We’re coming out with a ton of new elements to North Side Bound every day, between my work on the Mid-Week Buzz, Jimmy’s work covering all the things that went unnoticed in 2021, and Todd’s work on an IFA database — the first of its kind that I’ve seen.
Today, I’m adding another thing to that list — The Friday Five. It’s something I’ve done over at my little blog for a while, picking a topic that features five Cubs minor leaguers each week. The topic can be anything from player skill sets like “who has the most power?” to “what dudes have sick names?”
We watched plenty of new names enter the Cubs system this year, but this week I want to focus on guys that really hopped onto radars as the season wore on. Each of the guys below have watched their names rise up prospect lists, whether that’s from outside of the conversation of the team’s top 30 to approaching levels of gaining national notoriety.
Here are five guys that made names for themselves this year and because of that, find themselves much higher up prospects lists than was the case before the 2021 campaign began.
Kevin Made | IF, Low-A
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2019, Made quickly became a forgotten man by the time opening day 2021 rolled around. After his signing, a whole host of teens were brought into the system including Ed Howard, Cristian Hernandez, Reggie Preciado, and Ismael Mena.
But this year Made showed off what made him the 20th ranked IFA in his class, putting the bat on the ball early during the 2021 campaign and adding more and more power as the season wore on. Defensively, he displayed some elite athleticism at shortstop, even taking some reps away from Silk Howard over there.
All the sudden, you’re looking at a top 10 talent in this system. Greg Zumach even has him ranked up at number three overall, a distinction that is impressive given where he began the year.
Owen Caissie | OF, Low-A
When the Cubs acquired Caissie as a part of the Darvishtini deal last year, I think everyone had a worry that his big body was going to *have* to hit in order for his potential to play out. He fell into the category of “if he doesn’t hit, he doesn’t play.”
Well we found out that he does hit, that’s for sure. Superb exit velo numbers, insane bat speed, and an impeccable eye at the plate. Now, we wait and see if he can be more than a DH, something that will take his name even further up prospect lists.
Max Bain | RHP, High-A
Max is technically the lowest ranked guy of this bunch here today, but he has probably made the greatest jump up prospect lists of anyone. Prospect Folks ™️ everywhere were supremely excited for his debut after a wild offseason that saw him become the most talked about undrafted free agent in franchise history. But it was nearly impossible to throw him on a top prospect list because, quite frankly, we hadn’t seen him take the field as this version of himself — ever.
Turns out, this version of Bain is pretty damn good. As the season wore on, he really began to get a good feel for the pitches that worked best for him. He took home Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Month for August and now we have enough evidence to feature him on the back-end of top prospect lists. I would never bet against him and now we have numbers and video to prove why that’s the case.
DJ Herz | LHP, High-A
You shouldn’t be shocked to see the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year on this list. There was a decent amount of hype surrounding DJ in the preseason in some inner circles with some people willing to stick him as high as the teens of their lists. Confidence in his athleticism and what super scout Billy Swoope saw really led the charge.
But then Herz went out and put together one of the most dominating season-long performances I’ve ever seen in my life. His fastball? Elite life. The curve? Some Arrieta-like deception. His changeup? Arguably the best in the system. DJ Herz is locked in as a top 3 arm in the system.
Ryan Jensen | RHP, Double-A
This might be a bit of a strange inclusion on a list of players rising up prospect lists. Jensen is a former first rounder that has always been on fans’ radars. But coming into this year, there was plenty of hesitation as to whether he would be a starter or a reliever long-term. That, in turn, limited how high you saw him on lists.
Now I can say that I feel a lot more confident in Jensen’s likelihood of remaining in the rotation. His curveball and changeup took great strides this season in addition to his ELITE fastball/slider combo. Two great pitches, two good pitches, big strikeout numbers, and next level ground ball numbers all point to Jensen being the number one pitching prospect in the Chicago Cubs system in my eyes.
Feature photo of Owen Caissie by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)