If you’ll allow me to understate the fact of the matter, the Cubs’ outfield depth at the major-league level is pretty strong. Jason Heyward will be in right for at least the next two years. Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber are under contract for the next five seasons. John Jay is only signed for one year, but Matt Szczur still has four years left. That’s a pretty tight five, and that’s before you throw in Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist. There’s just a flat-out embarrassment of riches in Chicago.
That stockpile of talent continues throughout the system, where the Cubs feature a host of outfield prospects who are quite different from one another. AAA outfielder Bijan Rademacher did not make the top five list but is someone who could make it to Chicago this year. Charcer Burks is another outfielder who had an up-and-down season last year at Myrtle Beach and will be at AA Tennessee in 2017. Their youngest outfielder, Jonathan Sierra, will be making his stateside debut in rookie league at Mesa. He will take a while to develop and reminds many physically of a young Darryl Strawberry.
It might be strange to say that, out of all the positions previewed for the minor-league system, the outfielders are the only position at which guys could really push for a spot in the Bigs over the next couple years. I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that the five below have major league talent.
5. Darryl Wilson – Had he not signed a pro contract, Wilson would just be getting ready to play his second season at Vanderbilt. Luckily for the Cubs, this five-tool player will be in South Bend this summer. He has an amazing range in the outfield, a solid arm, great speed, and is beginning to show that he can hit for both average and power. Wilson is one of the more exciting players in the system and I think he could break out in a big way this summer in the Midwest League.
4. Donnie Dewees – Another exciting player who showed the great ability to adjust to two levels in one season, Dewees showed the ability to improve in two areas of his game. His throwing arm is getting stronger, but he’s made even greater strides in his pitch recognition skills through the use of software the Cubs provide. I expect Dewees to do great things at Tennessee in 2017.
3. Eddy Martinez – Right now, Martinez is the most MLB-ready defender in the Cubs’ system. He has an outstanding arm and decent coverage. It took him a couple months to kind of figure things out before he went on a nice run in June and July last year. He did slip a little in August, but I think he will be stronger for it this year at Myrtle Beach. I also think he’s going to show power in a place that is known for not giving up many home runs.
2. Mark Zagunis – We might see him in Chicago sometime this summer. I think his 2016 season was probably the most unheralded in the system, as he destroyed pitching at AA and AAA. The lack of publicity was largely due to him missing the last month of the season with a broken foot. Zagunis’s bat will do most of the talking for him in 2017.
1. Eloy Jimenez – I have a lot of mixed emotions about Jimenez in 2017. Part of me wants him to skip Myrtle Beach to go to Tennessee. The other part of me wants him to go back to high-A and destroy everything before joining the Smokies in the middle of June. He has become the number one prospect in the system and this season should validate that. By the end of next summer, Jimenez will probably become a top 10 prospect in all of MLB. His energetic personality wins fans over wherever he plays. Out of all the Cubs’ prospects, he is the one with the most power and the highest ceiling when it comes to talent at the plate. And I think he is the position prospect most likely to make a space for himself in Chicago, perhaps within the next two years
Although the Cubs can’t keep all of these prospects and have them play in Chicago, I believe a couple of the top five will make it. Depth has always been the key to the Cubs system and the outfield depth profiled above will allow them to make deals while still maintaining valuable talent.
See below for previous breakdowns: