A lot has changed in the real world and the baseball world since December 7, 2018, the day FanGraphs last released a Cubs top prospect list. At that time, Miguel Amaya was firmly entrenched No. 1, Aramis Ademan was sitting pretty at No. 5, and newcomer Brennen Davis was all the way up to No. 12. A skinny kid from Oklahoma named Kohl Franklin was the last prospect on that list at 31.
Fast forward to the latest list by Eric Longenhagen, which contains information and projections on 41 farmhands. Based on the top 100 list from this winter, it was a given that Nico Hoerner was going to be in the top spot, followed by Davis, Amaya, and Brailyn Marquez. After that, however, there has been a lot of movement.
Chase Strumpf came in at No. 7, the highest from last year’s daft class, with Ryan Jensen was one spot behind. Two international free agents, Ronnier Quintero and Kevin Made, came in at Nos. 12 and 13, respectively. Ethan Hearn checked in at 15 despite a rough campaign in the Arizona Rookie League and pitcher Michael McAvene got some love at 16.
The biggest surprise of the day came at 17 when pitcher Hunter Bigge made the list. I loved watching Bigge throw gas last summer at Eugene in relief as he pitched full-time and it appears I’m not alone.
“Bigge looks like a 2019 12th round steal,” Longenhagen said. “He was sitting in the upper-80s and low-90s at Harvard, then spiked into the 92-95 range out of the bullpen after the draft. By the fall, he was touching at least 97 and I have one source who had him up to 99.”
Hunter Bigge with a gas delivery. pic.twitter.com/JUzeoooxaj
— No — I'm still Rael (@thats_so_cub) August 12, 2019
An infusion of young Latin position players are starting to make some news in the late teens and early 20’s on the list. Infielder Fabian Pertuz kicked off the run at 18, followed by Yohendrick Pinango at 19, infielder Pedro Martinez at 22 and shortstop Luis Verdugo — a favorite of Theo Epstein in spring training — slotted at 23. Rafael Morel, the younger brother of Chris, came in at 29.
Pertuz and Verdugo were both at Mesa last summer, Martinez made it up to Eugene, Pinango and Morel both had great seasons in the Dominican Summer League. These young position players are going to be interesting follows as they make their way up the system.
Franklin was destined to be the biggest mover on this list, jumping from 31 up into the ninth spot. Davis, who will be the top prospect in the system as soon as Hoerner graduates, moved up 10 spots. All things considered, Strumpf actually climbed the furthest since he debuted at No. 7 overall after not appearing on the last list.
Gone, Gone, Gone
Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, and Thomas Hatch are no longer in the organization and outfielder Jonathan Sierra dropped off. Ademan, Jose Albertos, Jeremiah Estrada, and Danis Correa are surprisingly still on the list in spite of a poor performances or injuries in 2019.
Because the MLB Draft takes place Wednesday and Thursday, this list is really only good for… *checks notes*… one day. The Cubs are going to be adding five new players over the next 36 hours, then they will add several undrafted and international free agents over the next few weeks and months. Shortstop Cristian Hernandez should be in the top 10 once he signs and catcher Moises Ballesteros figures to be ranked as well.
The system as a whole has gotten deeper and more talented since bottoming out a couple seasons ago, but challenges abound as the shutdown has impacted development at every level. Revamped hitting and pitching infrastructures should help get that all back on track once teams get the all-clear, at which point we’ll get to see what these young players can really do.