We’ve been featuring all sorts of prospect rankings here at North Side Bound recently, with all four of us dropping our individual lists in addition to our consensus NSB Top 20. That means there’s been plenty of love for the top tier talent in the system.
But what about the guys that just missed the cut?
There are plenty of reasons why super talented players found themselves on the outside looking in. Some guys went down with injuries and were forced to miss significant time. Others have plenty of promise, but the stats just never came around. And some we just haven’t quite got our eyes on long enough to form a dead set opinion of yet.
Using my personal top 25 list as a barometer, I’m going to identify five Cubs prospects that fall outside my rankings this offseason that could really pop on to radars during the 2022 campaign. Let’s roll.
Tyler Schlaffer | RHP, Low-A
I kicked myself as soon as I saw Greg Zumach included Schlaffer on his prospect list because I was *this* close to including the young righty but left him out. Now I guess that means Zumach gets to hold the distinction of calling his shot on Schlaffer instead of me. Oh, well.
The 20-year-old Homewood native has one of the elite changeups in the system and those of you that have read my work precisely one (1) time know just how much I dig on a damn good change piece. I’m throwing Schlaffer into the mold of Kohl Franklin and DJ Herz — a high school draftee that pops as soon as he gets an extended look in non-complex level ball thanks to pro coaching. I’m not exaggerating when I say he could be a top 10 prospect in the system this time next year.
RHP Tyler Schlaffer, may not get all the headlines, but he's definitely putting together a pretty solid run as a 20-year-old in MB. The stuff has ticked up and he's throwing mid-90s and one of the better changeups in the system. Here are his 5Ks through 3 innings so far. pic.twitter.com/wcQHxOrYP2— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) September 15, 2021
Riley Thompson | RHP, Low-A
After the 2019 campaign came and went, Thompson was on a short list of guys pegged as big time breakout candidates moving forward. He put up good numbers in Low-A, but it was as a 22-year-old. If you watched his starts though, his raw stuff (mid-90s heat, elite changeup, good spike curve) and the sequencing of those pitches indicated that he was gonna be a force to be reckoned with in 2020.
But then he lost that 2020 season in addition to the 2021 season thanks to injuries. I still love his stuff and think that we could see a healthy version of Thompson as well-positioned as the Double-A rotation on opening day 2022. I’m begging you, please don’t sleep on Riley Thompson.
Riley Thompson has one of the best changeups in the system and he developed the pitch… in a dream?— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) July 27, 2020
Plenty of good stuff in this week’s episode! https://t.co/uciN69ekc6 pic.twitter.com/8FuzhBzEAA
Nelson Maldonado | 1B, Double-A
I’d listen to an argument that Maldonado is the best pure hitter in the entire system. So why isn’t he cracking prospect lists? He doesn’t really have a defensive position, he doesn’t have light tower power, and he could afford to draw a few more walks.
But talk about a sleeper, this kid is the definition of the term. The DH in the NL is coming, which opens up more opportunities for the former Florida Gator. Simply a standard development path puts him in line for the bigs in the next couple years, and that’s even without a huge breakout campaign.
I’ve had the chance to ask multiple minor leaguers who we, as fans/writers, aren’t talking enough about. Plenty of friends and roommates get tossed around, but the common name that always gets mentioned? Nelson Maldonado.
FINAL: M-Braves 3, Smokies 6. Nelson Maldonado's 406 foot home run gave the Smokies the WIN today! #SmokiesBaseball #GoSmokies pic.twitter.com/52Tpud9Odt— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) July 18, 2021
Cole Roederer | OF, High-A
How quickly we forget that Roederer and Brennen Davis were the dynamic duo from the day they were drafted a mere 15 picks apart back in 2018. After a promising showing in South Bend in 2019 that saw him playing against competition on average nearly three years older than him, Cole missed nearly the entire season this year thanks to Tommy John surgery.
But the “it” factor is still there for The California Kid. When you watch him play, you can’t help but notice how damn cool he is with every movement he makes. Throw in the fact that he’s a great defender in center field, displays some impressive pop at the plate, and can swipe you a decent amount of bags, and you’re still looking at a potential 4-tool player. Even if he begins the season in South Bend again in 2022, he’ll still just be playing in his age-22 season meaning he isn’t too far behind in his development path.
The 77th overall selection in the 2018 draft.— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 27, 2020
Minor League Monday – Cole Roederer: https://t.co/e1bEjkM1Hu pic.twitter.com/lIZR5DSJIG
Many, many relievers
I’ll admit that I’m cheating here but it’s really difficult to throw relievers into a prospect list so every single one of these guys missed the cut. HOWEVAH, I would throw a bit of money down on every single one of these guys also making at least one appearance on a big league club in their careers. Let’s take a look at the names.
Righties Danis Correa, Jeremiah Estrada, Ben Leeper, Ethan Roberts, Manny Rodriguez, and Cayne Ueckert
Lefties Burl Carraway, Brandon Hughes, and Scott Kobos
In this group of nine dudes, you’re looking at high velo, high spin, multi-inning ability, quirks and uniqueness, high draft picks, undrafted, big league experience, guys that can be found on Cubs Twitter every day, and guys that you’ve probably only seen mentioned a couple times ever. The Cubs system-wide bullpen is elite and you could see them thriving in the Chicago bullpen over the next couple years.
Feature photo of Cole Roederer by Rich Biesterfeld.