As a whole the Cubs have their most talented system since 2014. No, they won’t have four or five top 100 prospects in all of baseball taking the field in 2022, but there is a depth in the organization the Cubs haven’t had in the past decade. First, let’s look at the lower half of the system with Myrtle Beach and Sound Bend for 2022. The teenagers alone in Myrtle Beach have enormous talent. Guys like Triantos, Cassie, Alcantara, Preciado, PCA, and Hernandez all have top 100 prospect potential when it’s all said and done, and it is not a stretch to imagine one, two, maybe even three or four of the names mentioned above will crack a top 100 list after the 2022 season. There is also the South Bend roster where we will see Made, Howard, and Pinango (also teenagers) for the majority of the season who have already played a full season of professional baseball, and a couple of pitchers like Palencia (who barely cracked this list) and DJ Herz, the best pitcher in the system. Some of the funnest most talented baseball will be played at the lower level affiliates in the 2022 season and that’s why you’ll see a lot of those guys at the top of my list.
The AA and AAA guys are a different story. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the higher level affiliates who have a talented crop of pitchers. In AA Tennessee alone Marquez, Wicks, Franklin, Espinoza, and Killian could all get starts for the Smokies by the end of the 2022 season, and there is a chance some of those guys could throw for the Cubs if they dominate next year. However, the bats at the higher levels can be hit or miss (pun intended). I still have lots of questions for some of the bats lower on the list. Will Morel be the talent we’ve seen in short stretches? Can Canario cut down on the strikeouts and also show us the talent we have seen in short stretches? Will Strumpf continue his tear he went on to end the 2021 season? Can Amaya bounce back when healthy? Of course, Brennen Davis is also in this group, and I don’t have as many questions for the top of the system talent. I expect Brennen Davis to be our starting center fielder next year down the stretch and have a successful year in Chicago.
Now, before I dig into my list, let me stress that lists are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There are some really really good organizational type players in the system that were left out. Once you finish reading you are going to think, what about player X? And yes, I will hear the argument for him. This is just my list as of November, 2021 and lots of things are going to change including my mind before the season starts. I tried my best to give my reasoning for each player ranking as well as important stats and information so you can get the gist of what type of player they can be. I believe every prospect writer has an invisible math equation they run in their head of ceiling versus projection, and I tried to give my best projection and ceiling for each player to be transparent. On a couple of the guys there was also a variable of whether or not I expect them to reach their ceiling. That led to some guys falling farther down the list even though their ceiling was higher than some guys ranked above them such as Jordan Nwogu and Chris Morel. So with that being said, enjoy my first Cubs 2022 prospect list!
Jimmy’s 2022 Cubs Prospect List
1.) Brennen Davis OF
Undeniably, Brennen Davis is the top prospect in the system. Through three levels in the minors (A+, AA, AAA) Davis slashed .262/.375/.499. Overall, Davis is a five tool outfielder who can play all three outfield positions including centerfield. His nineteen home runs and 25 doubles in 2021 displayed his plus power that could be his best overall tool; however, Davis is not an all or nothing hitter. Although his strikeout rate can be a reason for pause, his ability to work his way back down in counts, like he did when he ended his 2021 season in Iowa, exemplifies a maturity beyond his age. More than likely Davis will make his major league debut for the Cubs in 2022 at 22 years old.
Ceiling: All-Star outfielder
Projection: starting center or left fielder with above league average OPS
2.) Cristian Hernandez SS
Hernandez is one of the most anticipated international free agent signees for the Cubs since Jorge Soler or Gleybar Torres. Hernandez has the chance to be a true five tools shortstop by the time he makes the big leagues and fills out his frame, which also leads some scouts to believe he could move to 3rd base and be a middle of the lineup thumper at the hot corner. Hernandez is only 17 and has yet to play professional baseball in the states, but he had a stellar year in the Dominican Summer League where he slashed.285/.398/.424 in 47 games. Perhaps even more impressive, he also walked 30 times and stole 21 bases in the DSL in 2021. When it’s all said and done Hernandez could have the best major league career out of everyone already in the system, and that includes Brennen Davis. Hernandez will get his first taste of professional ball in the states in 2022.
Ceiling: All-Star shortstop
Projection: starting shortstop
3.) Kevin Alcantara OF
Alcantara, acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade with the Yankees, passes the eye test of a major league right fielder. He’s only 19 years old, and could add a little bit more muscle to his frame, but his athleticism is undeniable. In the outfield he has a quick first step and takes great reads that compliments his strong arm that can keep him in right field. At the plate, Alcantara’s swing could be played on a loop in the Art Institute of Chicago and could add even more power to his swing when he adds more muscle. He had the opportunity to play in the ACL in 2021 where he hit .337/.415/.609/ putting his OPS over 1.000. With many good prospects being added throughout the 2021 season Alcantara is not getting the attention he deserves. Once he has a full season for Myrtle Beach and perhaps South Bend in 2022 that will not be the case.
Ceiling 30 home run right Fielder / potential All-Star
Projection: starting right fielder
4.) Pete Crow-Armstrong OF
After being acquired in the Javier Baez trade with the Mets, Pete Crow-Armstrong (nicknamed PCA) became the best defensive outfielder in the organization. His plus speed combined with his great instincts make him able to roam centerfield for years to come. Jack Leggett even said, according to Tim Corbin during the 2020 MLB draft, that PCA could play centerfield in the big leagues the day he was drafted. In the batters box, PCA is not going to hit for a lot of power, but he has good bat to ball skills and could swipe twenty bags a season. Imagine a speedier Albert Almora, the one Joe Maddon envisioned after getting more opportunities. PCA was sidelined most of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury, but he should be back healthy for 2022 in Myrtle Beach.
Ceiling: Gold Glove center fielder / All-Star
Projection: starting center fielder
5.) DJ Herz LHP
There is a reason why every DJ Herz start is called Herzday, he’s just flat out dominant. Hertz has a low to mid 90’s fastball with plenty of run, which is even harder to pick up with his long quick arm action. And he compliments his fastball with a plus knee buckling curveball he can throw for a strike and also bury in the dirt for a swing and a miss. Thanks to the elevated fastball/curveball combo, Herz struck out 131 batters in 81.2 innings, and no that is not a typo. Herz also has an average changeup that could be an effective tool against right handed batters that he seems to have a good feel for. His final start of the season came as a member of the South Bend Cubs, and he will likely start the year in South Bend at 21 years old before a quick promotion if he can succeed there. Put him at the top of the list of incredibly talented lefties in the system.
Ceiling: number 2 in a rotation
Projection: number 3 in a rotation
6.) Reggie Preciado SS/3B
Reggie Preciado is another teenager in the Cubs system with top 100 prospect potential before his minor league career is all said and done. Preciado has a good hit tool on both sides of the plate that he put on display in the ACL for the 2021 season, and as he matures ,and adds on more muscle, he will also add more power. Overall, Preciado slashed .333/.383/.511, but something to keep an eye on is his splits from both sides of the plate. Preciado had 16 total extra base hits and hit 13 of those came as a LHB where he struck out at a lower rate as well. Defensively, Preciado has a strong arm but lacks lateral quickness and could make a full time move to 3rd. No matter where he plays, he has the type of bat you need in a lineup. Preciado will be another talented player to more than likely start the year playing for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 2022.
Ceiling: high average 20-30 home run third basemen
Projection: starting third baseman with 20+ home runs a year
7.) Kevin Made SS/3B
At 18 years old for most of 2021, Kevin Made only faced one pitcher younger than him at Myrtle Beach where he showed he could compete with the older competition. His smooth glove combined with his range and above average arm show he can play a quality SS or 3rd in the long haul. At the plate he doesn’t walk often, but he also doesn’t strikeout at a high rate either. Most of his contact, at the start of year, was weak and he slapped the ball all over the field. However, one of the most impressive things Made did all year was show he could change his approach at the plate and display a little power. In the month of August Made slugged .453 and in the month of September he slugged .373. After spending all of 2021 in Myrtle Beach, Made will probably start 2022 at 19 years old in South Bend and split time between SS and 3rd.
Ceiling: starting defensive first SS
Projection: utility infielder
8.) Jordan Wicks LHP
Listening to Dan Kantrovitz talk about Jordan Wicks, you cannot help but feel the buzz the entire organization has toward Wicks’ potential as a top of the rotation kind of arm. Wicks has a true three pitch mix with his changeup being his best offering, and the best one out of the entire 2021 draft according to most scouts. He compliments his changeup, which he can throw in any count, with a mid 90’s fastball and a slider that could also be an above average pitch. After being drafted Wicks made his Cubs debut for the South Bend Cubs where he threw 7 innings total. At 22 years old it is anyone’s guess where he starts in the system in 2022. He could throw some more innings in South Bend, or the Cubs might feel he is ready for AA in Tennessee. Regardless, Wicks should be a fast riser in the system with his three pitch mix and ability to easily repeat his low effort delivery.
Ceiling: number 2 in a rotation
Projection: number 3 or 4 in a rotation
9.) James Triantos INF
James Triantos received a lot of pre-draft buzz in the Cubs community thanks to Cubs prospect writer Greg Zumach who, legend has it, has scouted Triantos since birth. Triantos himself was a legend in Virginia high school baseball batting higher than .700 and only striking out one time. And Triantos has done nothing in the organization except live up to the buzz. His first taste of professional baseball was in the ACL where he batted .327 and clubbed 6 homers in 101 at bats. The infield is a different story for Triantos, however. He played shortstop in high school out of necessity, but he will more than likely play 3rd or 2nd base in the long term. If he struggles defensively at those positions, it is also likely he could move to 1st or left field. His hit tool is good enough where you find a position for him to play. Mark Triantos down for another incredibly talented player that will play for Myrtle Beach in 2022.
Ceiling: Above league average OPS 3rd basement
Projection: starting 2nd baseman
10.) Owen Cassie OF
Owen Cassie put up gaudy numbers in the Arizona Complex League before coming down to Earth after a promotion to Myrtle Beach. His best and loudest tool is his power, but do not sleep on his hit tool either, Cassie is not an all or nothing type hitter. For a 19 year old teenager Cassie has a mature knowledgable approach and swing that allow him to work counts and draw walks, which helped him have a total OPS in 2021 of .923. However, on defense Cassie does not have the quickest first step when reading balls, and although he has good speed and athleticism, it does not always show on diamond. His future in the outfield is probably going to be limited to left-field, but in the future he could make a transition to first base as he fills out his frame. Cassie will most likely start 2022 in Myrtle Beach.
Ceiling: above average OPS LF / 1st basemen
Projection: A streaky three true outcome type 1st basemen/left fielder
11.) Brailyn Marquez LHP
Don’t forget about Brailyn Marquez even though he didn’t pitch in 2021. The left-hander still has one of the best fastballs in the system. With a three-quarters arm slot and an easy delivery his fastball can touch 100 with arm side run. His slider also can get outs and grades average to slightly above average, but he lacks a true third pitch. That might point toward Marquez having a future in the bullpen, but his splits are similar between right handed and left-handed batters and he has shown, at least in 2019 during his last full season of baseball, that he has the ability to get through a lineup multiple times. Because he didn’t pitch in 2021, Marquez has fallen down on some lists, but he did strike out 128 batters in 103.2 innings in 2019 with a 3.13 ERA. At 6’4 he also looks the part of a frontline major league arm. Look for him to have a similar role that Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson had in 2021 for the Cubs where he could potentially have a spot in the Cubs pen before moving to the rotation.
Ceiling: a number 3 in a rotation / closer
Projection: long reliever / hybrid bullpen starter type arm
12.) Ed Howard SS/2B
There was a lot of hype after Howard was surprisingly drafted 16th overall in the 2020 MLB draft. Every time someone in the Cubs organization talks about Howard they talk about the off the field intangibles, maturity, work ethic, eagerness to get better, but the hype might have been a little overblown and Howard showed in the 2021 season that he is human. No one should be down on Howard, he had his struggles, but he was one of the youngest guys in all of low-A. Defensively, he earned the nickname “Silk” and showed he could make highlight reels at both SS and 2nd where he is major league ready. Overall at the plate, Howard slashed .225/.277/.315, but as the season went on he showed his maturity and improved with each month (besides June when he was injured). In September alone he slashed .283/.296/.358. With those improvements the Cubs could move him up to South Bend to begin the 2022 season, or he could start in Myrtle Beach and be promoted quickly.
Ceiling: Gold Glove shortstop who will hit for power
Projection: starting SS or 2nd basemen / platoon infielder
13.) Caleb Kilian RHP
Caleb Killian had one of the best stat lines in all of minor league baseball with a lower WHIP and ERA than even DJ Herz. Unlike Herz though, nothing Killian throws is very flashy. He has four pitches: a mid 90’s fastball, a changeup, a hard curveball with downward break (his best pitch), and a cutter, but Killian has plus command that makes up for his lack of plus offerings. Through 100.1 innings thrown in 2021, Killian only walked 13 batters. He works best when he changes speeds, throws off-speed behind in counts, and generates ground balls. After a strong showing so far in the AFL, Killian could start the year in Iowa in 2022 where he would turn 25 years old. If he can get outs in Iowa he could make his major league debut in 2022.
Ceiling: a number 3 in a rotation
Projection: a number four in a rotation
14.) Anderson Espinoza RHP
Once rated the 13th best prospect in all of baseball in 2016 according to Pipeline, Espinoza fell in lots of rankings after multiple injuries and the lost season due to Covid-19. However, Espinoza showed the cubs why he was once a highly regarded prospect. After being acquired in the Jake Marisnick trade, Espinoza struck out 43 batters in 29.1 innings, ending his season in AA Tennessee on a high note where he threw 13.1 innings and only gave up 2 runs. At his best, Espinoza has a mid to high 90’s fastball with lots of sink and run combined with a devastating slider. With the fastball/slider combo, Espinoza generates lots of ugly swings and misses, and with the fastball especially, he generates lots of ground balls. He will need to develop a better third offering to stick in a rotation down the road, but he could be a back of the bullpen type arm if a third pitch is not developed.
Ceiling: a 2 or 3 in a rotation
Projection: a number 4 or 5 in a rotation / high leverage bullpen arm
15.) Ryan Jensen RHP
As the 2021 season progressed Ryan Jensen seemed to get better and better. Jensen’s best pitch is his fastball he can throw in the mid to high 90’s with lots of run and sink. His fastball alone gets a lot of swings and misses and ground balls, but he also compliments his fastball with a wipeout slider. He also has flashed a curveball as a good get-me- over type pitch and a solid changeup. Jensen threw in both South Bend and Tennessee in 2021 with a 4.16 ERA in 80 innings, but do not let that fool you. Jensen had a couple bad outings which inflated his ERA. He kept batters to a .196 average and had a 1.09 WHIP. Jensen was especially stellar during his cup of tea in AA Tennessee where he will probably start the year in 2022.
Ceiling: a 3 or 4 in a rotation
Projection: a 4 or 5 / back end of the bullpen arm
16.) Yohendrick Pinango OF
Yes, Cubs Twitter is a real place. No, it did not discuss Yohendrick Pinango enough in 2021. During his age 19 season in Myrtle Beach he played 84 games for the Pelicans where he slashed .272/.322/.370 before he earned a promotion to South Bend and played even better against much older competition. Maturity is the word when it comes to Pinango. He works deep counts and works walks while not striking out often. When he puts the ball in play, he uses all fields and has some speed he uses on the base paths. Pinango hasn’t shown he can hit for power, but he has a lot of muscle for a teenager and the power will probably come. Defensively, his arm will probably keep him in left, but he has good instincts in the outfield and doesn’t make a lot of errors. He only took six at-bats against younger pitching in 2021, and in 2022 he could get some time in AA Tennessee at 20 years old.
Ceiling: high average / high OBP starting left fielder
Projection: left handed platoon bat
17.) Miguel Amaya C
Unfortunately, Miguel Amaya did not see the field much in 2021 due to injury. But in limited action Amaya was able to take some walks and hit for a little power for a total OPS of .710. Amaya’s best asset is his ability to catch a game and keep the baserunners in check. Many pitchers within the organization have raved about his maturity and pitch calling. With Amaya it all depends on how well his bat can play. Amaya could start the year in either AA or AAA, but will likely get an opportunity to catch some games for the Cubs in 2022.
Ceiling: starting catcher
Projection: defense first backup catcher
18.) Alexander Canario OF
If you watched Alexander Canario’s 2 week stretch after being acquired in the Kris Bryant trade, you would think he will develop into a perennial All-Star. The 21 year old hit four home runs in four consecutive days during that two week stretch and slashed .280/.333/.574. Overall though, Canario had an up and down year in 2021 where his total slash line was .230/.300/.431. Also, Canario struck out 125 times in 456 plate appearances. His best tool is definitely his power, and he is up there with Brennen Davis in terms of pure bat speed. With a refined, disciplined approach, Canario could be one of the most exciting Cubs prospects in 2022. Although he is on the 40-man roster, Canario more than likely won’t make his MLB debut until 2023, but he could get some at-bats in AAA Iowa.
Ceiling: 30 home run outfielder with low average
Projection: platoon type power bat in the outfield
19.) Kohl Franklin RHP
It doesn’t seem fair, but Kohl Franklin has been in the Cubs organization since 2018 and has only logged 50.2 innings. Franklin has some of the best stuff in the system including his changeup that is only second in the system behind Jordan Wicks. When his season is not cut short from an injury or global pandemic, Franklin has been successful. All the way back in 2019, Franklin had a sparkling 2.38 ERA in 42 innings with 52 strikeouts between short season Eugene and low-A South Bend thanks to his true three pitch mix. One thing to look out for is how extreme of a fly ball pitcher Franklin has been when on the bump in professional ball. In those 42 innings in 2019 Franklin had a GO/AO of 0.08. While that is pretty difficult to duplicate, a high fly ball rate pitcher might not bode well at Wrigley field, so it should be something to monitor in 2022. Franklin could start at almost any level in 2022 since he hasn’t logged many innings, but expect him to jump through a lot of levels and get innings anywhere from low-A to AA.
Ceiling: 3 or 4 in a rotation
Projection: 4 or 5 in a rotation / quality bullpen arm
20.) Nelson Velazquez OF
Besides Brennen Davis, no one in the Cubs system had a better year at the plate statistically than Nelson Velazquez where he almost had a 20-20 season between South Bend and Tennessee. On the year Velazquez slashed .270/.333/.496, and the only blemish in the stat line was his 132 strikeouts in 103 games. Without looking at Velazquez’s box scores you would see an outfield with some of the best bat speed in the system that could make him a potential 30 home run hitter in the major leagues. And besides his plus power, he is an average defender with a rocket for an arm that makes him a viable option in right field. After the 2021 season Velazquez played in the AFL and could be added to the Cubs 40-man roster. If he can continue producing power numbers in 2022 he could play for the Cubs even with the high strikeout numbers.
Ceiling: starting right fielder with high slugging numbers
Projection: 4th outfielder with a good bench power bat and a good defensive substitution in the outfield
21.) Jordan Nwogu OF
Pound for pound you cannot name a more athletic player in the organization than Jordan Nwogu. Nwogu walked on the Michigan baseball team, after declining multiple Division 1 offers to play football, where he batted leadoff for the Wolverines before being selected by the Cubs in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft. Nwogu has a treasure chest of raw talent combined with a work ethic coaches rave about. After being drafted he was more of a project type prospect with a wonky swing, a weak arm, and less than desired baseball instincts in the outfield. But the Cubs knew Nwogu would be a project, and he showed glimpses of being the projectable major league outfielder the Cubs envisioned during the 2021 season. Nwogu had a dismal May and June in 2021, never batting over .150, but he turned that around for the rest of the season and became one of the better hitters for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans during the year. Overall, Nwogu slashed .248/.344/.390 in the non-hitter friendly TicketReturn.com Field and also stole 16 bases in 20 attempts. When he starts the year in South Bend next year, look for Nwogu to blow by that number in 2022 if the league keeps the rule where pitchers must disengage from the rubber before throwing to a base.
Ceiling: 30 home run left fielder
Projection: platoon power bat
22.) Chris Morel INF/OF
Chris Morel is a walking highlight reel. On the diamond at one of the six positions he plays, on the base paths, in the batters box, everything he does demands attention. He has legit under appreciated speed, defensive flexibility in both the infield and outfield, a rocket for an arm, and plus power. However, in the batters box he lacks consistency, going on long hitless streaks then going on incredible runs like on July 2nd, when he hit three home runs during a doubleheader. Morel is already on the 40-man roster and could make his Cubs debut in 2022.
Ceiling: a starter at multiple positions
Projection: bat off the bench / defensive substitution / pinch runner
23.) Chase Strumpf 2B/3B
In 2021 Strumpf was one of the first promotions in the system where he moved from South Bend to Tennessee after 16 games after he hit .309 and had an OPS of .800. However, Strumpf had his struggles in AA Tennessee soon after that promotion. In June and July Strumpf did not bat over .169, but he had a strong showing in August where he slashed .339/.435/.593 for an OPS over 1.000. When drafted many people believed Strumpf would be limited to only second base due to not having the quickest lateral movement, but he logged 434.1 innings at 3rd in Tennessee compared to 75 innings at 2nd. Defense and infield ability is never going to be one of Strumpf’s strong suits, but his flexibility adds to his value as a prospect. If his bat can stay hot like it was in the month of August, Strumpf could be a fast riser in the system.
Ceiling: starting 2nd/3rd basemen
Projection: infield bench bat / utility player
24.) Alexander Vizcaino RHP
Alexander Vizcaino was sent to the Cubs as part of the Rizzo trade with the Yankees and is currently on the Cubs 40-man roster, and if you look at his repertoire you can see he matches what the Cubs have been looking for in arms. Vizcaino has a plus fastball that has touched 100 in the past, but as a starter he will sit in the high 90’s. His changeup is his next best pitch, and also a plus offering but is not the Kyle Hendricks-esque changeup Cubs fans are used to seeing. Vizcaino’s changeup is thrown in the low 90’s with sharp downward run. He is working on a breaking ball, but it is severely behind his other pitches. Usually when you think plus changeup you think starting pitcher, but at 24 years old, Vizcaino could be running out of time as a starter. In 2022 if he has some struggles in a rotation, look to see Vizcaino get opportunities pitching out of the pen.
Ceiling: a number 5 in a rotation / high leverage bullpen arm
Projection: bullpen arm
25.) Daniel Palencia RHP
Acquired in the Andrew Chafin trade that also sent Greg Deichmann to the Cubs, Palencia threw his first innings of pro ball during the 2021 season and finished the year strong for Myrtle Beach, striking out 38 batters in 27 innings of work with a 3.67 ERA. Palencia has a plus, plus fastball that touches triple digits consistently throughout his starts, but it can be flat, causing more fly balls than ground balls. He also lacks a solid secondary offering, primarily relying on his heater throughout his starts. When you throw 100+ in A ball it is not a problem, but once he starts climbing up the system’s ladder he’ll need a better breaking ball. Luckily, the Cubs infrastructure has shown they are able to develop better, sharper breaking balls with pitchers in the past. If Daniel Palencia is one of those guys, the Cubs might have found a diamond in the rough. Palencia could start the year in South Bend next year where the Cubs hopefully continue to use him as a starter.
Ceiling: spot starter / 5th guy in a rotation
Projection: power arm in a bullpen
Feature photo of Kevin Alcantara by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)