Top 21 List

Today’s Update: September 26, 2017 (Fall Instructs)
Previous Update: July 30 (After the Wilson/Avila Trade)
Next Update:  After a trade or the start of the 2018 minor league season


18-21. ALA CARTE – Select any four from the following list in any order you wish.

IFA – Luis Verdugo – SS, Florencio Serrano – P

DSL – Fernando Kelli – OF

Mesa – Luis Vazquez – Shortstop, Delvin Zinn – 2B

Eugene – Gustavo Polanco – 1B/C; Keegan Thompson – Pitcher; Cory Abbott – Pitcher

South Bend – Bryan Hudson – Pitcher; DJ Wilson – Outfielder; Jose Paulino – Pitcher; Kevonte Mitchell – Outfield; Luis Ayala – Outfield; Erling Moreno – Pitcher; Andruw Monasterio – Infield

Myrtle Beach – Michael Rucker – Pitcher; Carlos Sepulveda – 2B; Eddy Martinez – Outfielder; PJ Higgins – Catcher; Zack Short – Shortstop; Duncan Robinson – Pitcher

Tennessee – Zach Hedges – Pitcher; Preston Morrison – Pitcher; Jake Stinnett – Pitcher; Charcer Burks – Outfield; Jason Vosler – 3B; David Bote – 2B; Yasiel Balaguert – 1B/OF

Iowa – Chesny Young – Utility; Ryan Williams – Pitcher; Alec Mills – Pitcher; Bijan Rademacher – Outfield; Rob Zastryzny – Pitcher; Dillon Maples – Pitcher


17. Jonathan Sierra – Outfielder


Age – 18
2018 Affiliate: Eugene
Top Skills: Potential for Power, Approach
ETA – 2022
In two short seasons, he is showing some flashes of being a potential powerhouse at the plate. However, he has not done it on a consistent basis. The question will be when. I think he is getting closer but I don’t know if it will be 2018 or 2019 when he puts it together.

16. Jen-Ho Tseng – Pitcher


Age – 22
2018 Affiliate: Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills: Change of Speeds, Command
ETA – 2018
Broken record – He looked like 2014 Jen-Ho in 2017. He used his changeup and curve to perfection to put up the second best set of numbers in his career. His MLB debut was a bit rocky. When the Cubs clinch, he will be used to help set up the starting rotation by giving some guys some rest.

15. Dakota Mekkes – Relief Pitcher


Age – 23
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee/Iowa
Top Skills: Deceptive Delivery
ETA – 2019
I was really surprised that he stayed in Myrtle Beach most of the summer. I would have thought that as dominant as he was that he should have been in Tennessee in late July or early August. He could easily move two levels again in 2018 if he can cut down on his walks.

14. Miguel Amaya – Catcher


Age: 18
2018 Affiliate – South Bend
Top Skills – Great receiver, great arm, and a developing power bat
ETA – 2020
He is a great defender with a great arm. This spring in EXST, he showed he some power in that bat. Premium skills at a premium position move him way up the board. I used to think the bat could take a few years. He was outstanding in August when he was moved down to seventh and hit .317 with a .368 OBP. South Bend will be exciting. I don’t know if he can move two levels in one year yet.

13. Justin Steele – Pitcher


Age: 22
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee
Top Skills: plus curve, live mid 90s fastball, improving every month in 2017
ETA: 2019
He was the most improved player in the system in 2017 after struggling all of 2016. He eliminated the big inning and he attributes that to an improved mental preparedness. He will miss all of 2018 after having TJS.

12. Wladimir Galindo – Third Base


Age: 19
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Power and lots of it, Improving Plate Discipline, Doing well hitting for average.
ETA: 2020
Suffered a broken leg and had surgery and missed half the year. I don’t think that will slow his development. I look forward to him doing well next summer in the Carolina League.

11. Brendon Little – Pitcher


Age: 20
2018 Affiliate: South Bend
Top Skill – 97 mph fastball as a lefty
ETA – 2020 as a starter, 2019 as a reliever
He had his moments in Eugene. The velocity was not there but the movement on the curve was a thing of beauty. I think a fresh start next year in Indiana after some instruction this fall and next spring will be good for him.

10. Nelson Velazquez – Outfielder


Age – 18
2018 Affiliate: Eugene
Top Skills: Power, Power, and Power; Burgeoning hit tool
ETA – 2022
You have to like the fireworks display he put on in Mesa in August. His ability to hit near .300 that month with 6 HRs propelled the team’s playoff push. I also like the aggressiveness of hitting him cleanup this early. Word is he plays a solid CF too.
Card made from a photo by Freek Bouw/27 Outs Baseball

9. Duane Underwood – Pitcher


Age – 23
2018 Affiliate: Iowa
Top Skills: Power Arm, Power Curve
He made it through the year healthy throwing over 131 innings. That’s a huge step forward. From July 1 to the middle of August, he was one of the best pitchers in the system and looked close to his dominant form of 2014 and 2015. He will be just a step away from Chicago.

8. Alex Lange – Pitcher


Age: 21
2018 Affiliate: South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and maybe Tennessee
Top Skills: 93-96 mph fastball, plus curve, super-competitive. I think he will blossom as a pro.
ETA – 2019/2020
He does have some effort to his delivery and, like Little, his curve is a beautiful thing. I think he was worn out before pitching in Eugene, but I was glad he got in almost 10 innings to experience the MiLB, something much different than Hatch did in 2016.

7. Trevor Clifton – Pitcher


Age: 22
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee/Iowa
Top Skills – 3 plus pitches, improving command, pick-off move, pitchability, work ethic
ETA – 2018
I still think efficiency should be the thing he works on most. He needs to get to seven innings pretty consistently. I don’t know where he starts next year, but I think a fresh start will do him well. I think his 2018 placement depends upon his spring training performance. He was brilliant in April and May for the Smokies and fell apart after the break.

6. Thomas Hatch – Pitcher


Age: 21
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skills – 4 pitch repertoire, command and control, ridiculous armside run on his FB
ETA – 2019
He said he felt like he was fed to the wolves this year after not pitching after being drafted. He did add a 4 seamer this year and I liked the movement he has on all his pitches. If he can command his fastball, that will set everything up.
Card made from a photo by Stephanie Lynn

5. Oscar de la Cruz – Pitcher


Age: 22
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skills – Commanding presence, fastball, curveball
ETA – 2018/2019
Things were going extremely well for him at Myrtle Beach before he skipped a start and went on the DL. He needs to stay healthy to build up that arm strength. Innings are what he needs. For me, the jury is still out on his long term option of either starting or relieving.

4. Mark Zagunis – Outfielder


Age: 24
2018 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills: pitch recognition, power potential, on-base machine
ETA – 2018
It’s not the time is running out for Mark, but you have to wonder how long the Cubs keep him at AAA. He did show improvement in power this year. If not for injuries, he was on a 20 HR pace. I don’t know how he would adjust to a ventral, but I think he’s ready for the opportunity. Anything he needs to improve on is staying healthy.

3. Aramis Ademan – Shortstop


Age – 18
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top skills – Defense, deft hands
ETA – 2021
He skipped rookie ball and played for short season Eugene and low A South Bend in 2017. Defensively, he is leaps and bounds above every shortstop in the system. The bat is slowly coming around and has more pop than first thought.

2. Adbert Alzolay – Pitcher


Age: 22
2018 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills – 96/97 mph fastball that he can sustain and maintain deep in the game.
ETA – 2019
He really came on in 2017 by quickening his pace. He still needs work on his change, but his FB is c’est magnifique. His curve is improving with a nice 2-7 arc.He seemed to run out of gas the last two weeks of the year.

1. Jose Albertos – Pitcher


Age: 18
2018 Affiliate – South Bend, Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – 97 mph fastball, command, plus changeup
ETA – 2019/20
The young 18-year-old out of Mexico throws between 91-97. He has elite command of his fastball and employs a plus changeup. The curve, when developed, will give him three plus pitches.The ball just flies out of his hand. Sometimes, control early in the game is an issue. The fact he threw almost 70 innings in 2017 versus 4.1 in 2016 is very encouraging for long range growth. He should be at a little over 100 IP in 2018.

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