This week feels like the perfect time for an update to our prospect rankings, given that the draft and Trade Deadline will confuse the rankings like never before in the weeks to come. I decided to keep the write-ups short in the name of getting all 30 into one post.
1. Brennen Davis: Willing to balance how good Davis looked in Spring Training with how bad he looked at Iowa. Have adjusted my contact rate expectations down some, but still believe that Brennen is an All-Star to be. The hope is he can return in August from back surgery.
2. Kevin Alcántara: There are very few in the middle of the Venn diagram of body projection and baseball instincts like Kevin; the ceiling is just insane. Checking many of the same boxes that Brennen Davis did in 2019, namely and importantly in the coachability category.
3. Pete Crow-Armstrong: When you’re talking about legit 70 run and glove tools, you have a 2 WAR floor before you even get to the bat. I think the plate approach can get better, but fantastic hand-eye coordination is patching over some of that rawness just fine.
4. Cristian Hernández: Has not dropped in my estimation, has just been briefly passed by two really fun prospects. Needs to trust that he won’t lose meaningful power by shortening up, getting quicker to the ball and reducing those strikeouts.
5. Owen Caissie: The success given age and level are fantastic, but everyone you talk to insists that there’s another level that his bat is destined to get to. Potential is there for a transformational offensive player.
6. Caleb Kilian: Mechanical and release point issues have popped up, but the raw stuff is in a better place than a year ago. The Cubs pitching infrastructure has proven they can improve stuff; can they coach refinement back?
7. Jordan Wicks: He’s hitting and surpassing all the Process checkpoints that the Cubs hoped to see in 2022; the four-pitch mix has never been better. Hoping the development reins loosen a bit and the Cubs treat him like the 2023 Major League option that he is.
8. D.J. Herz: My instinct is the continued proof that hitters can’t barrel up (or even make contact with) Herz makes him the best pitching prospect in the organization, but I’m taking the cautious approach with this ranking given the lack of efficiency development. Still feels like the current breaking balls haven’t approached their final iterations.
9. Kevin Made: Many of the issues I had with Made’s swing last year have improved. He’s way less reliant on just his hands, with his lower half now contributing to a breakout in the power department. If he combines that progress with the better swing decisions that he’s shown in the last month, he’s a top 100 prospect before long.
10. James Triantos: Don’t see the breakouts around the system and let yourself be disappointed that Triantos is merely 10% above Low-A league average. That’s a quite exciting result for a 19-year-old still learning how improved swing decisions will take his natural hitting ability to the next level.
11. Yohendrick Pinango: Like with Made, kudos to the Cubs hitting coaches for their work with another swing I had questions with. Pinango is much more direct and straight-through the baseball these days, which has allowed him to tap into the pull-side power that we knew was in there.
12. Daniel Palencia: When I looked at the next group of Cubs pitching prospects — all of whom approach the high 90s but feature high reliever risk — I came away with the belief that Palencia belonged on top. His fastball has the best raw characteristics in the system, and he’s showing the right progress in both command and secondaries.
13. Chase Strumpf: Glad to see the Cubs give Strumpf another prolonged look at second base recently, because I think he works just fine there. Can the Cubs find the right adjustment to improve his in-zone contact rate to an acceptable area?
14. Kohl Franklin: Lacked any kind of feel for pitching in April/May after long lay-off, understandable given the tight reins, body and velocity changes since 2019. Needs more fastball life and a slider/cutter, but foundation is really good, so I’m sticking to my guns with this ranking.
15. Alexander Canario: Ranking Canario always feels like the hedge between two outcomes: a good Franmil Reyes type player, and a guy whose plate approach prevents highest level success. My opinion waxes and wanes depending on the week, but it’s not bad to have a few of those high-volatility prospects around.
16. Ryan Jensen: Even with the good changes to Jensen’s arm action, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the feel he has on a start-by-start level is still there. The big platoon split is back this season, which has the reliever risk warning lights flashing brighter than ever, as he and the Cubs approach a big 40-man roster decision.
17. Miguel Amaya: It must have have taken some grueling rehab to return so quickly, but the looks he’ll get in the second half (and in Winter League) will be so key to his development. And yet, it still feels like we need to give him a month more of rope before we begin to seriously evaluate his play.
18. Matt Mervis: I fully buy into the power that his swing creates, but I have questions with whether he’ll be able to adjust his approach quick enough against Major League pitchers that are throwing fewer and fewer fastballs in fastball counts.
19. Brailyn Marquez: Considered making him ineligible for the list, because who could possibly know what to do with him, but that felt cowardly. It’s impossible for cynicism to not creep into his perception now; it just feels like if it happens for him, it’ll be somewhere else.
20. Ed Howard: There was quiet excitement about him in the Cubs front office when Howard appeared taller and stronger at Spring Training this year without any drop-off in athleticism. But this hip injury is no joke, and so he’ll need to prove that this won’t cost any of the athleticism he needs to retain the floor that his defense previously offered.
21. Luke Little: His combination of size, release point and raw stuff is about as intimidating as the Cubs have had since Andy Sisco. The floor is really high, I just worry that (like with Sisco once upon a time) this slow developmental approach is wasting bullets on a near-impossible SP outcome. I truly believe, as a reliever, he’d be good enough to have Double-A success right now.
22. Luis Devers: Has a real instinct for how to pitch, and isn’t afraid to use Cueto-like gimmicks when he feels it will help. The important parts of his remaining development overlap nicely with the things the Cubs pitching coaches do the best (add velocity and sweeper sliders).
23. Jordan Nwogu: Feels like the likeliest player in the twenties of these rankings to get incredibly hot and boost his stock in the months to come. Has not quite put the sweet spot of the bat onto the ball enough in 2022 so far.
24. Cam Sanders: After the Trade Deadline, I want the Cubs to give him a spot in the Major League bullpen, throwing 2-3 innings per appearance. I think this development approach might help him pitch with an urgency and edited pitch mix that will lead to success (perhaps even back in the rotation down the line).
25. Yovanny Cruz: Very, very quietly pumping 99-101 mph fastballs out of the South Bend bullpen. I don’t know whether a return to starting is in the cards down the road; his precise prospect ranking likely depends on the answer to that question.
26. Reggie Preciado: Bummer that 2022 will become a lost year, because it felt like a breakthrough had been made in the two weeks before the injury. Get bigger, get simpler, and do more damage inside the zone.
27. Moises Ballesteros: Sprays line drives like few that have come through the complex leagues in the last half-decade have before him. The body gives pause, but coaches love the work ethic, and he’s already a much better catcher than he was eighteen months ago.
28. Javier Assad: Someone who gets better off on his own, which these days, is a big factor in how I evaluate players. The current version would probably rank a bit lower on raw talent, but he’s close and I think there might be a little more to juice to squeeze out before he’s fully realized.
29. Drew Gray: Back to throwing with really good reports on how he’s attacked rehab. The time off, which corresponds to time in the weight room, likely leads to a guy throwing harder than ever before come 2023.
30. Christian Franklin: The knee injury on the first day of Spring Training robs us of any information about what the Cubs did to his swing. There was some optimism that he was a small tweak or two from tapping into some fun upside.
Ten more, presented alphabetically, who just missed: Bryce Ball, Porter Hodge, Ben Leeper, Koen Moreno, Adan Sanchez, Tyler Schlaffer, Jake Slaughter, Riley Thompson, Luis Verdugo, Jared Young.
Ineligible for consideration: Nelson Velázquez (big league time), Anderson Espinoza (big league time), Brandon Hughes (big league time), Alexander Vizcaino (restricted list), Max Bain (personal relationship).