Feature photo of Pete Crow-Armstrong by Todd Johnson.

I’m batting leadoff I guess, huh? This week the quartet of writers and co-founders here at North Side Bound will be releasing an update to our individual prospect rankings followed by a cumulative version and our official NSB rankings. The schedule is as follows:

Today — Yours Truly
Wednesday — Todd Johnson
Thursday — Jimmy Nelligan
Friday — Greg Zumach
Monday — NSB’s Official Rankings

Quite a bit has changed since we last released an update to our rankings, one that actually happened to be our very first of installment of rankings (and any type of post, for that matter) here at a brand new website. Back in November, we had our hands full with handfuls of players that we hadn’t seen play live baseball games on our computer monitors. It was incredibly difficult to rank the players that called this system home back then.

Today, we have a much better idea of who is legit and who might not be. We’ve seen guys showcase their skills and heard how they interact with coaches, teammates, and adversity. Because of that, you might see some serious changes to our lists this week compared to eight months ago. We aren’t THAT bad at ranking players, I promise.

One of us has to kick of the festivities, and it might as well be me!

1. Brennen Davis | OF, Triple-A (IL)

Yeah, this is basically a lost season for Davis following his back surgery, but he will still be just 23-years-old to begin the 2023 campaign in Triple-A. There will surely be plenty of people over this offseason that will be down on Davis, but rest assured, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be the No. 1 prospect in the system now and come Spring Training next year.

2. Kevin Alcántara | OF, Single-A

Alcántara is reminding me more and more of a young Brennen Davis. His lanky frame has plenty of room to add more muscle to his already present power. He has exceeded every single expectation we had for him entering this year.

3. Pete Crow-Armstrong | OF, High-A

I beg you to not go back and look where I had PCA ranked before the season. I was waiting to see how the bat would develop in his return from injury. Well, it developed. More power, walking at a good enough clip, displaying gold glove defense, running wild on the bases. This kid does it all.

4. Cristian Hernández | SS, AZ Complex

Still waiting on Hernández to make his full-season and MiLB TV debut, but the reports are still phenomenal. Great athlete with ability to stick at shortstop and elite fluidity at the plate. He sticks right around here on my list until I know more.

5. DJ Herz | LHP, High-A

The dude has followed up his dominant 2021 campaign with an equally as dominant 2022. I know, I know, he needs to go deeper into starts. But at some point down the line, you earn your way to being the top pitching prospect in the system when you do what Herz is doing.

6. Caleb Kilian | RHP, Triple-A

It’s pretty clear to me at this point that I undervalued the additions to Kilian’s repertoire before the season. He still needs to improve some of the offerings, including his spike curve and four-seam that will allow him to generate more whiffs, but once he does that he will have five pitches to play with.

7. James Triantos | 3B, Single-A

I don’t think we can ask for much more from Triantos in his first taste of full-season ball. The overall stats are better than league-average and he’s making plenty of contact, like we expected. No reason to bump him too far up or too far down this list.

8. Owen Caissie | OF, High-A

I’ll admit, I got a little concerned over the first month of the season with Caissie. But after those first few weeks, he’s been an entirely different hitter. He’s been extraordinarily good at going the opposite way and I’m excited to see him begin to use that raw power and turn on baseballs more often.

9. Jordan Wicks | LHP, High-A

It’s been a super weird season for Wicks, falling into some really bad batted ball luck so far. He looks the part in High-A and think he might get a taste of Double-A before the season is done. The Jon Lester bulldog mentality is still ever-present and eventually the batting average against will match the impressive strikeout and walk numbers.

10. Kevin Made | SS, Single-A

2022 Made is completely different than 2021 Made. While he obviously had a unique ability to make contact with the baseball a year ago, now he’s hitting the ball with authority and in the air and also doing something I would have never imagined — drawing walks at a rate that’s better than league average.

11. Yohendrick Pinango | OF, High-A

We all said that once Pinango started consistently turning on the baseball, he would be a force to be reckoned with. He’s doing that now, even top ten in the system in long balls. While I’m more confident in his bat being legit than some, it’s still gotta be a carrying trait in a profile that features him playing LF and tallying fewer than 20 stolen bases.

12. Ryan Jensen | RHP, Double-A

Another guy I was probably too high on. I had Jensen as the top ranked arm before the season and then he went out and looked pretty rough, especially compared to guys like Kilian and Herz. But now he’s got a new arm action, one that means more consistency in his delivery, and he’s starting to make me believe again.

13. Reggie Preciado | IF, Single-A (IL)

I’ll admit I was way too high on Preciado before the season. Ranking him number two? Not something I’m going to brag about. But even after his brutal start to the season and his injury, I’m a believer in him. It just might take longer for him to adjust than we’d like.

14. Ed Howard | SS, High-A (IL)

We can’t get trapped over the next several months into thinking Howard was having a bad season before going down with his hip injury. The stats aren’t beautiful, but he looked so much better at the plate in game action compared to a year ago. I’m worried about the recovery process with such a gruesome injury, though.

15. Luis Devers | RHP, High-A

Talk about a breakout. From unranked to a very clear top 20 guy in my eyes. Devers’ changeup and command is the driving force here. His heater is somewhat pedestrian but when paired with the changeup, it’s a great 1-2 punch. Now up in High-A, I’m excited to see the development of his breaking hall.

16. Daniel Palencia | RHP, High-A

When Palencia is on, he looks like the best pitching prospect in the system. He’s still young so that’s a good enough excuse as to why that dominance hasn’t been consistent enough. For now, I just really like his pitch mix and think there’s plenty of upside for him to fly up this list by season’s end.

17. Jordan Nwogu | OF, High-A

Second verse, same as the first. After another rough start to the season, Nwogu turned it on and is still playing the majority of his games in center field. I’m keeping him this low until we still him perform in the upper levels of the minors.

18. Luke Little | LHP, Single-A

If it weren’t for the performance Luis Devers put together for Myrtle in the first half, we’d be talking more about Little. The better half of the Growing Cubs Pod, Jimmy, compared what Little is doing this year to Brailyn Marquez in past years. There’s some real legitimacy to that comp.

19. Nelson Velazquez | OF, MLB

We know who Nelly is. He’s gonna put up silly exit velos and strike out a ton. He’s fast enough to be dangerous on the bases and play some decent outfield. He’s walking a Patrick Wisdom-style tightrope when it comes to being a productive MLBer given his profile.

20. Chase Strumpf | 3B, Double-A

The now decent defensive third baseman has seen his career trajectory go from a contact oriented second baseman to a corner infielder with power that strikes out too much and doesn’t hit for a high enough average. Regardless, he’s still a valuable hitter, albeit one that is prone to those streaky stretches.

21. Miguel Amaya | Catcher, Double-A (IL)

It’s probably not fair that I’ve dropped Amaya 10 slots from my offseason list considering he’s done exactly what we expected from him — worked his way back from Tommy John to the point where he is now taking DH at-bats down in the ACL. Perhaps we should look at this as more of a compliment to the depth in this system and their improvements this season.

22. Kohl Franklin | RHP, High-A

I can assure you that I haven’t walked away from Franklin’s starts this year feeling good. But does he deserve a fall this far down my list? Probably not. It’s tough working back from a two-year absence and I’m sure he’ll be looking his best here in a few weeks.

23. Alexander Canario | OF, Double-A

Time to be a bit harsh. I don’t see Canario being a big leaguer unless he puts together a Christopher Morel-like and mind blowing adjustment at the plate with his approach. I’ve compared Canario to Trayce Thompson because of his very “grooved” — something that is assuredly not a scouting term. Give him a heater, you’ll pay. Throw an slider, you’re golden.

24. Cam Sanders | RHP, Triple-A

The more I watch Sanders pitch the more I view him in the same light as Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele. The Cubs new approach to utilizing pitchers in the Major League bullpen with the intention of eventually converting them to the rotation (better late than never) really helps Sanders and his electric stuff in this ranking.

25. Tyler Schlaffer | RHP, Single-A

The flashes of brilliance from Schlaffer outweigh the occasions where a young kid seemingly loses all feel for the ball in couple inning stretches. I’ve fallen into past traps of believing in a fly ball pitcher that allows too many dingers, but I think Schlaffer has a real chance to be different than the Cory Abbotts and Tyson Millers of the world.

Just Missed the Cut

(Alphabetically): Bryce Ball, Moises Ballesteros, Jeremiah Estrada, Darius Hill, Porter Hodge, Bryan Hudson, Nelson Maldonado, Matt Mervis, Ezequiel Pagan, Walker Powell, Cole Roederer, Jared Young

We’ll be back tomorrow with Todd’s ranking and in the meantime, be sure to let me know what I got wrong. You can comment here or find me on Twitter @OutOfTheVines and let me know why I should have my prospect writing card revoked!

Editor’s (Greg Huss’) note: Matt Mervis has been added to the “Just Missed the Cut” section after original publication. He was inadvertently omitted.