One of the things Jed Hoyer talked during his Winter Meetings media campaign was how much he thought the farm system improved even without a season. He sounded pretty excited for the 2021 season, which he thinks will be a turning point as top prospects will finally get a chance to show what they can do. That’s a testament to the organization’s long overdue revamping of its development infrastructure, something that should start paying dividends shortly.
Baseball America’s midseason Cubs prospect list from back in July marked a dramatic shift in the rankings, as most of the top prospects were 21 and under. Nico Hoerner was actually an outlier, while rising stars Brennen Davis, Miguel Amaya, Cole Roederer, Ethan Hearn, and many more teenagers dominated the list.
Hoerner graduating and Pedro Martinez being traded to Tampa naturally opened some spots, so change was inevitable. I almost wish they would’ve waited until January 15 to release their rankings because I wanted to see where they felt elite international free agent Cristian Hernandez stacked up.
But since the new top 10 list just dropped, we’ll have a wait until mid-year on that. Brailyn Márquez maintained his top ranking from this summer with Davis not too far behind. Left-handed starters who throw 100 don’t necessarily grow on trees, so Marquez stands out a little bit more for some evaluators than does Davis and his amazing natural athletic skills. It’s a unicorn vs. a thoroughbred and these lists are often about top-end projection.
Matt Dorey, Cubs VP of development, oversaw the alternate site in South Bend and raved about how Davis improved this past summer by getting up to eight plate appearances a day. Davis could take over the top spot on this list by the end of 2021 if he can get in a productive full season of ABs at Tennessee and/or Iowa, proving that both his ceiling and floor are very high.
The rest of the list is rounded out by Chase Strumpf, Ryan Jensen, Kohl Franklin, Christopher Morel, Adbert Alzolay, Miguel Amaya, Ed Howard, and Riley Thompson. Because it’s a subscription article, we won’t release the exact order. We can tell you that there weren’t really any surprises. Thompson may seem like one, but BA has been high on him for a couple of years now.
When it comes to the “best tools” portion of BA’s rankings, Davis and Edmond Americaan got a little love among position players. Marquez predictably had the best fastball, Jack Patterson has the best curve, Cory Abbott‘s slider topped the rankings, and Kohl Franklin was named best changeup.
Unlike the list itself, BA’s crystal ball look at the Cubs’ 2024 opening day lineup did have a couple of surprises. It included Amaya behind the plate and Anthony Rizzo still at first, along with Howard, Hoerner, and David Bote in the infield. The outfield was anchored by Davis and Ian Happ along with…Kyle Schwarber?!
I can only assume the article was written before the non-tender deadline, unless they feel the Cubs will lock down an extension with their left fielder. Teams have been told to proceed as though there won’t be a universal DH in 2021, but everyone feels it’ll return for good by at least ’22. BA must be pretty confident in that reality, as Victor Caratini was listed as the DH.
I was not surprised to see Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras missing here, but Javier Báez not being among the group was somewhat unexpected. I was hoping to see Morel in there someplace, and we still might.
As difficult as it is to predict the future, we can say with certainty that the next BA list is going to look different. Alzolay has less than an inning left as a prospect and Hernandez should find his way into the top 10 once he signs. We’ll also see a lot of movement as players separate themselves based on their work in 2020 and/or natural maturation. My money is on OF Yohendrick Pinango on the hitting side and pitchers Manuel Espinoza and DavidJohn Herz on the mound.
The Cubs also have the 21st pick in the draft and could still make trades that either send top prospects elsewhere or bring new ones in from other organizations. After a year and a half of not playing games, we might be in for a lot of surprises in 2021. However things shake out, we should get to see just how much the Cubs’ new MiLB infrastructure has changed.