Marquee's Updated Preseason Top 25 Chicago Cubs Prospect List is Scouting-Heavy

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Marquee’s Updated Preseason Top 25 Chicago Cubs Prospect List is Scouting-Heavy

Chicago Cubs

Although I recently declared prospect rankings season at a close, I was mistaken – I’d forgotten about one of my (newer) favorite lists to see: the top Cubs prospects list from Lance Brozdowski at Marquee.

The reason I like to see Brozdowski’s take is not only because his position at Marquee allows him a great deal of access to Cubs prospects and personnel, but also because he offers a truly unique take on prospect evaluation. He goes much deeper into the nerdiest levels of the data to raise unseen red flags, unearth hidden upside, etc. It’s the kind of depth that would be hard to pull off if you had to focus on 30 farm systems instead of just one.

As you can see in the list, Brozdowski has Pete Crow-Armstrong as his number two prospect in the system (though I remain curious why he hasn’t debuted at Myrtle Beach yet, despite being on the active roster). That’s kinda the open slot where we’ve seen Kevin Alcántara (3rd for Brozdowski), Owen Caissie (4th), and Cristian Hernández (6th) fall on various lists, and it’s a bit of a jumble of prospects that could separate themselves this year.

Mixed in that top tier for Brozdowski is his top pitching prospect in the system, Jordan Wicks, at number five:

This offseason, [Wicks] underwent a repertoire overhaul. For now, it seems like he’ll rely solely on a four-seam fastball, scraping his sinker for the much better of his two fastballs. His slider and curveball have both been reshaped to resemble more traditional offerings, whereas last season his slider moved more like a cutter and his curveball moved more like a slider. His changeup remains his best offering by a wide margin on the amount of swing and miss he is able to generate.

Historically, the changeups that have performed at an elite level against major league hitters are about 10 mph slower than a pitcher’s fastball and drop about 10 inches more than a pitcher’s fastball (read more here). Wicks bumps right up against these parameters, with his changeup separating from his fastball by 10 mph and 9 inches of drop. The pitch can get major league hitters out right now. If his offseason changes result in improvements to both his breaking balls, his repertoire creates the highest floor in the system. Then, velocity becomes the separator, as his 92-mph fastball would rely heavily on command to be effective in the majors.

So, with Wicks, you would ideally like to see a velo bump hold this year in the 93/94 mph range (which, I know, is aggressive), and for both the curve and slider to be useable pitches. Given the ranking, I’m thinking that Brozdowski is optimistic on that front.

One more specific player I want to give a shout, because he’s showing up quite a bit higher than I think most lists would have him – outfield prospect Alexander Canario, at number 10:

Canario draws relatively even with the next two prospects that follow him [Kohl Franklin, Miguel Amaya], despite their wildly different trajectories. Canario’s raw power is legitimate, sitting right near Caissie as some of the biggest in the Cubs system. The advantage he has over other big-power prospects is that despite a big strikeout rate, his underlying swing and miss isn’t astronomically high. This suggests he has trouble when he falls behind in counts, like most hitters, but doesn’t struggle to make contact on pitches he should do damage on. The chances he ever produces a major league strikeout rate below 20-25% is still small, but I don’t think he’s in as much danger of posting strikeout rates in the mid 30%s as others may perceive.

The hope with Canario is that he lives around the .240 average mark, can produce a consistent 25-plus home runs and stays a corner outfielder with average speed. Down the road, he has the potential to DH depending on how the Cubs future outfield shakes out.

Really interesting note there on the “why” of Canario’s strikeouts. The thing that would concern you most is pure swing and miss problems, because that’s the hardest issue to develop/coach away. Pitch recognition is probably number two, and I wonder if that becomes a particular issue for Canario when he falls behind in the count (i.e., he’s really good at hunting particular pitches early/ahead, but then struggles to keep himself alive).

In any case, Brozdowski seems like the high man on Canario, so I find that very interesting on its own.

The whole list is definitely worth checking out, not just for the ordering, but for the lengthy discussions of each prospect.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.