Prospect Ranking season continues! And we’ve got a trio of rankings to sift through today, from FanGraphs (ZiPS Top-100 prospects), Baseball America (top shortstop prospects), and Baseball Prospectus (prospect dynasty rankings). Let’s go backwards through those three … because I’m most excited to talk about BP’s list.
Baseball Prospectus – Dynasty Prospects
The latest ranking of top prospects at Baseball Prospectus was assembled for the purpose of fantasy baseball leagues, so it’s a little different than the other lists out there. But it still has real-life value!
Here’s how it works/why it exists: Certain fantasy baseball leagues are carried out over multiple years/seasons, so team owners are able to draft prospects before they’re actually ready to contribute at the big league level. That’s why these lists are useful to certain people – you can grab a future stud for nothing, if you know who to get, years before you actually plan to start him/them in your lineup.
And if you know anything about the Cubs farm system today, you know that it’s ostensibly loaded with potential future studs who just happen to be very far away from contributing. For most regular prospect ranking services, that leaves us with just one or two prospects in the top-100 for 2022. But in this case, the Cubs are EVERYWHERE!
9. Brennen Davis 9
58. Christian Hernández 58
63. Reggie Preciado 63
75. Owen Caissie 75
91. James Triantos 91
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Alcántara, Pete Crow-Armstrong
Count’ em! That’s five Cubs prospects in the top-101, and two more among the honorable mentions. Another way to say that is that they have seven of the top-125 prospects listed, almost double as many as you’d expect with even distribution among all 30 teams.
This list has the feel of what you might hope to see – in terms of Cubs representation – on most actual prospect rankings during or after the 2022 season (probably minus Brennen Davis, who should graduate this year).
Oh, also, I’ve gotta share a little of what was said about Cristian Hernández’s ceiling and floor:
Locked In: The best player in the history of baseball
Locked Out: Never makes it past Double-A
And on Reggie Preciado, because it’s funny:
Locked In: 85% of Corey Seager
Locked Out: 85% of Kyle Seager
Baseball America – Top Shortstops
There are nine positions in MLB (10 if you include the DH (11 if you separate starters from relievers)), but among Baseball America’s Top-100 prospect rankings, you’ll find a whopping 26 shortstops.
Like a few other spots around the diamond (catcher, center field, and starting pitcher), the shortstop position is disproportionately valuable to big league teams, and it’s also a spot from which players can move if necessary or if sticking at short isn’t in the future. Ranking among the top shortstops in MiLB, then, is both difficult and impressive. But it’s even more impressive when you consider that the Cubs’ representative among the top-30 shortstop prospects, Christian Hernández, is an 18-year-old who hasn’t even played stateside yet.
Scouting Report: Hernandez is the rare explosive athlete who is also a polished hitter for his age. He generates excellent bat speed, gets on plane early and keeps his barrel through the zone for a long time. He effortlessly drives the ball hard to all fields and projects to grow into plus power as he fills out his projectable, 6-foot-2 frame. Hernandez got off to a slow start in his pro debut, but he showed the ability to adjust and caught fire at the end of the season. He has a high baseball IQ and a preternatural ability to slow the game down. Hernandez is impressively coordinated for his age and has the hands, instincts and range to be an average defender at shortstop. He may outgrow the position as he fills out and has the plus arm strength for third base if he has to move.
Baseball America has Hernández as the 20th best overall shortstop prospect, which equates to the 81st best prospect overall. It’s a substantial display of belief in his upside given his distance to the majors and helps support why we’re so excited about his potential (Our BN prospect rankings have Hernández second only to Brennen Davis in the Cubs system).
FanGraphs – ZiPS Top-100
You can think of the ZiPS top-100 prospect rankings as something like a pure statistical modeling system for projection future prospect performance (er, well, that’s exactly what it is!). It is explicitly imperfect, because it’s not hard to imagine the limitations when it comes to – for example – younger players with limited statistical experience. Still, it’s another way to think about prospects, and it’s been very good at projecting which (generally older) prospects will make the big leagues and contribute.
And by that measure, we see a new Cubs prospect on these lists, starting pitcher Caleb Kilian, who is ranked at No. 96 overall. Killian, who is expected to contribute meaningful big league innings as soon as this season, went unranked on the FanGraphs top-100, but was No. 4 according to our BN Prospect Rankings. You might remember him as the guy who tossed a perfect game in the AFL Championship this November, and who has been viewed by some as the biggest breakout prospect in the system.
If the Cubs don’t add any other starting pitchers when the lockout ends, you can expect Kilian to stick around Spring Training for a while, start the year out at Triple-A Iowa, and eventually join that group of pitchers (Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, and Keegan Thompson) competing for starts at the back of the rotation whenever they pop up.
Kilian is the only Cub on the top-100, but he’s not the only Cub mentioned.
Catcher Miguel Amaya, a former top prospect in the system who’s missed so much time due to injury and the pandemic, checks in as the 10th best catching prospect according to ZiPS, just narrowly missing the top-100 overall (109th). And Brennen Davis checks in as the 9th best corner outfield prospect, coming even closer to the cutoff (102nd).
Notably, ZiPS has Davis at .224/.307/.407 (92 wRC+) for his first taste of big league action this year, if he were to get there. And while that might seem a little disappointing on the surface, it’s (1) still pretty impressive, and (2) serves to underscore the work he must still put in at Triple-A before being promoted (specifically on cutting down the strikeouts). Again, Davis is just 22-years-old, with VERY little pro experience. So the fact that he projects to be just a barely below average hitter (close to average for a center fielder) in his first taste of MLB is good news.
If ZiPS is wrong on someone, I think it’s Brennen Davis. He hasn’t had a great deal of experience in the minors, so I think ZiPS is taking too negative a view of his contact rate and how much of his value was walks-based. Davis may be the type of player who was especially hurt by a lost season, a highly-skilled guy who really just needs more playing time.