Strange things sometimes happen in the off-season for the minor leagues. The past two weeks were no exception. With instructional leagues underway, Baseball America began producing a series of articles about the top 20 prospects in each minor league. This is quite different from a top 100 or top 200 list, considering there are 15 different leagues to analyze.
Just based on these lists, there’s going to be a restructuring of the top prospects in the Cubs system this winter. Considering that over the past two years the Cubs have promoted most of their prized prospects (except for Gleyber Torres who was traded), The cupboard was a little bare at the beginning of 2016. Still, it’s interesting to see how these prospects are filling out and just where the talent is in the Cubs system.
In the Arizona Rookie League, the Cubs did not have any prospects make the top 20. However, in the Northwest League, the Eugene Emeralds placed four players in the top 20. They were Dylan Cease (#3), Wladimir Galindo (#10), DJ Wilson (#13), and Chris Pieters. The most interesting name in this foursome was not Dylan Cease, rather it was Wladimir Galindo. While ranked as the number 10 prospect in the league, I think it portends that Galindo could be a fast riser come 2017. Baseball America said this of the 19-year-old third baseman:
Galindo has been a slow-burn prospect who has shown profile third-base tools with his power and arm strength. His nine home runs tied for second in the NWL, and he led the league with 32 extra-base hits despite playing his home games in PK Park, one of the minors’ least hitter-friendly venues.
When it came to the Midwest League, Eloy Jimenez was the only South Bend Cubs prospect to make the list. Surprisingly, Eloy came in at number two behind Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel who displayed massive power in his short time in the league. The expectations for Eloy going forward revolve around his ability to hit for power. I think the expectation for power still might need to be tempered until he hits 21 years of age. The young man is still only 19. Yet, he is, in my opinion, the number one Cubs prospect.
At Advanced A Myrtle Beach, pitcher Trevor Clifton was the only current Cub prospect for that affiliate in the Carolina League at #10. Ian Happ was the same for AA Tennessee in the Southern League at #9. In the AAA Pacific Coast league, the Iowa Cubs placed three prospects on the list. Two, however, just played a large in advancing to the NLCS in Contreras and Almora. The third, Jeimer Candelario, came in at number 17.
In addition, at the end of the regular season on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List, the Cubs were down to two top prospects in Ian Happ (26) and Eloy Jimenez (28). It is a far cry from the days of 2014-15 when the Cubs had six or seven dotting the list. In September, two more Cubs made it onto the Top 100 List in Dylan Cease and Jeimer Candelario.
Based on these two lists, I see prospect lists changing quite a bit over the course of the winter. Certain prospects will be moving up and some will be falling down. Here are some of my takes on some things that the above lists foreshadow.
1. Eloy Jimenez – I think when the lists come in January, he should be number one on most lists, but not all. At just 19, he is just beginning to tap into his potential. What surprised many this year was that he hit for a high average.
2. Dylan Cease – He looked amazing down the stretch and in the playoffs for Eugene. A 4.2 IP affair with 10 Ks was the highlight of the season. I could see him at #2 in many polls, #3 at the worst. His FB/Curve combo by the end of the year was stunning. He still has work to do on his change, but as just an above average pitch, it paled to the other two pitches this year. He should be in South Bend until the end of June in 2017.
3. Trevor Clifton – What a difference one year makes. Over the course of 2017, Clifton took his fastball command and just punished hitters in the Carolina League with his curve and newly improved changeup. The changeup might be his best pitch at the end of 2017 if he continues using it as frequently. As a result, he will fly up most prospect lists. It would not surprise me to see him at 5 on some lists this winter, but I think 7 or 8 will be the most appropriate landing spot.
4. Ian Happ – Who hits .600 with a .750 OBP for three weeks and then under .230 in the second half? Well, that would be Ian Happ. I still like Happ as a prospect. He has such great hands through the zone and great balance. His problem is that he is a streaky hitter. I don’t think he keeps the top spot on most lists, but he could be anywhere in the top 4.
5. Jeimer Candelario – I still find it hard to believe he is just 22. He seems like he has been a prospect forever. I think Jeimer has value moving forward. I don’t know if he will be a Cub, though. Like Dan Vogelbach before him, Candelario is blocked at the MLB level by an All-Star.
6. Wladimir Galindo – I think next year he breaks out as the Cubs next big hitting prospect. He could hit 20 HRs in the Midwest League in 2017. His batting average and OBP are what are going to propel him up the prospect lists next summer. I don’t think he will shoot up many lists this offseason, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make some of the larger lists with over 20 prospects. Like Eloy, Wladimir is also 19-years-old. He could shift to 1B or LF in the future.
I also think two prospects missing tell the tale of what is happening in the Cubs system. I thought Donnie Dewees should have made the Midwest League top 20. His play at Myrtle Beach and now on the Cubs co-op Fall Instructs Advanced Team show what a great talent he is becoming. The other player missing, Duane Underwood, shows how the mighty have fallen. For most of the last two summers, the power RHP has struggled to stay healthy. I am beginning to question if he will even be a starter a year from now.
Most websites and talent evaluators usually come out with their new prospect lists after the winter meetings and on through early February, just before spring training. It will be interesting to see how these new “top” prospects shake out.