When it comes to prospect lists this winter, beauty is definitely going to be in the eye of the beholder. As they begin to come out over the course of the next three months, you could see as many as 20 different Cubs make a top 10. And you could see four or five different Cubs atop each of those lists.
In a post-Eloy Jimenez world, it’s going to take a long time for the rankings to settle down. With the possibility that the Cubs might make another trade this offseason, even more chaos could soon enter the picture.
Baseball America is getting ready to drop their latest list of the top 10 Cubs prospects on Monday or Tuesday, in addition to their top tools in the system. I thought I might beat them to the punch and come out with my predictions for who will be named in those respective spots.
Top MiLB Tools
?Best Hitter for Average: Victor Caratini – No one else is even close.
?Best Power Hitter: Nelson Velazquez – 10 HRs in 6 weeks ought to get him the title.
?Fastest Baserunner: DJ Wilson – Watch him hit one to the gap and you will see how fast he flies.
?Best Athlete: Jacob Hannemann — This is his for now, but Velazquez could overtake him in a year.
?Best Fastball: Adbert Alzolay (RHP) – Sitting at 96 in the sixth and seventh innings is pretty impressive.
?Best Curveball: Dillon Maples (RHP) – This is like a “normal” pitcher’s heater, as he commands it and throws it in fastball counts.
?Best Slider: Maples – This will be the pitch that makes him a lights-out reliever.
?Best Changeup: Jose Albertos (RHP) barely gets the nod over Eugene teammate Jesus Camargo (RHP). Both are excellent and get some ugly, ugly swings.
?Best Control: Alzolay – It begins and ends with the ability to put his fastball where he wants it when he wants. Jen-Ho Tseng comes in a close second.
?Best Defensive Catcher: Miguel Amaya – While blocking might be a small issue, his arm is clearly not. PJ Higgins is next. It will be interesting to watch Will Remillard come back and to see what recent international signee Alexander Guerra can do
?Best Defensive INF/Best INF Arm: Luis Vazquez — You might think Aramis Ademan would get the nod, but Vazquez is better and more consistent. I’ve only seen him make a few plays, but he shows much more range, fluidity, and athleticism than Ademan.
?Best Defensive OF: Hannemann — He barely gets the nod over WIlson, Velazquez, and Charcer Burks. In a year, Velazquez could win almost every hitting and outfield award.
?Best OF Arm: Eddy Martinez – 2018 is going to be his year; don’t be shocked to see him get a chance in Chicago later this summer.
Ranking the Top 10
Right off the top, I can tell you Baseball America’s top 10 prospect list is going to be a little bit different than mine, as I do not consider Caratini a prospect for the purposes of my rankings. While he technically is based on the 130 at-bat threshold, he has spent enough time in the majors that he’s very much a known commodity. That said, he should get BA’s number one spot.
Where all these prospects are going to be ranked after Caratini is a complete mystery to me. I’m having trouble reconciling whether or not to put Ademan in the top five and whether to include Maples in the top 10. I know other people like pitcher Alzolay a lot (as do I), but I think Albertos is a better high-end prospect and would be my personal top prospect overall. I would expect the two young pitchers to be 2a and 2b.
I’m half tempted to put Velasquez at number four just based on his six-week stint in Mesa. You have to love the praise he garnered from evaluators and also Cubs VP of development Jason McLeod, as the Tribune’s Mark Gonzalez wrote.
After that group, it’s something of a toss-up among almost 20 other players. Zagunis is probably the most ready for the majors after Caratini and should make the top 10. Thomas Hatch is another likely suspect, along with the Cubs’ two first round picks from 2017, Brendon Little and Alex Lange.
MLB.com’s No. 1 prospect, oft-injured righty Oscar de la Cruz, should be in the top 10, as should Ademan. Cases could be made for Maples, Tseng, Wilson, Trevor Clifton, Duane Underwood, Jr., and Justin Steele to fill slots as well.
There are so many prospects whose ceilings have not been defined due to inconsistent performance. Martinez is one such prospect, but his second half in 2017 shows he could be on the way up. Though we aren’t seeing the elite talent that was so evident with the Cubs’ young core, the sheer number of solid prospects is head-turning. You could easily make an argument for each of them.
Other hot names include Arizona Fall League participants Burks, Ian Rice, Jason Vosler, Jake Stinnett and Pedro Araujo. There are just so many. You could even make a case for shortstop Zack Short.
BA’s analysis should make for some very interesting discussions in the coming week, as who gets in and who gets left out provides fodder for our individual evaluation processes.