Well, for as little real baseball as we’ve gotten to enjoy this spring, at least it’s been a very fruitful prospect ranking season. Whether you’re interested in Fantasy Baseball rankings, ZiPS rankings, future top-100 types, org rankings, top Cubs lists, or just regular old top-100 lists, there’s been plenty to digest (and that’s about a quarter of the links we could’ve shared there!).
For the Cubs, for the most part, this rankings season has followed a predictable trend: Brennen Davis is up there in the top-25 or so, and then maybe one more prospect sneaks into the back-half of the top-100, usually with a nod to the potential for many more to come by midseason. There have been some outliers (in both directions), and the Cubs’ second best prospect is a topic of much debate, but that’s the gist of the season from our perspective.
And that’s what makes the newest top-100 to come out, Prospect Live’s 2022 Pre-Season Rankings, so interesting to me. It’s a fairly different flavor for the Cubs, who not only land four prospects in the top-100, but their lowest ranking doesn’t show up until 85 and Brennen Davis is up at 15. In other words, this is probably the most optimistic present day rankings we’ve seen so far. And it includes yet another new No. 2 Cubs prospect, with his highest ranking yet (from what I recall).
Cubs on Prospect Live’s Top-100:
15. Brennen Davis, OF
60. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF
79. Cristian Hernandez, SS
85. Kevin Alcantara, OF
Pete Crow-Armstrong, whom the Cubs acquired from the Mets in the Javy Báez trade, was for a brief time ranked as the Cubs second best prospect, and Brailyn Marquez held down the spot on MLB Pipeline’s rankings before any preseason update (which has come out yet because of the lockout), but lately that spot has been more frequently occupied by Cristian Hernández and Kevin Alcántara after offseason scouting reports filtered in. Which is not to say PCA did anything wrong, of course, as the attention he’s gotten for offseason improvements has also been extremely positive. Now you add this really high ranking to the mix. So, this is a very big compliment, and presumably a big bet on his bat actually developing the sort of low-level, in-game power needed to propel him beyond his most-common projection: a contact-oriented, elite glove center fielder (which still has value, of course, but wouldn’t be a top 60 prospect).
STRENGTHS Smooth, whippy stroke with plus bat speed. Generates good torque and gets the barrel on plane. Bat-to-ball skills remain strong. Sprays the ball to all fields and works the gaps. Glove is plus in center thanks to advanced instincts and reads. Had a reputation as one of best prep defenders in the outfield in his draft class and that has held true. Plus-plus speed, with sub 4 seconds home to first. Smart baserunner, projects for 20+ stolen bases in his prime seasons. Arm is above-average with mid-90s velocity on throws from center.
WEAKNESSES Bulked up but his early season injury didn’t allow him to show off his power tool much in Low-A this season. Did hit a few balls up over 100 MPH, but the sample was limited. With his barrel rate and plane I do expect average power production, but the shoulder injury casts a cloud over the power tool for now.
SUMMARY There’s a real chance that [PCA] becomes a true five-tool centerfielder with feel to hit, plus-plus speed, excellent defensive chops and average power. Chance to be a productive lead-off hitter with multiple All-Star appearance upside. The Mets sent him to the Cubs for half a season of Javier Báez and Trevor Williams. The shoulder injury hangs over the profile a bit, but he’ll bump to 60 OFP if he comes out of the gates hitting.
That bump would make PCA something in the top 25 to 30 range. Yo. I mean, that’s only if he rakes and shows the power right away, so that’s not a nothing caveat. But still. Yo.
And frankly, the same can be said about Hernández and Alcántara. Plenty of lists believe in this trio eventually becoming mid-or-better top-100 prospects, but few have ranked them higher than that 85-100+ range. It’s all about the potential upside. This is just a really solid showing for the Cubs overall.
As for Davis, he is just one of 24 prospects with a 60 OFP and ranks 15th overall. He has ranked a little higher before, but he’s basically in the second highest grouping of prospects according to Prospect Live (five players have a 70 OFP, no players are at 65). So long story short, the Cubs farm system is buzzing again and there are plenty of reasons to be excited.