We are less than a week away from the calendar flipping, which means we are getting pretty darn close to the point where prospects wind up in Arizona for pre-Spring Training work. That’s when you start to get an even better sense on how guys treated their offseason development work – things that maybe started in instructs in the fall, and have really started to take hold by mid-January.
- I think it would be a perilous mistake to view this picture and then try to diagnose progress or anything like that. HOWEVER, it’s not like you can’t imagine things being worse at this moment, given how bad Alexander Canario’s early-November injuries looked and sounded. So I think this looks great:
- Of at least as much interest as the walking boot is the fact that there is no visible sling or the like for Canario’s left shoulder, on which he also reportedly had to have surgery. I don’t want to forget that part of the whole thing just because the ankle injury looked and sounded so awful.
- From a pure health perspective, the hope was the Canario could be in a good place within the first couple months of the regular season, with baseball ramp-up to follow, and *MAYBE* a return to game action sometime after the All-Star break. How his ability will be impacted by these injuries is going to be the biggest question of all, and man, it’s gonna be torture waiting to get that information and data in a sample size that matters. With luck, we’ll know a lot by, like, the literal end of next season. Canario is only 22, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop into a great career, but these kinds of injuries … for prospect nuts like us … it’s just so hard to wait. (So I can only imagine what it’s like for the players!)
- That is to say, Canario is highly, highly unlikely to appear at the big league level this year. I would say a number of relievers will, conceivably a starting pitching prospect or two, and maybe some of the depth position prospects (and hey, maybe Pete Crow-Armstrong just rockets up). In terms of impact, it’s not too hard to speculate the most likely prospects to come up and be a factor for the Cubs. It’s Brennen Davis, if he’s fully healthy, if he’s producing at Triple-A, and if an opening appears in the big league outfield. And it’s obviously these two, each of whom will definitely appear in the big leagues this year, perhaps for very long stretches:
- MLB Pipeline identified each organization’s biggest breakout prospect for 2022, and I’m thinking some of the after-season scouting reports have started to make the rounds:
Cubs: Porter Hodge, RHP (No. 22)
A high school draftee from Utah who signed as a 13th-rounder in 2019, Hodge had back surgery in 2020 and posted a 6.44 ERA combined in 2019 and 2021. Improved conditioning and athleticism led to a 2022 breakout that saw his stuff get better and the results followed: Hodge pitched across two levels of A ball and finished with a 2.63 ERA, 11.6 K/9 rate and a .202 batting average against.
- Hodge, 21, was a frequent mention around these parts this year, having posted excellent results and peripherals at Low-A and High-A, and getting better and better as the season went on. And as more outside sources get full reports, I’m thinking we’re going to see him flying up the prospect rankings … like the new Prospects Live top Cubs prospects list:
- That’s Hodge all the way up at number SIX, behind only Cade Horton and Hayden Wesneski among the Cubs’ top pitching prospects. Yes, that means he’s ahead of Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, and D.J. Herz, and I take that as a SIGNIFICANT compliment for Hodge, especially because we generally know thoughts on Brown have been on the rise since midseason.
- Head over to Prospects Live to see the full Cubs list and scouting reports, where there is a LOT of love for Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcántara, and Cade Horton, and a general sense that the Cubs have a good and deep system. They remain on the cusp of having a lot of top 100 types, however, rather than actually already having them. It was the same question this time last year, and although the system has definitely gotten even deeper since then, I think the impact-level-prospect question is at least as strong. Northside Bound breaks down the list here.