Welp, good luck to any of us trying to get ANYTHING else done today now that there’s a report Shohei Ohtani’s free agency decision could come today.
Be advised, when Ohtani news comes down, even if it’s not the Cubs, there are likely to be other moves that finally shake loose. I will do my best to evaluate those moves on their own merits, because comparing them to Ohtani is going to be … unproductive …
Good thing I had these Bullets largely written before that news dropped, because I am completely distracted …
I see someone else who has six prospects in the top-100:
Note that this is not the full, re-ranked top-100 list at MLB Pipeline, which will come later in the offseason. My guess is, once that’s complete, the Cubs might still be at six, though the composition could change slightly. Right now, it’s Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton, Owen Caissie, Kevin Alcántara, Ben Brown, and Matt Shaw, but Jim Callis has said James Triantos will get some consideration, and I’ve gotta think Jordan Wicks deserves a look, too; meanwhile, it could be that Ben Brown’s late-season injury and struggles when the Cubs tried him out in the bullpen at Iowa knocks him out for now.
Speaking of Cade Horton. The 22-year-old righty’s pro debut could not possibly have gone better, and he flew up the system so rapidly, and with so much improvement in his pitches along the way, that he has to be on the radar for 2024. And Jed Hoyer told The Athletic that the Cubs may not have to keep the guardrails on quite as much as they did last year. “Each step of the way last year, I thought he got better and better,” Hoyer said. “The next step for him certainly will be pitching on a more regular basis and throwing more pitches and things like that. He came back from Tommy John at the end of the ’22 season, so we definitely were careful with him last year, as we should have been. But certainly that will be relaxed a little bit.”
Which is not to say Horton is going to be out there throwing 100-pitch starts and 200 innings. So the Cubs will still have to be very thoughtful in how they manage his development early in the year with a likely desire to have him available for the big league rotation in the second half – and on into the postseason – if he looks ready and if there’s an opening. We shouldn’t assume Horton is DEFINITELY going to dominate early at Triple-A, and then be so obviously ready for the big leagues that the Cubs bring him up in June or whatever. But that’s clearly possible.
Something to keep in mind? One way the Cubs could wind up managing Horton’s innings while also getting some impact from him, while also giving him another developmental step: maybe he pitches out of the bullpen down the stretch. Horton is a starter through and through long-term, but we’ve seen the Cubs do it before, and it’s what a whole lot of organizations do with top pitching prospects in competitive years. They get a taste of big league life and big league hitters, and they contribute meaningful innings. But they are also somewhat limited in usage, so you aren’t blowing out a guy’s arm in his first year.
I don’t think you can say for sure he’s going to be a guy at this point, but Greg is quite right to remind everyone that Christian Franklin was kind of a completely different hitter after his development list stint this year:
Franklin, who just turned 24, was the Cubs’ 4th rounder in 2021, but missed his entire 2022 season after knee surgery. So 2023 was his first full pro season, and although he was on the older side, he did wind up reaching Double-A by the end of the year. Great athlete, decent power potential, good defense, and if he’s got the swing-and-miss better under control? There’s definitely 4th outfielder potential for the big league team in the next few years.
A clip of Cubs GM Carter Hawkins this week on MLB Network:
Carlyle Group Inc. co-founder David Rubenstein is in talks to buy the Baltimore Orioles, according to Bloomberg, though details are sparse. We’ve long known the Orioles were a sale possibility as Angelos family patriarch Peter Angelos gets well into his 90s, but this kinda came out of nowhere. We’ll see if it goes anywhere.
The Toronto sales pitch to Shohei Ohtani is pretty much just ripping on Los Angeles: