Cubs Prospect Notes: Half of Opening Day, Davis, PCA, Amaya, Wesneski, Horton, More
Today is 50% Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs farm system. The Iowa Cubs have already opened and the South Bend Cubs open tomorrow. But the Tennessee Smokies and Myrtle Beach Pelicans open up their seasons tonight – the latter of which is going to be televised on Marquee at 6pm CT.
- The Iowa Cubs also get back on the field today, finally, after a weather-induced break. Tommy Birch profiles outfield prospect Brennen Davis, whose 2023 season is one of the most important in the farm system:
- Of the most importance for Davis, 23, is that he says it was the healthiest spring he’s had in years. So no questions right now on the health front. It’s all about making up for lost time, and continuing his development. To that end, a VERY interesting part of the article addressing one of the developmental concerns lobbed at Davis over the past year, indecision at the plate:
Davis also connected with old Cubs minor leaguer Mike Carter, who used to coach in the organization too. Carter, who won a batting crown with the Iowa Cubs, worked with Davis on his approach at the plate. A big area of emphasis was on getting Davis to stop being as selective in his at-bats and to jump on good pitches when they come.
“It’s just stuff in his head would be a problem where he’s thinking too much or trying to get the perfect pitch or is afraid to come out of his comfort zone and takes some chances on some pitches,” Carter said.
Carter believes Davis got too caught up in that picky approach in the past and it’s led to some struggles.
- There’s always a balance there, where you want players to be selective about pitches they offer at … but aggressive enough to jump on barrel-able balls whenever they come. For Davis, it’s important to remember that, although he was on the doorstep of the big leagues last year, he’s had just 223 games of pro experience. Total. That’s not even two full minor league seasons’ worth of plate appearances, despite being a high school draft pick. Most top high school draft picks see twice as many pro games at least before reaching the big leagues. Davis is incredibly talented, but time and patience and reps are needed.
- Over at BA, Josh Norris wrote up 50 prospects whom scouts mentioned as opening eyes on the back fields this spring. The bad news is that just one Cubs prospect is mentioned, though I suppose you have to keep in mind the nature of back fields action is such that some scouts might wind up seeing a ton of prospects at one particular level from one particular organization, but not quite have as many opportunities elsewhere. I wish there were more prospects to discuss, though.
- At least the one Cubs mention is substantial:
Crow-Armstrong is the highest-profile prospect on this list, but scouts this spring have been effusive enough in their praise that he could jump even further into the ranks of the game’s elite prospects. Crow-Armstrong’s reputation as a true 80-grade center fielder remains intact, but his offensive prowess has jumped up a notch. Evaluators noted a player with a polished work ethic and enough ability to manipulate the barrel to perhaps hit for both average and sneaky power at the top of an order. He will need to improve his approach against lefthanders—against whom he has a tendency to spin out early—to reach that status, but if he can stay focused up the middle and let his natural strength take its course, he could provide plenty of impact on both sides of the ball.
- So, is Pete Crow-Armstrong a top … 20 prospect now? Higher? It’ll be very interesting to see how he handles the jump to Double-A this year after relatively little experience at High-A (in his first full pro season). He will see a lot of top pitching prospects at Double-A, so you’d think there would be an adjustment process. But maybe that adjustment doesn’t take long, and maybe he’s just that good.
I caught the Cubs’ Double A hitters in an ostensible major-league game against the White Sox right before both squads decamped for Opening Day. Kevin Alcántara, my No. 29 prospect coming into the year, showed that same electric bat speed that boosted him to that ranking on my list, although his timing wasn’t great on that afternoon. No one looked more impressive compared to my previous looks than catcher Miguel Amaya, who missed most of the last two years around Tommy John surgery, but was noticeably stronger and showed a quiet, controlled approach at the plate. Amaya was a top 100 prospect before losing those two seasons to injury and could regain that status now that he’s both healthy and in – wait for it – the best shape of his life.
- With so much missed time, it’s pretty hard to project what Amaya is going to be at the plate this year at Double-A, much less if/when he gets the bump to Triple-A. He will also have to renew his work behind the plate after an even longer absence there, so there’s just going to be a whole lot of catching up to do, no pun intended. Amaya, 24, is in his final minor league option year, so the Cubs need to know by next Spring Training if he can make the big league roster. Suffice to say, the hope is that Amaya blows the doors off Double-A with relative quickness and heads to Iowa.
- Speaking of which, the other main catcher at Tennessee is Pablo Aliendo, 21, a true catching prospect in his own right. I’m sure the Cubs wouldn’t mind, as an ancillary benefit of Amaya getting a quick promotion to Iowa, that Aliendo could then start more regularly behind the plate on days when they want him to catch a particular pitcher.
- And speaking of that Tennessee roster, don’t miss Bryan’s writeup this morning on the prospectiest group in the farm system.
- I keep thinking about how Hayden Wesneski hit 98.1 mph the other night, as a guy who was never known for having premium velocity. I have seen other starting pitching prospects KNOWN for their velocity make appearances recently where they also topped out at 97-98 mph, and that’s talked about as confirmation that, see, that’s a velocity guy. Perception is big, and the perception is that Wesneski was not one of those guys. He still needs to work on commanding the four-seamer, but if he has the ABILITY to touch 98 mph, it makes you think commanding 95 mph (which would be awesome) is quite plausible.
- Lance Brozdowski has an updated top 30 Cubs prospect list, which I’m going to have to spend some time digging into, but here it is for you for now:
- If you missed it, the Cubs have another top 100 prospect thanks to a bump for Cade Horton at MLB Pipeline. More from Jim Callis here on Horton: