This year we are going to watch a lot of new and exciting prospects in the Cubs system. Myrtle beach alone could feature 7 of Pipeline’s top 15 Cubs prospects at some point this year. But let’s not forget about the rest of the young guys in the system. Top to bottom the Cubs have lots of talent, and I want to highlight ten guys I’m really excited to watch play this year that didn’t make any 2022 organizational lists.
- Luis Vazquez
The Cubs have a lot of great defensive shortstops in the system, and Vazquez’s fielding tool deserves to be up there with guys like Howard and Made. His glove alone allowed Vazquez at 19 years old to play in Eugene all the way up to Iowa where he showed his defense could show out and his bat could hold its own. Last year, Vazquez played in South Bend, finished the year in Tennessee, and got some action in the Arizona Fall League. At the plate, Vazquez takes professional at-bats. He rarely strikes out, draws walks, and can even swipe a bag or two. Before this spring I thought Vazquez wasn’t going to hit for a lot of power, but Bryan Smith at Bleacher Nation noted Vazquez has gotten significantly bigger. If some of the added muscle can translate into power, Vazquez could find his way on some lists after this year. More than likely, Vazquez will start the year in AA Tennessee after some rehab work. If the bat can perform, he could wind up being one of the funnest middle infielders to watch this year.
- Delvin Zinn
Another fun to watch 2022 Tennessee Smokie is middle infielder Delvin Zinn. Zinn has had a pretty good spring training so far, getting some looks at SS and playing with the big leaguers. In 2021, Zinn had an impressive season in South Bend in the basepaths. He stole 42 bases in 48 tries, and slashed for .234/.300/.330. However, in Tennessee, toward the latter half of the year, Zinn struggled hitting only .159. He also only swiped two bases in 8 tries. Teammates love having Zinn on the roster, and his athleticism is undeniable. Defensively, he is probably a second basemen long term, especially if Vazquez plays in Tennessee, but Zinn could find his way as a bench bat, pinch runner type utility guy for a major league squad in the future. Regardless, Zinn’s speed and athelticism is always fun to watch on the diamond.
- Levi Jordan
Levi Jordan is a master of none, good at all, type of infielder. He doesn’t have a tool that will wow you, but he is the type of player old school coaches rave about. Also, believe it or not, Jordan hit 4 times for homeruns in 2021 than he did in the best of his minor league seasons combined. With the new power surge, we could potentially see a 10 homerun 2nd basemen with good plate discipline manning second base in AAA. The lack of defensive flexibility could hurt Jordan’s chances at making the MLB club at some point in 2022 with guys like Christopher Morel, Dixon Machado, and Robel Garcia with better defensive ability and flexibility around the diamond, but stranger things have happened. Levi Jordan is running out of time at 26 years old, and if he can show off a little more power, we could see Jordan called up for a brief time. Similar to Trent Giambrone in 2021. Regardless, I’m excited to see a power surging Levi Jordan in Iowa this year.
- Peyton Remy
Peyton Remy actually threw the ball really well last year when he wasn’t hurt, including his 6 inning complete game June 3rd where he struck out 7 batters and only gave up 2 hits. Besides his mustache, Remy doesn’t have anything flashy on the mound, but he’ll throw you the kitchen sink. His fastball sits in the low 90s, he’ll snap a slower 12-6 curveball, a sharper slider, and a changeup. Remy is 25 and coming back from injury after missing the second half of the year. Frankly, I have no idea what his role is or what system he will play in for the 2022 season. But Remy has consistently shown he can get outs, and if he can get healthy this year he could put together a great season whether he is starting games or piggybacking the starter in AA or AAA.
- Eduarniel Nunez
If you ask a pitcher in the Cubs system to name a guy that isn’t getting talked about enough, Eduarniel Nunez is a name that is frequently mentioned. That’s for good reason too. Most guys who consistently throw high 90’s with great spin rates usually are at the top of lists. Nunez, however, is on none. At times Nunez can get a little wild and miss the zone, but when he throws strikes hitters generally don’t do well. He compliments his fastball that he could potentially hit triple digits with at some point this year with a good power type slider that will keep hitters looking for something other than the fastball.
6. Riley Martin
Why am I excited to see a 24 year old starting the year in Myrtle Beach throw this year? Because he is going to strike a lot of guys out. In 14.2 innings of work last year in Myrtle Beach, Martin struck out 21 guys. And his season at Division-II Quincy showed us an even higher strikeout per 9 inning ratio, where he struck out 152 batters in 92.1 innings. Martin has some deception in his left-handed delivery which bodes well because he won’t sling his fastball in the high 90’s. Instead, he pounds the zone with a fastball that touched 95 in Myrtle Beach but will probably sit 91-93. His best pitch, however, is his curveball with lots of sharp downward movement. I would guess Martin won’t stay in Myrtle Beach very long this year, and I think he’s suited best for a multi-inning relief role, piggybacking off of starters in the lower levels of the minors.
- Brandon Hughes
Brandon Hughes joined us on the Growing Cubs Podcast to talk about his 2021 season, and he was one of the funnest, most relatable interviews we’ve had to date. His 2021 season was also one of the best seasons a reliever in the system put together. Brandon Hughes went threw 42 innings striking out 60 guys and held a sparkling ERA of 1.71 between South Bend and Tennessee. The story of Brandon Hughes might even be better than his 2021 stats. Originally drafted as an outfielder, Hughes was given the opportunity to throw after not having an opportunity to grow in the Cubs organization in the outfield. Hughes throws it in the mid 90’s from the left side and compliments his fastball with a sweepy slider that is near impossible for lefties to hit. Hughes will start the year in AA Tennessee where if he continues to succeed in the pen, he could find his way on the Cubs at some point during the 2022 season.
- Ismael Mena
Technically, Ismael Mena did make the FanGraphs Cubs top 49 prospects at 36 this year, but I wanted to give him some love. Mena was a part of the Yu Darvish trade that also sent over Owen Cassie, Reginald Preciado, and Yeison Santana, and he put together a decent season in the ACL batting .224/.287/.295 in 44 games while striking out 45 times and stealing 9 bags. Mena is a true center fielder with his speed being one of his best tools. He does have a hitchy, awkward swing from the left side that can be slappy at times, but he has a decent contact rate and could be a really fun guy to watch on the basepaths, batters box, and outfield for the Pelicans at some point during the 2022 season.
- Matt Mervis
Leading up to the shortened 2020 draft, the Cubs lacked power in the system and found some with Matt Mervis, signing him as an undrafted free agent out of Duke. Mervis has a big left handed swing that can generate some moonshots, but in college it never translated into game action. The Cubs took a chance with him, and he became Myrtle Beach’s first basemen for most of the season where he slugged for .367 in not so hitter friendly TicketReturn.com Field. Mervis also had a chance to play in Iowa for 4 games in 2021 and held his own at the plate. He is 23 years old will start the year in South Bend, but if Mervis can show some more of his light tower power in a home ballpark more hitter friendly, he could put together a fun year with lots of tanks.
- Ben Hecht
Ben Hecht is the only player on this list to not play in 2021 due to injury. Last year on the Growing Cubs Podcast, we did a Cubs minor league reliever fantasy draft with Bryan Smith of Bleacher Nation. I had the first overall pick and decided to go with Ben Hecht. That was how good his 2019 season was. Fast forward to today, and we have yet to see Ben Hecht throw in a game since August of 2019. When he last pitched, he got a lot of ground balls with a good sinking fastball and got a lot of swings and misses. He is 26 years old though, so 2022 will be an important year for Hecht. If I had to guess, he will start the year in Tennessee. If he can get outs there, he could move up to Iowa and be just a step away from Chicago.
Feature photo of Peyton Remy by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)