The key word to describe Baseball America’s top 10 Cubs Prospect List and accompanying articles would be “ascension.” It is a crisp catalog filled with young players on their way up.
Most of the list is pretty obvious and a majority of the names are as you probably could have guessed. There are a few surprises, though. While we all knew Eloy Jimenez would make the cut, seeing him named the top prospect in the organization may have raised a few eyebrows. Darryl “DJ” Wilson made the top 10, along with newbies Jose Albertos and Trevor Clifton. Just missing, according to John Manuel, were Thomas Hatch and Eddy Martinez.
From 2012 to 2015, the Cubs prospect list was filled with players who were essentially short-timers. Their respective stays in the minor-league system were not long as they rose through the ranks quickly. This current crop, however, is quite different. They are young; they aren’t going anywhere immediately; and, aside from maybe one or two, they will not have the impact of Bryant, Russell, or Schwarber. They do, however, have the potential to develop into quality major league stars.
The biggest surprises did not come from the list itself, but from the accompanying chat led by Manuel. I found that discussion regarding his evaluation of several prospects to be illuminating and on point. While I disagreed with a bit of it, he nailed most of the evaluations.
Here are some things I took away from the answers Manual offered to questions posed by the public.
1. Eddy Martinez is probably better than we think he is. He already has a major league arm that was rated the best in the system.
2. Baseball America gave “big ups” to Bailey Clark and Tom Hatch. Manuel raved about Clark’s arm and Hatch’s slider.
3. Like me, Manual is mixed on Bryan Hudson. He said:
[H]e needs better functional strength to keep all his long levers working together. At times he was pitching in the mid-80s with a cement-mixer breaker, and that ain’t what the Cubs signed. He had a good instructional league according to my sources, and was good in extended spring, but not during the season. With all the Cubs’ lower-level arms he’s going to have to come out good in spring training to earn a spot at South Bend. I would be surprised if he got out of extended spring, to be honest.
4. Manuel also said the Cubs system will be ranked a bit higher this year. The main reasons for that are its overall depth and the ascension of some top prospects like Jimenez.
Rob Z is in the lead there, with Brooks next because they are on the 40-man roster. Ryan Williams would have beaten Rob Z if he’d stayed healthy; he’s got allies in the big league dugout, put it that way. He’s tough to elevate and a good fill-in candidate, maybe back-of-the-rotation eventually, but he’s got basically 35 good pro starts. I didn’t rank him this year due to the injury. But the Cubs do like him. The Cubs may get 2 big leaguers out of their 2014 draft class from seniors that they signed for squat: Williams ($1k) and James Farris ($3k), a reliever who almost made the 30 but is on the depth chart. He was really good in the AFL.
6. Baseball America seemed to be pumping the brakes on pitchers who haven’t pitched a full season at South Bend or Myrtle Beach, aka Jose Albertos. While BA did put Albertos at 10, there are a lot of other young pitchers like Jose Paulino that they also liked.
8. I finally asked Manuel who he thought would be a breakout this year.
@CubsCentral08 thanks. I think so many who are heading to full-season ball. DJ Wilson, De la Cruz; lesser known, I’d say I. Paredes.
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) January 6, 2017
Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus will be releasing their prospect lists of their own here soon and it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast all of them. The biggest thing from BA’s rankings is that there are a lot of rising young stars in the Cubs system. Several players who were at the top the past few years tumbled as their careers have stalled to some extent. Gone are Duane Underwood, Pierce Johnson, and others. It’s almost as if this year will be the changing of the guard as most of the up-and-coming prospects get a full season in and get closer to Chicago.