Cubs Prospect Notes: Alcántara's Big Year Ahead, Caution on Wicks and Triantos, Offensive System, Slaughter, Hodge, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Alcántara’s Big Year Ahead, Caution on Wicks and Triantos, Offensive System, Slaughter, Hodge, More

Chicago Cubs

A bundle of stray Chicago Cubs prospect notes for you as I work on being a little better about not letting quality tabs build up on me …

  • One of those tabs I had open for a while was the Baseball America chat about their installment of the Cubs’ top ten prospect list heading into 2023. It was tabbed for so long because it’s just so dense with so much Cubs prospect goodness that it can be hard to parse out what I want to say about it, without just saying, you, go, read this thing. But, you know … do that.
  • Something I wanted to highlight from the chat as a counterbalance to my own sense of excitement about starting pitching prospect Jordan Wicks is that some of the evaluators with whom BA spoke pretty clearly see him as more of a pitchability guy, who could have success at lower levels because of the plus changeup*, so I guess we’ll want to see more from the fastball and the slider this year. From BA: “Evaluators believe in it in the sense Wicks could be a decent No. 5 starter. It’s mostly all average stuff except for the changeup (which has been more 55-60 in pro ball than the 70 it was in college) and he shows a good feel for pitching. At the same time, there’s also a real concern he’s going to start getting hit harder once he starts facing better competition, which we saw happen in his brief Double-A stint. He’s a lefty with a deep pitch mix and a good feel for pitching, all of which are good traits. It’s just more in line with a No. 5 starter, which is something every team needs and shouldn’t be discounted or dismissed.”
  • I still think Wicks is a lot better than he’s being given credit for (and a lot of old opinions from his draft year about how he was just a floor guy are sticking around longer than they should), but this was out there, so I thought it important to share.
  • *(I have learned over the years that you do have to be careful in overweighting the performance success of polished pitchers with good changeups at the lower levels of the minors – it’s one of the skills that REALLY gives young hitters fits, but doesn’t always project as well against more advanced and experienced hitters. That’s a big part of the reason no one is rocketing Cubs minor league pitcher of the year Luis Devers up the lists just yet, despite all his success in 2022.)
  • The other thing I wanted to note from the chat – it’s not all negative stuff! I just think it’s important to share some of this so we can stay tempered in our expectations – is some really down opinions on James Triantos’s glove: “Triantos wasn’t really in the Top 10 conversation, in the minds of either Cubs officials or opposing evaluators. The defense is bad and there are real profile issues …. Triantos is more likely to end up at first base. He does not move well in the infield at all. The 100% outcome is Ty France – a short 1B who can really hit. But there is also a real chance he ends up like Michael Chavis, another short, bat-first infielder who had to move to first and never hit enough. There’s some promising things with Triantos’ bat, but he’s got a long way to go and the profile will be tough.”
  • The good news there is that there is still optimism – even among the negative voices – about Triantos’s bat. I tend to think we’re going to see him really rake at South Bend this year. But there’s an enormous difference in his value if he can stay at 3B/2B, or if he does wind up a bat-mostly first base/DH type.
  • If I’d told you the Cubs had the third best farm system in baseball by wRC+ last year, would you have believed me? Knowing that most of the focus of their developmental success stories have been on the pitching side? Knowing that their system is almost entirely prospect-driven, as opposed to led by a lot of older, journeyman types playing way below their level? Well, whether you’d believe me or not, it’s true:
  • This really shouldn’t shock you if you were following all that “extremely deep” talk about the farm system last year and into this season. When you have an overload of legitimate prospects, you’re going to see production at a system-wide level even if you don’t have the volume of tip-top impact types that other orgs do. The Cubs simply have a lot of really interesting bats. I’ll keep saying that now we need to see a few of them really break out into that top-50 prospect world, but I don’t want that to undercut the fact that a dozen+ guys turned in big-time offensive performances in 2022.
  • When Cubs minor league hitting co-coordinator Rachel Folden talks about hitting, it’s worth listening:
  • A cool signing mixed into the Cubs’ international class this year was their first ever prospect from Brazil:
  • Big praise for Cubs outfield prospect Kevin Alcántara:
  • From the piece, which gets you geared up to watch Alcántara really break out this season:

“He drives the ball … it doesn’t matter where he is in the lineup. He’s going to mush baseballs. That’s what he does,” [then-Alcantara’s hitting coach at Myrtle Beach Steven] Pollakov said. “He’s done a great job of really showing teams that he can hit the fastball no matter where it is, no matter what velocity it is, so he’s been getting a heavy dose of sliders. He’s been showing now he can not only spit on the bad ones but also destroy the ones that he has a chance to do damage on.”

Alcantara maintained a steady pace throughout the rest of the regular season and got hot again as the Pelicans approached the playoffs. Over the final month of the season, including Myrtle Beach’s semifinal matchup with Charleston, Alcantara batted .337/.398/.518 with four homers, 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored in 22 games.

“This is what positive development looks like,” Pollakov said. “He has extremely high expectations of himself. … He knows what he’s capable of, and we know what he’s capable of. We hold him to the highest standard, and he appreciates that and embraces that, and he also holds himself to that standard. When you put those together, you get greatness.”

(Featured Alcántara photo by Rich Biesterfeld.)

  • It would be extremely fun if Jake Slaughter just keeps on raking and stealing bases this year at Triple-A, and we all have to be, like, uh, does he need a big league job:
  • They didn’t make BP’s top 101, but each of Hayden Wesneski and Daniel Palencia came in for some praise:
  • Don’t sleep on starting pitching prospect Porter Hodge, who came out of relative obscurity last season to look really dang good at Myrtle Beach, get promoted to South Bend, and then look even better:
  • Owen Caissie profile video:

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.