By Todd Johnson
The key word to describe Baseball America’s top 10 Cubs Prospect List and accompanying articles would be the word “ascension.” It is a crisp list filled with young players on their way up.
Most of the list is not going to catch anyone by surprise. The list confirms that Eloy Jimenez is the Cubs top prospect in the organization. There are a few surprises, though. Darryl “DJ” Wilson made the top 10 along with newbies Jose Albertos and Trevor Clifton. Just missing, according to John Manuel, were Thomas Hatch and Eddy Martinez.
From 2012 to 2015, the Cubs Prospect List was filled with players who were essentially short timers. Their stay in the Cubs minor-league system was not long as they rose through the ranks quickly to the major leagues. This current crop of prospects is quite different. They are young, they aren’t going anywhere fast, and aside from maybe one or two, they will not have the impact of Bryant, Russell, or Schwarber. They do, however, have the potential to develop into quality major league players.
The biggest surprises did not come on the list but in the accompanying chat led by John Manuel. I found that discussion to be surprising and on point regarding his evaluation of several prospects. Some, I did disagree with a bit, but he nailed most of the evaluations.
Here are some things I took away from his answers to questions posed by the public.
1. Eddy Martinez is probably better than we think he is. Tomorrow, I will profile Martinez in the “Next up Series,” but Manuel loves his defense and arm, just like me.
2. Baseball America gave “big ups” to Bailey Clark and Tom Hatch. Manuel raved about Clark’s arm and Hatch’s slider via Darin Erstad. Manuel almost put Hatch in the top 10.
3. Like me, Manual is also mixed on Bryan Hudson, He said,
[H]e needs better functional strength to keep all his long levers working together. At times he was pitching in the mid-80s with a cement-mixer breaker, and that ain’t what the Cubs signed. He had a good instructional league according to my sources, and was good in extended spring, but not during the season. With all the Cubs’ lower-level arms he’s going to have to come out good in spring training to earn a spot at South Bend. I would be surprised if he got out of extended spring, to be honest.
4. As a system, Manuel also said the Cubs will be ranked a bit higher this year. The main reasons for that are the ascension of some top prospects like Eloy and its overall depth.
Rob Z is in the lead there, with Brooks next because they are on the 40-man roster. Ryan Williams would have beaten Rob Z if he’d stayed healthy; he’s got allies in the big league dugout, put it that way. He’s tough to elevate and a good fill-in candidate, maybe back-of-the-rotation eventually, but he’s got basically 35 good pro starts. I didn’t rank him this year due to the injury. But the Cubs do like him. The Cubs may get 2 big leaguers out of their 2014 draft class from seniors that they signed for squat: Williams ($1k) and James Farris ($3k), a reliever who almost made the 30 but is on the depth chart. He was really good in the AFL.
6. Manuel also seemed to be pumping the brakes on pitchers who haven’t pitched a full season at South Bend or Myrtle Beach. While he did put Albertos at number 10, there are a lot of other young pitchers like Jose Paulino that he also liked.
7. Manuel also envisions Chesny Young, Victor Caratini, and Zagunis as utility/bench roles at the next level.
8. I finally asked Manuel who he thought would be a breakout this year.
@CubsCentral08 thanks. I think so many who are heading to full-season ball. DJ Wilson, De la Cruz; lesser known, I’d say I. Paredes.
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) January 6, 2017
Soon, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus will be releasing their prospect lists. It should be interesting to compare and contrast the lists for who is on the list and who is not. I think the biggest thing to take away is that there are a lot of rising young stars in the Cubs system. To get to the top of the list, several players who were at the top the past few years tumbled as theIr careers have not progressed. Gone are Duane Underwood, Pierce Johnson, and others. It’s almost as if this year will be the changing of the guard as most of the ascending prospects get a full season in and get closer to Chicago.