A New Prospect List for a New Year

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There are times where I don’t want to do my Top 21 Prospect List. The longer I continue with the list being on the site, the more I want to shave it down to about 10 prospects. The main reason is after about 13 or 14 prospects, I’m splitting hairs to find the differences between prospects. About a month ago, I told myself I wasn’t going to do one this winter. I would just let the list “ride” and only change it if there was a big trade.

That lasted until I get bored on Sunday night. Even though it is still technically listed as a top 21 list, it’s more like a smattering of prospects. What I’ve done this time for 15-21 is just put a bunch of names out there for the reader to either pick from and to see how ridiculously deep the system is. It’s an ala carte where the reader would pick the six they like to be on their list. I don’t really place that much emphasis on who is #21. I’d rather focus on who could be #21.

From 11-15, I broke them down with mini-stat biographies. I also included one of my wonderful homemade cards along with an ETA. As for my top 10 prospects, I put what I did for them down below. To see the whole list, go here

10. Jose Albertos – Pitcher
albertos 64 2016 az
Age: 17
2017 Affiliate – Eugene
Top Skills – 97 mph fastball, command
ETA – ?
The young 17-year-old out of Mexico throws between 95-97. He was outstanding in extended spring striking out 20 in 12 innings. Then in his first start in Arizona, He struck out 7 in 4 innings before leaving and being placed on the 60-day DL. He was supposed to be at fall instructs. He will be one of the most interesting storylines in 2017.

9. Eddy Martinez – Outfielder
eddy 85 2016 sb
Age: 21
2017 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach/Tennessee
Top Skills – Rocket Arm, power potential
ETA – 2019
He is the perfect case of not judging the stat line. When he arrived last year, he had a big swing and a big zone of pitches at which he liked to swing. The Cubs changed that. He started taking more walks each month. I am expecting a much-improved hitter in 2017. I think he has developed enough to turn into a RBI machine next year, especially if he hits behind Eloy again.

8. Mark Zagunis – Outfielder
zagunis 85 2016 iowa
2017 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills: pitch recognition, power potential, on-base machine
ETA – 2017
He was the most improved hitter last year. He destroyed AA in May hitting .333 with 3 HRs and a .444 OBP. I was extremely excited to see him promoted. In June and July, he was equally as exciting at AAA. And then came the toe injury that ended his season at Iowa. In 2017, he should get a shot to see what he can do in Chicago. Expect to see him every day in spring training with the big league club.

7. Tom Hatch – pitcher
Age: 21
2017 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – 4 pitch repertoire, command, and control
ETA – 2019
In one draft of this list, I had him at #6. He is such a good pitcher, though, in that he has 4 very good pitches he can throw for strikes at any time. I like his command and his control as he mixes and matches to each hitter. He made his debut pitching BP in fall instructs. I can’t wait to see him pitch in a real game. He likely could be the first pitcher in the Theo Era to be fast-tracked.

6. Trevor Clifton – Pitcher
clifton 85 2016 mb
Age: 21
2017 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skills – 3 plus pitches, improving command, pitchability, work ethic
ETA – 2018
If he can go deeper into games, he could become a #3 pitcher quickly. All three of his pitches are there this year and his K/BB totals are very good. I like that he is much more aggressive this year throwing any of his pitches in the count for a strike and throwing inside. While his walk rates plummeted, his pitch counts were high, which is normal for a strikeout pitcher. I think 2017 sees him being more efficient and getting to the 7th inning every game.

5. Oscar de la Cruz
oscar 82 2016 sb
Age: 21
2017 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Commanding presence, fastball, curveball
ETA – 2018/2019
He was in Arizona the first half of 2016 nursing a sore forearm. He was supposed to start the year in South Bend. He made a three-inning start in Arizona and then a five-inning start in Eugene. He made his debut for South Bend on 7/30. He looked sharp, topping out at 96 and showing a plus curve. He continued pitching for South Bend through the playoffs. Combined, he had a 2.80 at all three levels. Still, the velocity was not quite where it was in 2015. He will start 2017 at Myrtle Beach.

4. Jeimer Candelario
jeimer 69 2016 iowa
Age 23
2017 Affiliate – Iowa
Top Skills – Switch hitting, can hit for power and average
ETA – 2017
He had a great spring training and I was taken aback when he was sent to AA. When he was promoted to Iowa in June, he took off hitting .333 with 9 HRs and 52 RBIs in the second half. Right now, there is no real place for him in Chicago. I think the young switch-hitter might be used in a deal this offseason. For now, though, he is being kept for depth.

3. Ian Happ
happ 85 2016 tenn
Age: 22
2017 Affiliate – Tennessee/Iowa
Top Skills – Switch hitting power, can play 4 positions
ETA – 2018
I am not quite sure what to make of him. In the first half, he had 7 HRs and 42 RBIs. Not bad for a second baseman. His second half was not so kind. He hit .262 with 8 HRs and 31 RBIs. In July, he hit .222, and in August, .232. He will back at Tennessee in 2017 to develop some more consistency. Still, hitting .279 with a .365 OBP along with 15 HRs with 73 RBIs is nothing to sneeze at in his first full season of pro ball for a second baseman.

2. Dylan Cease
cease 69 2016 eug
Age: 21
2017 Affiliate – South Bend
Top Skills – 100 mph fastball, plus curve, improving changeup
ETA – 2019
The Cubs controlled his outings after a forearm strain. It looked like the Northwest League challenged him to work on his secondaries and he responded well. That’s what he needed. His curve was more fluid coming out of his hand and his strikeout totals shot up after that adjustment. He still worked a lot of deep counts, something he needs to improve on in 2017.

1. Eloy Jimenez
Age: 20
2017 Affiliate: Myrtle Beach/Tennessee
Top Skills: Hit for average and power, great pitch recognition, contagious smile
ETA – 2018
In 58 games in the first half, he hit .343 with 9 HRs and 49 RBIs. Those projected out to basically 20 HRs/100 RBIs at Low-Class at A ball. Injuries in the second half cut those short to just 14 HRs and 81 RBIs. He did have a great game at the Futures Game, stealing the show. He received several accolades such as MWL Prospect of the Year and MVP, Baseball America’s Low-Class A Player of the Year, and Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. But here’s the thing – He’s nowhere close to his power potential. I still think we don’t start to see that until he hits Tennessee.


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