In a year, the Cubs could have three number one type starters. Right now, there is not one. But, a lot can change in a year. Two pitchers could possibly turn into one with some development and some health. Add in two “first round picks” and the Cubs might have one or two from the right side. That is something they haven’t had in the Theo Era.
When it comes to the top five right-handed starting pitchers in the Cubs’ system, they are very close in terms of talent, and they are also extremely close in terms of potential. If I rank them in terms of performance, I would have a different ranking than that of potential and also current talent. Three of the five could easily be number two type starters; a couple could be number ones. At this point in their careers, it’s hard to see them as anything but starters.
5. Jose Albertos – He shot out of nowhere last year. The young 17-year-old international free agent throws in the upper 90s with great command control. He only threw four innings in organized ball but was dazzling throughout spring training and extended spring training. He should be in Eugene in 2017. If he is healthy this year, he could shoot to number two very quickly.
4. Thomas Hatch – He has four pitches that he can throw for strikes. The 2016 third round draft pick is only 21 years old. More than likely he will start out at South Bend in 2017 and will be a part of maybe the most amazing staff in the Cubs minor-league system. While he has yet to pitch in an official game, it won’t be long and will all be amazed. I look for him to not spend much time at any spot this year…50 IP here, 50 IP there. Next thing you know, he’s in Tennessee in August.
3. Trevor Clifton – I think this is the year that Clifton arrives. Playing near his home in Tennessee could result in Clifton’s best year in the system. From May to September last year, he was arguably the Cubs best minor league pitcher. What I like most about what Clifton did last year was that he walked very few and his changeup developed into a plus pitch. The sky’s the limit for him this year.
2. Oscar de la Cruz – He struggled with minor injuries in the first half, but he did not struggle on the mound in the second half. Once he arrived at South Bend it was easy to see what a huge presence he was on the mound. He should be fully healthy and in Myrtle Beach for 2018. If he fully develops a third pitch, expect him to be a Tennessee very quickly.
1. Dylan Cease – Now that it looks as though he has made it to the full season team, all eyes are on Dylan Cease. While he can throw in triple digits, he does much better sitting 95 to 97, which only a couple cubs prospects can do. After forearm strain last summer, it seemed as though his curveball was much more fluid in its release and he began to attack hitters in a different way towards the end of the season. Rather than getting them to chase balls out of the zone, he began throwing strikes in the zone and his outings became longer and longer. I think he needs to pick up where he left off 2016. I would like to see him somewhere about 100 to 110 innings for this year. That could be across two levels as far as I am concerned. Ultimately, that would be great for him to build up that kind of arm strength three years after Tommy John Surgery.
With two starting pitchers to set to leave the big league roster after the 2017 season, I hope one of the pitchers listed in the past two posts can make it to Chicago in some form or capacity.
Dark Horse Names to Watch for in 2017