As the minor league seasons wind down, you tend not to see too much movement on the prospect promotion side of things in the minor leagues. The big exception is where an organization either wants to reward a guy for a great season and get him a cup at the very end of the year, or where a team is headed to the postseason and the org wants to get a certain player into that mix.
I think we may be seeing both things happening for Chicago Cubs catching prospect Moises Ballesteros, who is reportedly getting the late-season bump to Double-A Tennessee. The Smokies clinched a playoff berth this weekend, so now Ballesteros will get to participate.
Depending on your preferred list, Ballesteros is going to finish the year among the Cubs’ top 10/15 prospects, which is saying a lot given how loaded that group is. Although questions are going to persist on whether he has the athleticism to catch long-term, the bat continues to carry him. At just 19 years old, Ballesteros got the bump from Low-A to High-A back in June, and he didn’t slow down at the plate. Overall between the levels, he’s hit .288/.379/.460/135 wRC+ this year, with a 13.1% BB rate and a 15.9% K rate. He’s done that at just 19 years old, the same age – for example – as his IFA classmate Cristian Hernández. And Ballesteros is now going to be in Double-A.
A really impressive year for such a young player, and I cannot overstate the fact that if there were no questions at all about his future defensive home, the bat/age/level combination would have him as a crystal clear top-100 prospect in baseball.
If I had to guess, the Cubs are going to tell Ballesteros that his job this offseason is to make himself into the best possible version of a catcher as he can. I’m not saying the Cubs have to make a full-time switch for him ASAP in 2024 – he’ll only be 20! and he’s not Rule 5 eligible until after 2025 – but I’m sure they are going to want to know, in the medium term, whether he’s a future catcher or not. Because the bat is clearly not going to be inhibited, and they’ll probably want to keep challenging him offensively as much as the bat allows. For what it’s worth, his defensive time this year has been about a 2:1 timeshare between catching and first base.
I can’t wait to see what he does with a little time at Tennessee to finish the year, and then with a big offseason ahead.