference between future values is “relatively small,” each player comes with a graph that illustrates their likeliness to reach their projections. That’s how FanGraphs was able to put them in an order.

With all that out of the way, let’s run down a quick hit on each of the Cubs prospects represented, including the most exciting quote from the write-up and something they need to work on.

Brennen Davis

Acquired: 2nd Round 2018 MLB Draft

The only real surprise with respect to Davis is that he’s listed as a right fielder. Although that’s long been seen by some as his eventual home, I think a lot of us are/were hoping he could break in as a center fielder (especially if he’s calling Wrigley Field home), and stay there for a while before moving to the corner. Either way, with a 60 rating attached to his arm and run skill, you can feel comfortable projecting him as an above-average outfielder, wherever he lands. FanGraphs has him as a 55 future fielder, overall.

Quote: “There are star-level tools here, regardless of whether Davis ends up playing center field or a corner …. Seen as a risky tools bet in the 2018 draft, Davis has quickly translated his athleticism into production. His ceiling is considerable.”

The biggest concern for Davis right now is whether he can cut down on the strikeouts. According to FanGraphs, he makes a lot of strong contact, but only in a narrow band of the zone. If he can’t figure out how to tap into his power without compromising even more contact, he might not reach his ceiling. With that said, the reviews on his ability and willingness to make adjustments are glowing, and we’ve certainly seen his immediate and dramatic adjustments straight out of the draft.

Kevin Alcantara

Acquired: Anthony Rizzo Trade

FanGraphs has been higher on Alcantara than almost anyone out there (Bryan had him at No. 9 on Bleacher Nation’s Top Cubs Prospect Rankings), though it seems to be based largely on what they can project out of his frame, rather than what he’s shown on the field just yet.

Quote: “Athletic, 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcantara can are rare …. Long, lanky and loaded with tools and projection, Alcantara has massive potential and plenty to prove … for now he continues to boast one of the highest ceilings of any prospect his age.”

Swing-and-miss is the concern for Alcantara, but not because of his long levers. Instead, FanGraphs is worried his barrel accuracy is in need of an improvement and may take “forever to develop, or never develop at all.”

Owen Caissie

Acquired: Yu Darvish Trade

Owen Caissie is going to be one of the most exciting Cubs prospects to follow this year, though like so many others he is miles and miles away from the big leagues.

Quote: “His high-end exit velos were not only the best in this system but among the top 20 in all of minor league baseball …. Already possessing a pro athlete’s build and physicality, Caissie’s huge, broad-shouldered frame indicates he’ll yet grow into more power.”

Outside of some swing-and-miss that they believe could be alleviated as he develops, FanGraphs doesn’t see a whole lot wrong with Caissie right now at the plate. Instead, it seems, they just want to be patient and see how far his production can actually take him. Right now, there’s just not enough to examine.

James Triantos

Acquired: 2nd Round 2021 MLB Draft

James Triantos is currently my favorite Cubs prospect. That’s not to say I think he’s the best Cubs prospect, but I think the Cubs got an absolute STEAL in the second round of the 2021 draft (hey, just like Brennen Davis in 2018) and that seems to be a consensus belief around the league.

Quote: “… it’s very likely that Triantos rockets through the low minors given how dangerous he is in the box.”

As a refreshing change of pace, it’s nice to know that Triantos isn’t a swing-and-miss guy. FanGraphs says he finds a way to hit the ball hard most of the time without compromising barrel accuracy. The only issue, as of now, is that he doesn’t always make good decisions on when to swing. In other words, he doesn’t have a hole in his swing, he has pitch recognition questions. Shore that up though, and you’ve got a really dangerous hitter. I’m very excited about Triantos.

Reginald Preciado

Acquired: Yu Darvish Trade

The final Cub on the list is the final prospect with a 50 FV, according to FanGraphs. Like so many others on the list, Preciado has a considerable ceiling, but so many miles to go before reaching it. FanGraphs also believes he’ll be forced off shortstop as he ages, which makes development with the bat that much more crucial.

Quote: “Preciado is a huge-framed SS/3B prospect with fair feel to hit and sizable power projection …. He remains a prospect of extreme variance with star-level upside.”

Pitch recognition is again the issue here, but so is his lack of experience and potential to move off short. In a way, Preciado is a perfect example of so many of the Cubs top prospects right now: Huge upside, plenty of variance, very young. It’s good to have these types, but you just have to be patient.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami