Two Cubs Show Up on a List of 10 Prospects Who Could Break Out in Their Full-Season Debut

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Two Cubs Show Up on a List of 10 Prospects Who Could Break Out in Their Full-Season Debut

Chicago Cubs

I really like this idea from Baseball America to talk specifically about ten prospects who will be making their full-season debuts this year, and who really have the potential to “raise eyebrows all spring and summer.”

With big league Spring Training underway and minor league Spring Training coming soon, the timing is right to put as many possible breakout prospects on your radar as possible, and the guys who haven’t even played full-season ball yet (Low-A or above) make for a particularly good group of breakout candidates.

Of even more fun for us, two of the ten – that’s 20%, because I can Math – are Chicago Cubs prospects.

First, there’s IFA bonus baby Cristian Hernández, who was among the top prospects in his class in 2021, and who made his stateside debut in Complex Ball last year:

Hernandez was one of the Cubs’ most ballyhooed young prospects in recent years and showed flashes of his talent this past summer in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League. His biggest issue right now is plate discipline, and he struck out a little more than 30% of the time in his stateside debut. Hernandez’s power is prodigious and easy and would be amplified a bit more with a more refined hit tool. He’s got a decent chance to stick at shortstop depending on the way his body develops, but his power and plus arm would easily allow him to stick at third base if such a move were necessary.

Last season in the ACL, Hernández hit .261/.320/.357/88 wRC+, striking out 30.3% of the time. Like a lot of prospects at a new level – or in a new country, in Hernández’s case – he did improve after the first 10 games or so, but only modestly.

Hernández, who only just turned 19, would still be quite young for Low-A Myrtle Beach, if that is indeed where he makes his season debut this year. As BA notes, the part of his game that was needing the most work was the swing-and-miss and contact quality. They are big issues, yes, but not necessarily anything that freaks you out when talking about an 18-year-old making his stateside debut. The swing is beautiful with great bat speed, the athleticism is outstanding, and the raw power is really impressive for a shortstop. There’s far more to like here than not.

But this season, if he’s going to take that next step into top-100 prospect consideration, he’s simply going to need a lot more contact, and a lot more barrels. If those areas do improve, then he has the potential to explode quickly (which is why he shows up on a list of ten prospects like this).

The Cubs also have a member of the list on the pitching side, and it’s number seven overall pick, Cade Horton:

After a lengthy college season, Horton didn’t throw at all as a pro. That was true for both the regular season and instructional league. His overall body of work includes just one collegiate season—53.2 innings in 2022 with Oklahoma—but he shined in the postseason thanks to a pitch mix that includes a double-plus fastball and wipeout slider at the front of a four-pitch mix. Despite the small sample size, feedback from executives and evaluators during our Top 100 Prospects process placed him as a contender for a spot on the list.

Listening to a recent BA podcast on the Cubs’ system, they said they’d heard from some around the game that they already should’ve had Horton on the top-100, and that there were teams ready to take him in the draft right after the Cubs at seven. I think two things can be true: (1) taking Horton and signing him under slot was part of a strategy to ensure the Cubs could also get Jackson Ferris, a first round talent, in the second round, and (2) Horton might wind up having been drafted exactly where he should have been.

Basically, if Horton really is the guy he showed late in the year (after fully recovering from Tommy John surgery and ramping up, mind you) and in the College World Series, he’s going to show it early at Low-A Myrtle Beach or High-A South Bend, and then he would be a top-100 prospect at midseason. Most evaluators just want to see how he looks in pro ball, because the sample size of him being elite is both very small and only against college competition.

So, in sum, among just ten named prospects who could really break out this year as they arrive in full-season ball, two are Cubs prospects. And both are guys who would likely be instant top-100 prospects if the first couple months of those full-season debuts look good.

For the other eight named prospects, check out the BA piece. And no, the Cubs aren’t the only team from the NL Central with inclusions.

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.