By Todd Johnson
The MLB Draft is less than a month away. With that in mind, I thought I would revisit my top 21 prospect list which I last updated on March 29, 2017 at the end of spring training. I thought I would give it a cursory look as to where possible draft picks might slotted. Much to my surprise, once I begin looking at the list, I realized it’s going to be a total mess to restructure.
I don’t think my rankings were too far out of the ordinary at the end of March, but several things have happened which have thrown them into flux. Some prospects have yet to play this season because of injury. Others are having very good seasons, while others are struggling to get going. As a result I don’t quite know what is going to happen. Well a lot has happened in April, even more can happen in May.
Here are my rankings from the end of Spring Training:
6-10 Clifton, Hatch, Zagunis, Martinez, Albertos
11-15 Caratini, Wilson, Sepulveda, Paredes, Galindo
16-17 Ademan, Moreno
18-21 Ala Carte – Reader”s choice
The Walking Wounded
Eloy still has not made it out of extended spring training. His shoulder bruise was originally going to cause him to miss a month. Well, it’s been more than a month with no sign of return. On Monday the eighth, he finally returned from a 10 day absence.
18-year-old Jose Albertos also began playing this week after missing almost all of 2016. In addition, 19-year-old Erling Moreno only has pitched in one game this season while Wladimir Galindo has missed the past two weeks at low A South Bend after a sizzling start.
Other players are off to slow starts this year. Mark Zagunis and DJ Wilson or two players who are barely hitting about .200, although Wilson is hitting .400 in the last week. Zagunis, on the other hand, is just getting his power game going as he has had three home runs in his last 10 games.
The player who I think you’ve struggled the most has been Thomas Hatch of Myrtle Beach. With an ERA close to five, Hatch has taken it on the chin in several starts. He has shown glimpses of using his four pitches to maximum effect, but he has also shown the ability to have “the big inning.”
South Bend shortstop Isaac Paredes is hitting barely above .200. Myrtle Beach outfielder Eddy Martinez is also off to a slow start, but is improving week by week.
Knocking It Out of the Park
Three players at AAA Iowa are just knocking it out of the park, literally. Ian Happ leads the system with nine home runs while Victor Caratini is hitting over .340. Jeimer Candelario was named the Cubs minor-league hitter of the month as he led the system in RBIs.
At South Bend, Pitcher Dylan Cease is a fixating force when he takes the ball every fifth day. Oscar de la Cruz and Trevor Clifton have been pretty steady despite usually being slow starters. Meanwhile, out in Arizona, shortstop Armanis Ademan has been receiving rave reviews from scouts and bloggers alike.
As I look at these prospects in their entirety, part of me enjoys the depths of the Cubs system while the other part of me looks at the volatility of these specific prospects. In making a prospect list, I am always questioning whether I should value performance over the skills or the skills over the performance. And I think those are both valid points of view in making lists.
As the draft approaches, the Cubs will basically have two first round picks that should enter the top 21 list. There is also a pretty good chance that the second and third round picks could do the same. However, there are several prospects, who, by their own performance, could also make the list. Young players like Miguel Amaya, Joe Martarano, Michael Cruz, Bailey Clark, Dakota Mekkes, and Craig Brooks. Add in older prospects like Chesny Young, Zach Hedges, and Duane Underwood and you have quite the conundrum.
In the end, there is still a month left to be played before the draft. I don’t need to rush out and make any decisions for something that’s a month away. And even after the draft is complete, there will be three more months of baseball to go this season. Speculation and evaluation is never going to end. To be honest, that’s where the fun is in a list.