Keith Law’s Updated Top-50 Rankings: A New Number One Cubs Prospect?

The month of June is arguably the easiest time for a player to fly up the top-prospect rankings. By now, most lists are cleared of players who’ve graduated to the big leagues and not yet filled by the draft prospects who’ll arrive in about six weeks. But even knowing that, I’m pretty happy to see where Matt Shaw and the other Cubs prospects land on Keith Law’s updated Top-50.

#15 – Matt Shaw

Preseason Ranking: 26

“Shaw’s performance in Double A looks very disappointing, but his batted-ball data remains strong and the consensus seems to be that it’s been more bad luck than a deficiency in skill. The Cubs’ first-rounder from last year could still have an opportunity for big-league impact this year, especially now that he’s shown he can handle third base, once he starts getting more results from his hard contact.”

To address the issue raised, allow me to remind you that something WEIRD is going on in Double-A this year, because Matt Shaw’s .234/.360/.389 slash line is 31% better than the league average hitter. Do all that as a 22-year-old infielder with a 15.3% walk rate and a 21.7% strikeout rate and there’s no reason for concern.

But even if you ARE someone who wants to see the raw numbers improve, consider his last 3+ weeks: .275/.359/.450 (144 wRC+). Or how about his last ~50 PAs, during which he’s slashing .310/.408/.571 (195 wRC+), with a walk rate north of 14% and strikeout rate of just 20.4%.

Nah, he’s hitting just fine. In fact, he’s probably pretty close to earning a promotion to Iowa. But setting that aside, ranking 15th is just incredible. Shaw was a first-round pick, but remember, the Cubs didn’t take him until 13th overall last year. It’s gone about as good as you could have realistically hoped. And with this ranking ahead of Cade Horton – plus Pete Crow-Armstrong’s graduation – this technically makes Matt Shaw the Cubs new top prospect — at least temporarily and according to one guy!

#21 Kevin Alcántara

Preseason Ranking: 28

“Alcántara started the year 0 for 26 with 11 K’s, but since he got off that particular schneid, he’s hit .315/.351/.492 with a 21 percent K rate. He’s got as much projection left as any hitter in full-season ball, with 30-homer upside in center field, although he’ll have to improve some of his swing decisions, especially against righties.”

Law pretty much hit the nail on the head there, pointing out Alcántara’s second consecutive slow start followed by mostly offensive dominance with solid defense in center field. Plus, he’s one of the six youngest hitters at Double-A. His floor may be low-ish, but his ceiling is substantial. He’s routinely considered to have one of the biggest upsides in the Cubs system, and a 21-overall ranking reflects that belief.

Alcantara will have to work on getting the strikeout rate under control a bit more, but he’s a really exciting prospect – one that we probably overlook a bit too often.

#32 Cade Horton

Preseason Ranking: 49

“Horton came out of his last start on Wednesday due to back soreness, so here’s hoping this ranking doesn’t seem out of date by the time the story runs. He dominated Double A and has been solid in Triple A, although his fastball continues to play well below its velocity, with far more success coming on his slider and changeup. He’s a starter, of some sort, but what sort probably depends on what he and the Cubs do with his fastball going forward.”

That’s an interesting note on Horton’s fastball that I hadn’t really heard before, but we’ll dig into that another time. For now, this is another solid ranking for Horton. Perhaps a little lower than his best rankings, but obviously a big step up relative to his preseason mark with Keith Law (#49), especially considering the injury and the performance based (rather than results-based) success at Triple-A so far.

Indeed, Horton ranks as the third best right-handed pitcher and fourth best overall pitcher on this top-50 prospect list. Hopefully the lat injury is not serious.

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs don’t have the highest individual ranking — the Brewers catching prospect Jeferson Quero beats Matt Shaw by four spots — but they do have the most top-50 prospects, and all three of the Cubs players rank higher than anyone besides Quero. So it’s a pretty good showing overall.

  • Reds: Two – Rhett Lowder (#37), Cam Collier (#38)
  • Brewers: One – Jeferson Quero (#11)
  • Cardinals: One – Tink Hence (#42)
  • Pirates: One – Bubba Chandler ($46)
  • Note: Pete Crow-Armstrong and Michael Busch were on Law’s preseason top-100, but both have since graduated. Meanwhile, Jefferson Rojas, James Triantos, Owen Caissie, and Moises Ballesteros might make an eventual top-100 reset for Law, but he didn’t have any of them on his preseason list (and obviously this one cuts off at 50 names).

    written by

    Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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