Joey Ricotta | January 31st, 2019
Just a few years ago the Cubs farm system was stacked. Getting praise and recognition from nearly every analyst and scout. Fast forward a few years and most of those highly touted Cubs prospects have either graduated to the big leagues or have been traded for MLB ready players.
The Cubs can’t seem to get much love from the likes of MLB pipeline this year. They had just 2 players rank inside the top 100 list, with both of them coming after the number 90 spot. Although they may not be getting superstar potential type of love, there are still some quality players that have the potential to make an impact at the Major League level. Take a walk with me as I highlight a few of them and give you my top five prospects.
Note: Doing some digging and making calculations, I graded the players on a 20/80 scale that is more commonly used among scouts and organizations today. In order, it is Present grade/Future grade.
1. Miguel Amaya – C
- Hitting: 30/55
- Power: 30/50
- Speed: 40/30
- Fielding: 50/60
- Throwing: 55/60
- Overall: 40/60
Amaya is a 19-year old 6’1″ 185 lb. catcher that had a very good first half of the season last year enabling him to make it to the Futures game. He tailed off quite a bit in the second half of the season. Yet, still finished with a .256 average 12 home runs 52 RBI’s .752 OPS .345 wOBA, and a 114 wRC+.
His upside has continually grown. The Cubs like him because of his ability to block and frame pitches. He makes accurate throws, gets rid of the ball quickly, and has a solid arm that may even be getting stronger. He has gotten better as a hitter and is starting to show opposite field power. The swing is not a violent one by any means, he makes it look easy when he connects.
The top Cubs prospect according to many is also the most rumored to get traded. Other teams know Willson Contreras will be a Cub for at least a couple more years. Seeing the defensive prowess Amaya holds with the potential to unleash more power at the plate, he makes for a very attractive prospect.
At this point, it’s safe to say that he will have some kind of a career in the majors, because of what he’s already shown defensively. How good of a career just depends on how his bat and arm continue to develop. ETA: 2022
2. Nico Hoerner – SS/2B
- Hitting: 40/55
- Power: 30/45
- Speed: 55/55
- Fielding: 40/50
- Throwing: 45/45
- Overall: 40/55
Nico Hoerner was taken as the 24th pick overall by the Cubs in the 2018 MLB Draft as a 21-year old out of Stanford. Currently with the South Bend Cubs Single-A team. In his minor league debut last year, he slashed 327/450/571 in 14 games before straining ligaments in his left elbow. After returning to the field in the Arizona fall league he slashed 337/362/506.
The Cubs really believe in this kid from a contact standpoint. He consistently makes good hard contact. His power might be about average or slightly below at this point, but they feel like he could be a 12-15 home run per season player. He only hit 3 home runs in 3 years at Stanford, but he’s made mechanical changes to his swing that have already increased his power output. In a total of 35 games in 2018, he hit 3 home runs matching his Stanford total.
Hoerner possesses plus speed on the base paths and projects to be an average defender. His quirky throwing motion and average arm might make him best fit to play 2nd Base or even Outfield given his athletic ability and speed.
He doesn’t seem like a high-level risk type of player, but the belief is that the Cubs will still be patient with him. They want him to continue developing his power and might want to explore him at other positions. Given the amount of depth they have at the big league level and the win-now mentality they have, he most likely won’t be called up to the Major League roster for a couple of years. ETA: 2021
3. Adbert Alzolay – RHP
- Fastball: 60/60
- Curveball: 60/60
- Changeup: 40/50
- Control: 45/55
- Overall: 45/50
Signing in 2012 out of Venezuela, Alzolay stands 6 feet tall weighing 180 pounds. He’s a 3-pitch pitcher, featuring a fastball that sits around 93-95 topping out at 98 miles per hour, a nasty sharp curveball, and a changeup.
Missing most of 2018 due to a lat strain, Alzolay began throwing again in the fall and is likely to be ready by the beginning of the season, to start in Triple-A Iowa. Alzolay was well on his way to joining the Cubs last year before being shut down.
Prior to his injury Alzolay was getting better at using his legs to push off and finish his pitches. That provides him more balance for control as well as being able to maximize his velocity.
Although he’s been a starter in the Minors and projects as a mid-rotation starter, surely the Cubs wouldn’t be opposed to adding a potential difference maker to the bullpen mid-season. If he can master his fastball and curveball the way that he was before getting injured, that is really all he would need to be successful as a reliever. ETA: 2019
4. Cole Roederer – OF
- Hitting: 35/55
- Power: 40/55
- Speed: 55/55
- Fielding: 45/50
- Throwing: 45/45
- Overall: 35/55
Picked by the Cubs behind prospects Nico Hoerner and Brennen Davis in the 2nd round of the 2018 Draft. The 6 foot 175-pound left-handed hitter could have the most upside out of all three. At just 19 years old he’s still very raw and unpolished. Pre-draft evaluations had many scouts labeling him as a tweener. Since the draft, he put on some more muscle adding more raw power to his game.
Roederer has the ability to hit for a solid average and for power. Combine that with his solid speed, and you have a guy with 20/20 potential. In the Rookie League, he had a very good season last year. In 36 games played he slashed 275/354/465 with 5 home runs and 13 stolen bases.
He has a tendency to get a long swing at times. For the most part, it’s short and compact. There’s not a whole lot of holes in his swing when he is getting his front foot down at the right time. He’s been compared by some scouts to Andrew Benintendi. It’s easy to see the comparison from a physical makeup and the similarities in the swing. The Cubs would like to see him get the ball in the air a little more to be able to maximize some of his raw power.
Average arm strength, which is not overly important for a potential centerfielder, but it is a knock to his overall prowess. Eventually, a shift to left field could be in order, although he does have good instincts and enough speed to track down balls in center. ETA: 2022
5. Aramis Ademan – SS
- Hitting: 25/50
- Power: 30/45
- Speed: 50/50
- Fielding: 45/55
- Throwing: 55/55
- Overall: 25/50
Many considered Ademan to be the Cubs number one prospect a year ago. The 20-year old regressed last season after being promoted to High Class-A Myrtle Beach, hitting 207/291/273. The promotion from South Bend might have been premature.
Ademan still possesses some fine tools to be an everyday player. He makes good hard contact and can spray the ball around the field. His range and arm are on the plus side at short and he makes up for his average speed with good footwork and instincts.
The Cubs believe that he can bounce back from a rough 2018. Class-A Myrtle Beach sounds like an easy destination that should be just a stepping stone for good players. That is if you’re a player that isn’t 3.5 years younger, on average, than everyone else in the league.
We may have to lower our expectations for Ademan as far as a number one prospect goes. If nothing else, he showed us his floor last year. Barely hitting above the Mendoza line is not going to cut it. But I do expect him to bounce back and continue to make progress. His glove, quickness, and hard contact are enough to make him a regular at the MLB level in due time. ETA: 2022
Honorable Mention – Dakota Mekkes – RHP
Now, I’m not necessarily saying he would be number 6 on my list or that he is even a highly touted prospect with great velocity or anything like that. What I will say is that he has put up some very good Minor League numbers and has a nice repertoire of pitches that he mixes effectively to get hitters out. He throws a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, a solid slider, and a changeup. Won’t overpower hitters in terms of velocity, but he seems to know how to throw them off enough to get them out. With a funky delivery and a long stride, it allows him to maximize the quality of each pitch.
I’m mentioning him because as it stands, the Cubs may need bullpen help before the year is done. Mekkes fits the bill. In his 3 minor league seasons, he has a combined 1.16 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a 2.84 strikeout to walk ratio. ETA: 2019
Questions and comments?
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images