Originally, when I began this site 2+ years ago, I said I wasn’t going to have a prospect list. About a year ago, I changed my mind. I think it’s been a good thing for the site as long as I leave it alone for months at a time and only change it 2-3 times a year. I also like that I don’t have a top 30, 40, or 50 Cubs prospects. 21 is fine with me – there are just enough prospects where it’s easy to differentiate between their talent potential. I also don’t want to change the list every time a prospect has a good month. Most prospect list changes are going to happen slowly as prospects make adjustments to being a pro and a league that adjusts to them. It is more about sustained success and dominating a level.
What this new monthly post will do is look at which prospects could be moving up the Top 21 Prospect List based on performance and development. It’s meant to be a positive series of posts and not to denigrate, drag or put down other prospects. Each month I will examine prospects “on” the Top 21 list and prospect who are “off” the prospect list whose stock is going up enough to make a case for getting “on” the list.
This month, several prospects are off to a very good start in the regular season and some are coming off an outstanding spring training. Some have been pretty streaky, while others have not. The weather has not been the most cooperative for Iowa and South Bend. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach have not been bastions of warmth, either. As the weather stabilizes, and then warms, performances should change for some of the Cubs better known prospects.
Prospects On the List Doing Well…
↑ – Making waves on the list is the number two prospect, Willson Contreras. Currently, he is hitting .400 with an OBP of .455. And after nine games, he’s pretty consistent at the plate and his defense is outstanding.
↑ – Dan Vogelbach’s ability to be a very polished hitter has to make him an attractive asset for the Cubs on the offensive side of the ball. Currently, he is hitting .387 and last night he jacked his first HR of the year.
↑ – Albert Almora is slowly making his way to .300 after a rough start. Sitting at .280 is a nice place for him, considering how good his glove is. There is no doubt in my mind, that with the spring he had in Mesa, that his glove will be in Chicago in October. The question is, will his bat be ready?
↑ – Mark Zagunis might be the quietest prospect in the organization. He is hitting .304 and walking, but not as a prodigious rate as last year. After Friday’s game, his OBP was only .360. It’s early, but to see the average that high is a good thing.
↑ – Donnie Dewees is Mr. Excitement for South Bend, Usually, but not always, he has been in the leadoff spot. He is a triples machine and he makes that offense go. He is hitting .406 with 4 triples in only 8 games. FYI – That projects to 72 triples for a season.
↑ – Dylan Cease pitched three innings in extended spring training today. He’s gone four innings a couple of times before. I like the fact he is going longer and longer. While today was only 42 pitches, he is building up endurance in that arm. I hope that by mid-May he is in South Bend when it gets warmer, but the odds say Eugene in June.
↑ – Bryan Hudson – I think he goes to Eugene, but I don’t know if it will be that much of a test for him. After two starts there, we should know if he is too much for that level. Right now, in extended spring, he is throwing the ball like it’s a wiffle ball and just baffling hitters.
Prospects Off the List Making a Case…
↑ – Bijan Rademacher and his .524 average are making a case to play every day at Tennessee or move on to Iowa. The 25 year old left handed hitter is in his second go around at Tennessee and is trying to squeeze into an outfield with Mark Zagunis, Jacob Hannemann, and Billy McKinney, not an easy task.
↑ – Tyler Skulina has been really good for a full year, when he is healthy. He regained some of his velocity after a bout with tendinitis in his plant knee and is now throwing in the low to middle low 90s nightly. He seems to have made the jump AA pretty smoothly so far. After two starts, his ERA is 2.45.
↑ – Paul Blackburn is making a push to get to Iowa first before anyone else. In two starts, he has been filthy mixing his pitches, moving the ball in and out, and showing the promise he had at Boise in 2013. A 0.82 ERA is pretty sufficient.
↑ – David Garner is more than likely to be one of the first players promoted in the next 6 weeks. His mid 90s fastball and command of said fastball have been dominating at AA. In 3.2 innings, he has struck out 8 and has yet to allow a run. Then again, he has given up just one hit. He is a long shot to get to Chicago this year, but he also might be the best reliever in the system.
↑ – Rashad Crawford has been pretty streaky this year, but he is flashing some power in his bat and his additional muscles make him a deadly hitter at Myrtle Beach where he is currently hitting .300 as their leadoff hitter.
↑ – Dave Berg – It is hard to believe that I put two relievers on this watch list. Berg surprisingly was assigned to Myrtle Beach this year and in 3 outings he has been nothing short of stunning as he has allowed one base runner this year.
↑ – Jose Albertos. He’s just 17. The 2016 international free agent signee out of Mexico has been dazzling this spring. If he shows up in the Arizona Rookie League this summer, that would be a first for the Cubs. In the past few years, the Cubs have put their top young international free agent pitchers in the Dominican Summer League rather than the Arizona Rookie League. The preciousness of Albertos’ arm should be an interesting story to follow between now and June.
With several prospects off to slow starts, May’s Prospect Stock Watch could be much different if Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, and/or Eddy Martinez get it going. The fun “watch list” to watch, though, might be in July when prospects like Darryl Wilson, Bryan Hudson, and Wladimir Galindo get a month of play in along with some new draft picks, international free agents, and young rookies in the summer leagues. I think this is going to be an interesting series of articles to follow over the course of the year.