Top 21 List

Today’s Update: January 2, 2018
Previous Update:  September 13, 2018
Next Update: After the Draft for now…a trade could happen and change everything.

For the first time in a while, there are no extra spots. There is no à la carte menu for you to fill-in your choices. You can take that as a good sign in that the system has enough quantifiable talent to hit 21.

Honorable Mention
Bailey Clark, Riley Thompson, Andy Weber, Luke Reynolds, Duane Underwood, Mark Zagunis, Erich Uelmen, Duncan Robinson, Michael Rucker, Matt Swarmer, Yonathan Perlaza, Oscar de la Cruz, Dillon Maples, DJ Wilson, Jeremiah Estrada, Erling Moreno, Jose Albertos, Jose Lopez.

21. Richard Gallardo – Pitcher
Age – 17
2018 Affiliate: IFA
2019 Affiliate – Mesa
Top Skills: Commands the strike zone, still growing
ETA – 2023
He will be 17 and debut at Mesa this summer. He comes to the Cubs as a well polished righty whose stuff should continue to tick up as he continues growing and gaining experience. He could be a top 10 prospect by the end of the summer…easily.

20. Jhonny Pereda – Catcher
Age – 22
2018 Affiliate: Myrtle Beach, AFL
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills: Approach, Defense
ETA – 2020
After a breakout 2018, he showed he’s ready for more with a successful tenure in the Arizona Fall League. He could be pushing Iowa by the All-Star break. What I like most about Jhonny is that his defense is improving as rapidly as his offense.

19. Trent Giambrone = Infielder
Age – 25
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee
2019 Affiliate – Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills: Approach, Defense, Versatility, Power
ETA – 2019
If you’re looking for another David Bote-type utility guy, Trent fits the bill. He should be playing all over the field at Iowa and hitting balls over the fence in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. I am excited to see him get some at-bats in spring training, too.

18. Dakota Mekkes – Pitcher
Age – 24
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee, Iowa
2019 Affiliate – Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills: Deceptive Delivery
ETA – 2019
He is just so deceptive, it is not even funny. I wondered how his deception would play at AAA and it is quite wicked. To be honest, there shouldn’t be a need for him to spend much more time in Iowa.

17. Keegan Thompson – Pitcher
Age – 23
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach, Tennessee
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills – Pitchability, Command, Strategy
ETA 2020
He looks like he knows how to pitch to get hitters to do what he wants. Rarely does he miss his spots and he also changes speeds with the best of them. While he throws in the low 90s, he can get it up to 94/95 and spot it better than anyone in the system.

16. Thomas Hatch – Pitcher
Age: 24
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee
2019 Affiliate – Iowa
Top Skills: 4 pitches
ETA: 2020
He pitched with a vengeance in August and I liked the attitude and the way he attacked all month long. His change looks to be rounding into a plus pitch, something he needs. If he can get his fastball command down, he could be a force.

15. Brendon Little – Pitcher
Age: 22
2018 Affiliate: South Bend
2019 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skill – Power curve
ETA – 2021
He is proving to be a great learner. He is much improved from April and his curve is an out pitch. He gets a lot of ugly swings on the curve. Don’t look at his stats, just ignore them. Focus on his development.

14. Aramis Ademan – Shortstop
Age – 20
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
2019 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach, Tennessee
Top skills – Defense, deft hands
ETA – 2021
He struggled to develop any consistency at Myrtle Beach at the plate. The skills are still there, they just need a lot of polishing. No one said playing at high A at 19 was going to be easy. He should be back there to start 2019. Expect to see him play more 2B in the coming year.

13. Alex Lange – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate: Myrtle Beach
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills: 93-96 mph fastball, plus curve, super-competitive.
ETA – 2020.
This year, he did well at Myrtle Beach, especially in August, but he needs to develop some consistency from start to start and to find a consistent delivery/release point for all three of his pitches. He’s had some moments in the spring, including a 10 K performance. The change up, his new third pitch, looks like it could be a plus-plus pitch. With his curve, that could give him two out pitches in due time.

12. Jared Young – 1B
Age 23
2018 Affiliate: South Bend/Myrtle Beach
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skill – Approach
ETA – 2020
If he gains weight and adds some more pop (which he already has some), he goes from a .300 hitter that hits 15-20 HRs to a guy who can hit 25 dingers. Also, I am glad to see him playing some outfield to diversify himself. Over the next year, if he continues on his current trajectory, he will be a top 5 guy by the end of the year and at AAA.

11. Trevor Clifton – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee/Iowa
2019 Affiliate – Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills – 3 plus pitches, improving command, pick-off move, pitchability, work ethic
ETA – 2019
I still think efficiency should be the thing he works on most. He needs to get to seven innings pretty consistently. He was brilliant in April and May at times. I got really excited to see him get promoted to AAA Iowa. He’s now just one small step away.

10. Zack Short – Shortstop
Age – 23
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee
2019 Affiliate – Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills: OBP, Power, improved defense
ETA – 2019
Not much left to be said for him. I always wish he could hit for a higher average, but as much as he walks and hits dingers, it’s a bit of a wash. I am excited to see him finally play in a hitter’s league next summer. Rake! Rake! Rake!

9. Nelson Velazquez – Outfield
Age – 19
2018 Affiliate: South Bend, Eugene
2019 Affiliate – South Bend
Top Skills: Power, improving pitch recognition
ETA – 2021
The dude can flat out hit. He’s starting to lay off down and away breaking pitches and, as a result, had a very good August with a .396 OBP for the month. He was the Cubs’ player of the month then and I am hoping the new approach carries over to 2019 and South Bend.

8. Cory Abbott – Pitcher
Age – 22
2018 Affiliate – South Bend/Myrtle Beach
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills – Slider, Good Fastball Command, Misses Bats
ETA – 2020
In terms of immediate performance, he might be the most impressive arm the Cubs drafted in 2017. How much he improves in 2019 is going to determine his fate. Will he stick with his current arsenal or will he add to it as moves up the organizational ladder? Is there a cutter in his future?

7. Justin Steele – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate: Cubs 1, Myrtle Beach, Tennessee, Mesa Solar Sox
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills: plus curve, live mid 90s fastball, improving every month in 2017
ETA: 2019/2020
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 missed three months this year and made it back to Myrtle Beach on 7/29 almost 1 year after Tommy John surgery! And he was gassing it up to 95 regularly. Amazing! Could be a top 5 guy soon, too. He will begin 2019 at AA and could move to Iowa come June.

6. Brennen Davis – Outfield
Age – 19
2018 Affiliate: Cubs 2 in Mesa
2019 Affiliate – Eugene, South Bend
Top Skills: OBP, Power, defense, speed
ETA – 2022
A wRC+ of 138 will get you noticed in just 18 games. Loaded with five tool potential and an insane pitch recognition capability, he might be “a guy” very soon. He should begin 2019 in extended spring training with a shot to go to South Bend in May or he just starts at Eugene in June. Wherever he goes, he is going to be exciting.

5. Cole Roederer – Outfield
Age – 19
2018 Affiliate: Cubs 2 in Mesa
2019 Affiliate – Eugene, South Bend
Top Skills: OBP, Power, defense
ETA – 2022
A wRC+ of 129 will get you noticed along with 5 HRs and 24 RBI in 36 games. His K rate is a bit high, but then again, so is his walk rate. Roederer is the player I look forward to watching most in 2019. His combination of speed, power potential and defense is very thrilling. The comparisons to Andrew Benintendi don’t hurt either.

4. Brailyn Marquez – Pitcher
Age – 19
2018 Affiliate – Eugene, South Bend
2019 Affiliate – South Bend, Myrtle Beach
Top Skill – 95-97 mph fastball
ETA – 2021
Big time talent with great pitches. Could be a top of the rotation guy with his 95-97 mph fastball. However, he needs a lot of game experience to refine his command and control. He can do well, but he works a lot of deep counts and didn’t last more than 4 innings very often until late in the year. Then again, he has very high quality stuff.

3. Adbert Alzolay – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate – Iowa
2019 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 12-7 arc. At the end of May, he went on the DL with a grade 1 lat strain. I can see him doing multiple roles in Chicago once he is healthy.

2. Miguel Amaya – Catcher
Age: 19
2018 Affiliate – South Bend
2019 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Great receiver, great arm, and a developing power bat
ETA – 2020/21
He is a great defender with a great arm. I used to think the bat could take a few years. At South Bend, he’s showed a powerful bat that is coming together quickly. He’s got such a beautiful power stroke. He has really upped his pitch recognition skills this year. He was bit overworked in July and August as South Bend had some catching issues. Excited to see him spend a whole year in Myrtle Beach at 20-years-old, and who knows, maybe Tennessee isn’t that far away either.

1. Nico Hoerner – SS
Age – 21
2018 Affiliate – Eugene/South Bend/Mesa Solar Sox
2019 Affiliate – Tennessee, Iowa
Top skills – Approach, bat to ball skills, make up, versatile
ETA – 2019/2020
The 2018 1st round pick is going to be a lot of fun to watch to see how he does to start 2019, considering how he finished off 2018 in the Arizona Fall League. He should be on many Top 100 prospect lists. He still needs some work on generating more power from his lower half. When that connects, look out! I wonder if he gets some looks at 2B in spring training with the big league club. If he does, he becomes a top 50 prospect with his bat at that position.

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