By Todd Johnson
This year’s spring training saw the emergence of several Cubs prospects in the big league camp. As a result of their performances, their presence has been announced with authority. In addition, several minor-league prospects also had great camps out in the backfields of Mesa. They, too, signaled that they are about to have a momentous year. There’s a lot to like about the next wave of prospects nearing Chicago. Here are ten who had a great spring training.
1. Ian Happ – He stole the show hitting over .400 with three home runs and 19 RBIs from both sides of the plate. While he may have lacked consistency as a minor league player, he was pretty consistent for five weeks this spring playing with the big boys. So much so, he will begin the year at AAA Iowa rather than AA Tennessee. I think he leapfrogged himself to the front of the line as the next prospect to be called up.
2. Eloy – Right behind Ian is none other than Mr. Jimenez. Eloy’s spring was a little bit behind Mr. Happ’s, but not very far. Eloy showed immense power and power to the opposite field. He did end spring training with a bone bruise. Otherwise, I think we might have been talking about Eloy going to Tennessee instead of Myrtle Beach. I still expect to see him at AA by July 1.
3. Chesny Young – Not only did he show that he could hit for average against major league pitching, Chesny also showed that he could play a variety of positions including shortstop. Although he has played some shortstop in the minors, he played mostly second and third base. I think after Happ, Chesny looks to be the next closest prospect after Happ and probably would thrive in a utility role. I think he just rolls out of bed and starts hitting singles to right.
4. Victor Caratini – Lost in all the madness of the other prospects listed above, Victor had an excellent spring with the bat. I did not get to see him catch on TV, but I still think he needs to work on his defense alone in AAA. Bat-wise, I think he is ready to go. If Montero goes down, Victor will get the call and he will succeed. Actually, I think the major league coaches could have even more of an effect on his defensive skills than his minor league instructors.
5. Pierce Johnson – He got off to a hot start in spring training and kind of fizzled out the last week, but Pierce was much improved as a reliever this spring. He still has some work to do as far as command of his pitches, but I think he is close. In the next two or three months, his experience in Iowa should help him get as close as he can to being ready to help the bullpen in Chicago.
6. Eddy Martinez – He did see action in a few major league spring training games. It is easy to see that Eddy Martinez is much improved over last year. The 21-year-old physical specimen is ready when it comes to his outfield arm, but he has some work to do when it comes to the bat. Part of that might’ve been being off for two years, but I think this is the year he takes a giant leap forward when it comes to hitting. He spent most of the spring playing with the Tennessee Smokies only to be sent down to Myrtle Beach on the last day of spring training. He may not be there very long.
7. Trevor Clifton – He probably had the quietest spring training out of any top prospect. I think that might be the last time, too. Based upon the box scores from Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter, Trevor quietly went out and did his job on a daily basis with a workmanlike tone. It was nothing fancy, he just went out and did his job better than everyone else. While he was the Cubs Pitcher of the Year in the minor leagues in 2017, I think he’s ready to make the big leap to Iowa this year. As a result, it’s my opinion that he could be the closest starting pitching prospect to Chicago by the end of the summer.
8. Dylan Cease – Word is he’s put on 10 pounds of muscle and all restrictions have been taken off. Basically, the Cubs are going to unleash Dylan Cease upon minor-league baseball. If his changeup becomes an average pitch, we could see him fly through the system. Last year, he worked at a lot of kinks in his curveball delivery at short-season Eugene. This year, the changeup is everything. And from what happened in Mesa this spring, all systems are go. I cannot wait for Thursday night to see him pitch again!
9. Thomas Hatch – For five months I struggled with where he was going to be placed. He did not pitch after being drafted last summer. I thought for sure that based on his ability, he should be at Myrtle Beach. Then I thought the Cubs are probably gonna be cautious because of an injury two years ago that Jaron Madison was going to put him in South Bend as a precaution. However, this spring training, he pitched his way to Myrtle Beach. And that’s a good thing.
10. Trent Giambrone – Watching him play and hit last year for Eugene was one of the highlights of my summer. He picked up where he left off in September this spring and played his way past South Bend and onto Myrtle Beach. He can hit, he can hit for power, and he can find his way on base via the walk. He reminds me a lot of Chesny Young but with much more power.
Honorable Mention – Ryan Williams – I think Ryan pitched really well in his first couple of starts with the big league club this spring but he still has some rust to shake off after missing most of the last year. I don’t know if he’s going to be a starter or reliever at the major-league level, but we should find out at some point this summer.
It should be interesting to see how these prospects develop over the course of the next few months and how their spring training propels them toward Chicago and the upper levels of the minor leagues. They are going to be just as exciting as the big league club!