Top 21 List

One thing to keep in mind, pitching is so dominant in the system that it is taking over the list. “Your guy” may have been on the list in the past and done nothing wrong, it is just that the new guy passed him up because of what the new guy’s talents are.

Today’s Update: June 7, 2018
Previous Update: March 30, 2018
Next Update: After a trade or the end of the 2018 MiLB season

21. (Tie) – Ala Carte
For number 21, you can pick your own two prospects you deem worthy from the following list.
DSL – Fabian Pertuz – SS; Maisel Garcia – Pitcher
Mesa – Luis Verdugo – Shortstop; Jesus Tejada – Pitcher; Luis Diaz – 2B; Brennen Davis – OF; Cole Roederer – OF;  Didier Vargas – P
Eugene – Fernando Kelli – OF, Luis Vazquez – Shortstop; Brailyn Marquez – Pitcher; Jeremiah Estrada; Danis Correa – Pitcher; Faustino Carrera – Pitcher; Christopher Morel – 3B; Jonathan Sierra – OF; Ethan Roberts – Pitcher; Luke Reynolds – 3B
South Bend – Rollie Lacy – Pitcher; Jared Young – 1B; Javier Assad – Pitcher;
Myrtle Beach – Jhonny Pereda – Catcher; Connor Myers – Outfield; Bryan Hudson – Pitcher; Erling Moreno – Pitcher; Erich Uelmen – Pitcher;
Tennessee – Matt Swarmer – Pitcher; Zack Short – Shortstop; Ian Rice – C/1B

20. Keegan Thompson
Age – 23
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Pitchability, Command, Strategy
ETA 2020/2021
He looks he knows how to pitch to get hitters to do what he wants. Rarely does he miss his spots and changes speed with the best of them. While he throws in the low 90s, he can spot it better than anyone in the system.


19. Cory Abbott – Pitcher
Age – 24
2018 Affiliate – South Bend/Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Slider, Good Fastball Command, Misses Bats
ETA – 2020/2021
In terms of immediate performance, he might be the most impressive arm the Cubs drafted last year. How much he improves 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?


18. Justin Steele – Pitcher
Age: 22
2018 Affiliate: Disabled List/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 most of 2018 after having TJS. After 9 months, he’s been throwing BP in Mesa beginning in late May. Hopefully, he can get in an inning here or there for Mesa in August.


17. Mark Zagunis – Outfielder
Age: 25
2018 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills: pitch recognition, power potential, on-base machine
ETA – 2018
It’s not that time is running out for Mark, but you have to wonder how long the Cubs keep him at AAA. I don’t know how he would adjust to a bench role, but I think he’s ready for any MLB opportunity.


16. Brendon Little – Pitcher
Age: 21
2018 Affiliate: South Bend
Top Skill – 97 mph fastball as a lefty
ETA – 2020
He is proving to be a great learner. He is much improved from April and his curve looks to be an out pitch. He’s been getting a lot of ugly swings lately. He should be in South Bend all year.


15. Nelson Velazquez – Outfielder
Age – 19
2018 Affiliate: South Bend
Top Skills: Power, Power, and Power; Burgeoning hit tool
ETA – 2022
You have to like the fireworks display he put on in Mesa last August. His ability to hit near .300 that month with 6 HRs propelled the team’s playoff push. I was surprised he skipped Eugene, but Velazquez is getting a lot of at bats in many more games at South Bend than he would have at Eugene. He still needs to work on pitch recognition on a daily basis. He’s still just 19. Have patience. The skills are evident.


14. Wladimir Galindo – Third Base
Age: 21
2018 Affiliate – Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – Power and lots of it, Improving Plate Discipline, Doing well hitting for average.
ETA: 2021
Last year, he suffered a broken leg and had surgery and missed half the year. It didn’t slow his development. He got off to a slow start, but since the middle of May, he’s been killing it. He can flatout handle a stick when he is healthy.


13. Dillon Maples – Pitcher
Age – 25
2018 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills – a golden arm
ETA – 2017
He has MLB closer type of stuff. It is just a matter of confidence and command. It will be interesting to see how Jim Hickey and Joe Maddon handle and use him to build that confidence. It is not a matter of if with him, but when.


12. David Bote – Utility
Age – 24
2018 Affiliate – Iowa/Chicago
Top Skills – Power, Good Eye, Good defense, versatility
ETA 2018 if needed
He’s gotten a couple of sneak peaks in Chicago to show that he can handle a bat in the majors. Just needs a spot to break in.


11. 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. 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 step away.


10. Duane Underwood – Pitcher
Age – 23
2018 Affiliate: Iowa
Top Skills: Power Arm, Power Curve
He made it through last year healthy throwing over 131 innings. That’ was a huge step forward. He just a step away from Chicago now. For Iowa this year, he might be having his best year, at times, as a prospect and he was pretty good in 2014 and 2015.


9. Dakota Mekkes – Relief Pitcher
Age – 23
2018 Affiliate: Tennessee, Iowa
Top Skills: Deceptive Delivery
ETA – 2019
I was really surprised that he’s stayed in Tennessee this spring. I thought that as dominant as he he has been that he should have been in Iowa by late May. He is just so deceptive, it is not even funny. I wondered how his deception would play at AA and it is quite deceiving. To be honest, there shouldn’t be a need for him to spend much time in Tennessee anymore.


8. Nico Hoerner
Age – 21
2018 Affiliate – Eugene/South Bend/Myrtle Beach?
Top skills – Approach, bat to ball skills, make up, versatile
ETA – 2020
The 2018 1st round pick is going to be a lot of fun to watch to see how he does defensively at shortstop and how much of a grinder and baseball rat he really is. What I will find to be most interesting is where he will end the season. More than likely, he starts at Eugene for a bit, then moves quickly to South Bend. Depending upon how teams do in the second half playoff race will determine where he finishes out the year.


7. Thomas Hatch – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skills – 4 pitch repertoire, ridiculous armside run on his FB
ETA – 2019
He’s been pretty consistent and more efficient this year getting deep into games almost every start. There’s not much left for him to prove at AA.


Photo by John Conover

6. Alex Lange – Pitcher
Age: 22
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.
This year, he is doing well at Myrtle Beach and needs to develop some consistency from start to start. I don’t see him moving too fast. He’s had some moments this spring, including a 10 K performance. The change up, his new third pitch, is getting better every start. Once he gets that down, then it’s off to the Smokies. As of today, he’s on a 19 inning scoreless streak.


5. Aramis Ademan – Shortstop
Age – 19
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 pretty error prone right now – 13 in his first 45 games at Myrtle Beach. The bat is slowly coming around. Stil, he has yet to develop any consistency in Myrtle Beach at the plate. The skills are still there, they just need a lot of polishing.


4. Oscar de la Cruz – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate – Tennessee
Top Skills – Commanding presence, fastball, curveball
ETA – 2018/2019
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. He’s been brilliant at times in Tennessee and at times it’s been rough going. If he stays healthy, he could be the top prospect in the system.


3. Jose Albertos – Pitcher
Age: 19
2018 Affiliate – South Bend, Myrtle Beach
Top Skills – 97 mph fastball, command, plus changeup
ETA – 2020/21
The issue this year is not velocity, it is command. The Cubs made a tweak to his delivery and he’s had trouble commanding his fastball or even throwing it in the zone to start 2018. I am not surprised he went back to Extended Spring Training, just that it took so long. I am still am very hopeful for his future. If he can get it back, which he can quickly, look out for a return trip to #1. He was throwing 95 with no effort. There’s nothing wrong with his arm.


2. Miguel Amaya – Catcher
Age: 19
2018 Affiliate – South Bend
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. He was outstanding in August last year at Eugene when he was moved down to seventh and hit .317 with a .368 OBP for the month. At South Bend, he’s showing a powerful bat that is coming together quickly. He’s close to hitting .300 with a beautiful power stroke. He has really upped his pitch recognition skills this year.


1. Adbert Alzolay – Pitcher
Age: 23
2018 Affiliate – Iowa, Chicago
Top Skills – 96/97 mph fastball that he can sustain and maintain deep in the game.
ETA – 2018
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. This year, he’s been great or not so great. He’s taken two no-hitters into the sixth, and another through the 4th, while also giving up 3 HRs in a game, too. At the end of May, he went on the DL with a grade 1 lat strain.


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