Before I made this list, I thought I would be moving a lot of guys up and down from my prospect list I made before the start of the season. But more than anything, I didn’t shuffle guys around. Instead, I added a lot of new names such as Luke Little, Luis Devers, Cam Sanders, Matt Mervis, and Bryce Ball. I was not expecting the Cubs to have as great of starting pitching as they have, and I certainly didn’t expect two good first base prospects in the system. These surprise guys have been one of my favorite stories to watch this season and one of the funnest things, for me at least, to cover.
Let’s get right to the list:
- Brennen Davis OF
With a rough start to the year and an injury, our expectations of Brennen Davis to make the Cubs in 2022 were hampered this year, but I still believe he is the best prospect in the system. He still has the best pure bat in the Cubs organization, and he gives us someone to look forward to in 2023. By the end of 2023, Davis might be the Cubs best outfielder.
- Cristian Hernandez SS
It’s still difficult to rate Hernandez because I haven’t seen him play much. I love the swing and the maturity he’s shown so far in the ACL, and I think his swing will generate plus power as he gets older. Of all the guys on this list, Hernandez might have the best big league career.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong OF
Pete Crow-Armstrong (PCA) had the best first half of the season out of any of the other bats this year. In Myrtle Beach, PCA had an OPS of 1.000, and even though the bat has cooled off a bit in South Bend, where the competition is much older than PCA, his defense has still shined in center field.
- Kevin Alcantara OF
Kevin Alcantara dropped in my mid-season rankings, but I think I might be higher on him now than I was at the start of the year. Alcantara is going to be a guy with big time power, and a great hit tool. I think once Alcantara fills out, he’s going to be an average to above average right fielder defensively with plus everything in the batter’s box.
- DJ Herz LHP
With his arm angle and how he throws from the rubber as close to 1st base as he can, Herz creates a lot of deception with his fastball, and I think it gets graded lower than it should. He doesn’t throw high 90’s, but he still is able to get tons of swings and misses with the fastball. Part of that could be because he has two plus offspeed pitches, but regardless, Herz has three really effective weapons on the mound. He continues to look a level ahead of the competition he has faced so far in his career even though he is much younger. There is a good chance he throws for Tennessee this year at 21 years old.
- Kevin Made SS
Kevin Made has been a different ball player this year. He has added some more muscle, taken his walks, and has hit tanks. Made is already one of the better defensive shortstops in the system, and if the bat can continue to improve, we could have a really great prospect here.
- Owen Cassie OF
Cassie has been one of the fastest risers through the system due to his great approach and left handed bat. I’m still not convinced he ends up in the outfield in the long run, but regardless his power and hit tool will profile anywhere on the diamond or as a DH.
- Caleb Kilian RHP
I was lucky enough to watch Kilian’s Cub debut at Wrigley where he showed us what he did most of the year in AAA. No, I can’t explain Kilian’s so far as a major leaguer, but his stuff is so good, I don’t foresee him struggling for long. He could be one of the better arms in the Cubs rotation as soon as next year.
- Jordan Wicks LHP
Jordan Wicks has shown flashes of his three pitches, including his plus changeup, but there have been a few rough starts that have inflated his numbers. I like that he has gotten a lot of strikeouts with his mix of pitches, but he could work on his efficiency in his starts. Overall though, he still has the best changeup in the system.
- James Triantos 2B/3B
Triantos started the year off hot, but I think he got a little of the Kevin Made Syndrom, focusing on contact more than doing damage to pitcher’s mistakes. That has turned around during the second half of the MiLB season, and Triantos has been hitting the ball with more power.
- Luis Devers RHP
No one has jumped up my prospect rankings more than Luis Devers. He has dominated Myrtle Beach hitters, more than earning his promotion to South Bend. He has a great three pitch mix, but his changeup is the only pitch I would grade plus. His command has been what has set Devers apart, and I could see him be a back of the rotation type arm for the major league club in the future.
- Ed Howard SS
You can’t blame players for injuries. Ed Howard has just run into some bad luck. I liked that the Cubs challenged Howard by starting him in South Bend’s to start the year. Overall, he held his own in the batter’s box and showed us his plus defense at short. Regardless of injuries though we’re going to have to see some production from Howard in his third year with the Cubs or I’m going to have more concerns.
- Nelson Velazquez OF
The Nelson Velazquez hype train died a little bit after his incredible Arizona Fall League performance, but he has continued to hit. There will be days when he strikes out 2 or 3 times in a game, but his power will make up for those days. For the rest of the season, Velazquez could be the Cubs starting left fielder and lose his prospect status soon.
- Luke Little LHP
Except for DJ Herz, I don’t know if a single pitcher has made hitters look more silly than Luke Little this year. He has dominated in Myrtle Beach, but his efficiency hasn’t been great on the mound. His high pitch counts through a few innings, combined with his lack of a solid third pitch makes me believe Little will be a reliever when it’s all said and done, but his swing and miss slider combined with a fastball that will touch 100 would make him a back of the bullpen arm.
- Matt Mervis 1B
I might catch some heat for putting Mervis at 15 on the list, but the last time the Cubs had a first base prospect who could potentially have an OPS of 1.000 and 20+ home runs his name was Anthony Rizzo. Let’s not disregard how special the year Mervis has had is. His power is really special, and I love his swing.
- Daniel Pelencia RHP
I’m a big believer in Daniel Pelencia, I just don’t know what role best suits him. He does carry triple digits deep into starts, and has shown a much better breaking ball this year, but he seems to perform better once through the lineup. I would curious to see what he can do in a relief role where he could let loose and sit 100+ in an innings.
- Reggie Preciado SS/3B
Preciado dropped a lot in my rankings after starting at 6 to start the year. He has struck out way too often in low-A, and more than likely he’ll get some more time in Myrtle Beach in 2023. He still has the chance to be a solid switch hitting third basemen / middle infielder, but his contact rate is going to have to pick up.
- Ryan Jensen RHP
Jensen would have been lower on my list if it wasn’t for his changed arm action that has looked much cleaner and has gotten much better results. The stuff has always been electric with Jensen, his command has just been bad. Walks and pitches left over the heart of the plate have been his downfall, but we’ve seen a more consistent Jensen as of late. Hopefully, he can continue to build off of his new arm action.
- Alexander Canario OF
Canario’s expectations were set really high by fans after he came over from the Kris Bryant trade and dominated the pitching. Since then, he has fizzled a bit, but he still has big time power. The strikeouts will always be a problem for Canario, but he still has the chance to be a 25-30 home run type guy in the MLB.
- Miguel Amaya C
I really wish we could see Miguel Amaya play baseball. The injuries have plagued him the past couple of years, but he is still a plus defensive backstop. Hopefully, we can see Amaya back on the field soon.
- Cam Sanders RHP
Cam Sanders dominated AA, but the jump to Iowa was a little more difficult. He has a solid mix of pitches, and I love his demeanor on the mound, but he’s another guy who I think would benefit from a move to the bullpen. Cam Sanders could be a guy that throws high 90’s with a good slider for an inning or two at a time.
- Chase Strumpf 2B / 3B
When Chase Strumpf was drafted, I really liked the way he took each at bat. He worked good counts and was more of an Alfono Rivas type player. This year his approach changed and he hit for a lot more power while also striking out more. In some ways it’s paid off. Strumpf could be a 15-20 home run guy this year and more of the prototypical 3rd basemen bat.
- Kohl Franklin RHP
Kohl Franklin has had a rough go this year. His stuff has looked like some of the best in the system with his plus changeup, his fastball that he has hit 100, and a solid spiked curve, but he has lacked any command. The stuff is some of the best in the system, he just needs to execute pitches.
- Bryce Ball 1B
Bryce Ball has been one of the more fun guys to watch this play this year. His light tower power has finally shown up in games, and his hit tool and eye at the plate have been impressive. Mechanically, I’m not in love with his swing, but it generates good bat speed. He has also walked 47 times in 75. As Brad Pitt playing Billy Beane would say, “he gets on base.”
- Anderson Espinoza
I was a lot higher on Espinoza to start the year, but his command hasn’t been great. As of late he has been much better after his MLB debut, but I’m starting to doubt his future as a starter in the MLB. His slider is a weapon though and would pair well with his sinking fastball in the bullpen.
Feature photo of DJ Herz by Todd Johnson (CubsCentral08)