If you are looking for a Cubs prospect list that is aggressive, balls-to-the-wall, and different from every other list, I have found it for you. Surprisingly, it does not belong to Baseball Prospectus. It is not Keith Law who ranks someone extremely high this time. This year, the WTF award goes to FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen.
FanGraphs is always one of my favorite prospect lists because it releases a lot of information about the various players and includes video. This year, Longenhagen went 23 deep with Cub prospects. There are several inclusions in the some might consider at least mildly stunning, but I have talked about all of them at some point over the past six months. The names sound familiar, but their placement should not.
What is different, however, is they appear in that upper echelon. We’ve seen Candelario somewhere around number four and Almora in the top five for the past year. Trevor Clifton ascended into the top five on many other lists. For Fangraphs, he comes in at number eight.
All hell breaks loose
Oscar de la Cruz came in at number three while Jose Albertos shook things up at the number five slot. Seeing de la Cruz there is strange because he missed half of last season. I think Longenhagen arrived at his rankings by projecting how the various prospects will do in the future, in which case de la Cruz could be a top-five prospect by the end of the year. All things considered, he has top three talent now.
As for Albertos, this is his highest ranking on any prospect list. I find that interesting because he only pitched four innings last year. He did dazzle many throughout spring training and extended spring training last year, including Arizona Phil, Jim Callis, and John Arguello. With upper-90’s heat and excellent command he might be the one pitcher to watch. If he can remain healthy. I’m pretty sure he’ll be in Eugene to limit his innings and exposure coming off an injury that caused him to miss most of the year. Despite all the talent and command, I don’t know yet if he’s that much better than Dylan Cease, who is ranked a little lower.
And I think that’s the nature of any prospect list for the Cubs the next couple of years. There’s gonna be a lot of movement up and down as players begin to develop and, more importantly, begin to produce real results at the minor-league level.
We are not done yet
Jose Rosario made the top 10 as well, which caught my eye because he’s only a reliever. If he was a starter, I might find it more plausible. I don’t really disagree with the selection, though, because the arm is at an elite level.
As for other prospects on the list, DJ Wilson just missed the top 10 and Eddy Martinez got the number 12 spot. Even Felix Pena made the list at number 15. Thomas Hatch and Isaac Paredes came in at 16 and 17, respectively. Duane Underwood dropped all the way to 22 and Bailey Clark, whose praises I have sung for the past six months, pops up at number 23.
I think the biggest surprise in the second half is Aramis Ademan at 13. The 17-year-old shortstop has yet to play even a single inning in the States.
What I find most interesting is that FanGraphs’ list is much more about projection than it is about production and current skill level. For example, here’s what Longenhagen said about Ademan.
His hands and actions are smooth in the field and quick and angry in the batter’s box. Ademan takes aggressive hacks and makes surprisingly loud contact for a player his size. His patient approach and advanced pitch recognition have allowed him to avoid excessive strikeouts so far. He has the bat speed to become an above-average hitter if things get polished up; given that he’s just 18, that’s really all I care about. He likely won’t ever have more than 40 game power, but an above-average hitter with below-average power who plays an average shortstop is a good everyday player. I think there’s a chance for that here.
You have to appreciate the brashness Longenhagen exhibited in compiling this list. It’s clear he values projection more than production. I completely understand it, I just don’t know if I would have had the cajones to rank some of these players so high this early in their respective careers. But isn’t that what a prospect list is for?
It’s easy to get caught up in production and development, even though a prospect list is supposed to evaluate talent in a given system and assign value to that talent. It’s not about what they do in the minor leagues, it’s more about what they could do in the majors. And the Cubs have done at least a fair-to-middling job of getting production out of the kids they call up.