By Todd Johnson
The Cubs’ outfield depth at the major-league level is pretty strong. Jason Heyward will be in right field for at least the next two years. Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber will be there for the next 5 to 6 years. John Jay is only signed for one year while Matt Szczur still has about four years left. That’s a pretty tight five and then you could throw in Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist and the Cubs have an embarrassment of riches in Chicago.
The Cubs minor league level outfielders are quite different from each other. There are five profiles below of the Cubs top outfield prospects. AAA outfielder Bijan Rademacher did not make the top five list but is someone who could make it to Chicago this year. He can play a utility role as he can play all three outfield spots very well. Charcer Burks is another outfielder who had an up and down season last year at Myrtle Beach. He will be at AA Tennessee in 2017. The youngest outfielder, Jonathan Sierra, will be making his stateside debut in rookie league at Mesa. Sierra will take a while to develop and reminds many physically of a young Darryl Strawberry.
Out of all the positions previewed for the minor-league system, the outfielders are the only position who could push for a spot on the major-league team in the next 2 to 5 years. I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that the five below have major league talent.
5. Darryl Wilson – If he had not signed a pro contract, Wilson would just be getting ready to play his second season at Vanderbilt. Luckily, for the Cubs, he’s a five-tool player who will be in South Bend this summer. He has an amazing range in the outfield, A solid arm, great speed, and he’s beginning to show that he can hit for average and power. He’s one of the more exciting players in the system and I think he could break out in a big way this summer in the Midwest League.
4. Donnie Dewees – Donnie is another exciting player who showed the great ability to adjust to 2 levels in one season. Dewees also showed the ability to improve in 2 areas of his game. He is improving his throwing arm from the outfield and the greatest area of improvement comes in his pitch recognition skills through the use of software the Cubs provide. I expect him to do great things at Tennessee in 2017.
3. Eddy Martinez – Right no, he is the readiest defender in the Cub’s system. He has an outstanding arm and decent coverage skills. It took him a couple months to kind of figure things out before he went on a nice run in June and July last year. He did slip a little in August, but I think he will be stronger for it this year at Myrtle Beach. I also think he’s going to show power in a place that is known for not giving up many home runs.
2. Mark Zagunis – I think we might see Mark in Chicago sometime this summer. I think his 2016 season was probably the most unheralded in the system. He destroyed pitching at AA and at AAA. Yet, he did not get much publicity for his efforts, largely due to him missing the last month of the season with a broken foot. I think in 2017, his bat will do most of the talking for him.
1. Eloy Jimenez – I have a lot of mixed emotions about Eloy in 2017. Part of me wants him to skip Myrtle Beach to go to Tennessee. The other part of me wants him to go to Myrtle Beach and destroy everything before going to Tennessee in the middle of June. He has become the number one prospect in the system and 2017 should validate that. By the end of next summer, he will probably become a top 10 prospect in all of MLB. Out of all the Cubs’ prospects, he is the one with the most power and the highest ceiling when it comes to talent at the plate. His energetic personality wins fans wherever he plays. Hopefully, he can be in Chicago within the next two years. And I think he is the only position prospect who could make a space for himself in Chicago.
Although the Cubs can’t keep all of them and have them play in the Chicago, I think a couple of the top five will make it. Depth has always been the key to the Cubs system and the outfield depth listed above will allow them to make deals while still keeping valuable talent.