There were a ton of injuries throughout the Cubs system last year. Part of that can be attributed to the lack of 2020 season and the abnormal ramp up back to “normal” baseball activity. As Sahadev Sharma points out in The Athletic, you could maybe point to the velocity building programs as a source of the issues. But when it comes down to it, much of the injury bug is caused by dumb luck.

Four of my top 20 hitters and TEN of my top 20 pitchers in the system entering the 2021 campaign missed a significant portion of the year due to injury. Think about that for a second.

With those injuries comes opportunity for a guy to return to the field only for fans to say, “Damn, I completely forgot about him! Glad he’s doing well.” This is your chance to be prepared and keep an eye out so that none of these players catch you off guard in 2022.

Brailyn Marquez, LHP

I’m obligated to start off this list with the man you’ve all been asking about for the last year. Let’s talk about Brailyn by simply answering some questions.

Yes, Marquez had an entire season disrupted by injury, conditioning, and COVID. Yes, it impacted his development process. No, it didn’t disrupt him nearly as much as other prospects in this post. Yes, he still has arguably the highest upside in the system. No, I don’t think this lost season affected his reliever risk. Yes, I still think that reliever risk is considerable.

Assuming he’s healthy for spring training, you can expect Marquez to begin the year in the Tennessee rotation.

Kohl Franklin, RHP

I’ve said it before, but the missed COVID season and missed injury season might have impacted Franklin more than anyone in the system. He went from a teenager pitching in full-season ball to a 22-year-old with only three innings of experience above short-season in what seems like the blink of an eye.

But don’t let that deter you from still believing in Kohl as a legit top of the rotation righty. He’s got a body that profiles well in the rotation, mid-90s heat, arguably the best changeup in a system loaded with changeups, and a spike curve that he’s ready to deploy.

Assuming he’s healthy for spring training, you can expect Franklin to begin the year in the South Bend rotation.

Riley Thompson, RHP

Much like you saw with the last guy and the next guy on this list, Thompson is seeing a bit of an age issue today. He was already a bit older than most top prospects at Low-A in 2019 at 22. But his interesting path (Tommy John surgery, reliever role in college converted to pro starter) and relative freshness of his arm (80 total innings between college and summer ball) proved that his age shouldn’t be a concern.

The chances the 6’4”, 210 pound 25-year-old ends up back in the bullpen are quite a bit higher now but much like Franklin, he’s got the size and the repertoire (fastball, changeup, spike curve) to stick in the rotation long-term.

Assuming he’s healthy for spring training, you can expect Thompson to begin the year with a cup of coffee in South Bend where he can get his feet wet again before getting the quick call to Tennessee.

Jack Patterson, LHP

A text I got yesterday from Jimmy Nelligan, about Patterson: “I hope he’s just grinding and he comes back bigger and throws like 98 out of the pen with run.”

While that seems extremely unlikely, how sick would it be? And would it *really* surprise you? Patterson works his ass off and was THE story of the 2019 Cubs system. His scoreless innings streak was like something out of a movie and going from the complex league to Double-A is almost unheard of.

He’s more than likely a reliever now that he’s 26-years-old, but he could still be great in a multi-inning role thanks to his bowling ball of a sinker, biting slider, and re-worked spike curve.

Cole Roederer, OF

I missed seeing the California Kid play last year. One of the most exciting players in the system underwent the rarer position player TJ surgery after just 20 games. But Roederer is more than just an entertaining player to watch. There’s a reason why he has been talked about in the same breath as Brennen Davis for the first few years of their careers.

Unlike pitchers, there’s much less concern over Cole’s recovery with him being a center fielder. The arm was never a strength but he possesses great defense and some terrific pop at the dish.

He might be DHing the first portion of the season, but the assumption is that Roederer the hitter will be ready to roll come opening day. Expect him to take up shop in the Tennessee starting lineup.

Feature photo of Cole Roederer by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)