Featured photo of Pete Crow-Armstrong and Owen Caissie by Todd Johnson
We’re halfway through the season and with the Cubs as a System on the Rise, there is some clarity on how the top prospects like James Triantos, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and are performing. Other well-known names such as Brailyn Marquez, Brennen Davis, and Ed Howard have battled injuries. Overall it’s a group that looks to be making important leaps in national perception. Make sure to check out this ranking and then dive into all of the other rankings on the site below.
Future Performance Grade (FPG): I use a tool similar to (but not the same as) Fangraph’s Future Value (FV). The FPG isn’t perfect, but it’s a way to contextualize long-term player projection.
Cubs 2022 Midseason Top Prospects
- Brennen Davis, OF, FPG 60: Back injury significantly derailed phenomenal progress. I’m not taking any of his performance into future projections yet. This is still a player with all-star upside, who should debut in 2023 if healthy.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, FPG 55: Analysts, writers, and fans throw out the “five-tool” player concept way too often in projections. PCA legitimately shows off five plus tools. His speed, defense, and hit tool show off as exceptional. The arm plays and he’s showing power in-game. As he works back from a minor injury and adapts to the Midwest League, it’s apparent the Cubs brought in an impact player in the Javier Báez trade.
- Kevin Alcántara, OF, FPG 55: Alcántara oozes potential that he’s fully realizing on the field. It’s absolutely an elite upside. Alcántara has the potential to be a Top 5 overall prospect in baseball in two years.
- DJ Herz, LHP, FPG 50: Herz succeeded last year primarily on the strength of his fastball and changeup. He continues to beat hitters with those offerings this season but has tightened up the breaking ball. While the walks need to drop, the Ks are way up and DJ Herz makes a compelling case he should be in AA. I’m inclined to agree.
- Kevin Made, SS, FPG 50: Admittedly I’m the high-guy on Kevin Made, but he showed bat-to-ball skills and legitimate tools at SS last year as an 18-year-old in Myrtle Beach. This year he’s driving the ball even more and his walk rate has sky-rocketed. He drops in the rankings only because of outstanding performances by other prospects.
- Cristian Hernández, SS, FPG 50: Conversely, I might be the low person on Hernández, which many people will bristle at. It’s understandable, but similar to Made it’s more because of incredible performances by other prospects that he “falls”. My evaluation only minimally changes. He’s stateside. The whiffs and Ks don’t concern me long-term. He has the tools to be an elite prospect, but the contact issues likely slow his timeline to a still-excellent one-level-a-year path.
- James Triantos, 3B/2B, FPG 45: Triantos may have hit a mid-season lull possibly due to how many games he’s logged in full-season ball, but he’s showing all the skills you’d want to see as a 19-year-old in Myrtle Beach. Any concerns about his defense from a small Arizona Complex League sample have quickly been brushed aside.
- Jordan Wicks, LHP, FPG 45: I underestimated what the Cubs could do with Wicks’ pitch development. But he’s adapting to his new and improved arsenal with the additions of a spike-curve and sweeper slider. It’s a robust repertoire and he’s elevated his future projection.
- Caleb Kilian, RHP, FPG 45: Once billed as a “command+ arm”, Kilian shows off impressive stuff. Unfortunately, it’s still coming together slowly this season. He’ll show flashes, but lost control and command in MLB outings. I buy that he’ll be able to lock it in during the second half of the season.
- Owen Caissie, OF, FPG 45: Perhaps unfairly Caissie finds himself lower in the rankings than one would expect. There are very few questions with the bat, but he’ll need to maintain a high offensive output as a LF (or 1B). I believe he can do that. He may need to be bumped to AA later this season.
- Nelson Velázquez, OF, FPG 45: Velázquez took massive strides last year and wound up with an AZ Fall League MVP to his credit. He’s showing what he can do at the major league level and it is fun.
- Daniel Palencia, RHP, FPG 45: Owner of the best fastball in the entire system, Palencia throws 100 mph+ gas with incredible ride up in the zone. He’s becoming more consistent with breaking pitches and is a prime candidate to skyrocket up the organization next season.
- Luis Devers, RHP, FPG 40+: Devers got rave reviews for his work in bullpen and camp sessions during the offseason and spring training. He’s showing a strong fastball/changeup combination with high strikeouts and low walks. The recent promotion to HiA is an encouraging sign.
- Ed Howard, SS, FPG 40+: Howard was having a resurgent season until a freak injury occurred running the bases. This is a conservative ranking solely because of injury. Here’s hoping we see the Ed Howard from 2022, because he put himself on a great track.
- Yohendrick Pinango, OF, FPG 45: Consistently one of the younger performers, all Yohendrick does is hit. Defensively, there are future questions, but he’s a pure hitter who is showing power in-game.
- Moises Ballesteros, C, FPG 40+: This is a projection on the bat and it is mightily impressive. Ballesteros can mash and may force his way to Myrtle Beach later this summer.
- Kohl Franklin, RHP, FPG 40+: After two years away because of injuries and the COVID season, Franklin is back. He’s currently trying to harness his even more impressive raw stuff. 2022 looks to be a transition year for him as he adapts to throwing multiple plus pitches. A strong second half would put him squarely in the 7-12 range in the system.
- Matt Mervis, 1B, FPG 40+: Mervis commands respect for what he’s done to put himself squarely on the map. The first baseman was hampered by the shortened 2020 draft. He’s raking in AA.
- Adan Sanchez, C/3B, FPG 40+: I’m buying in on the bat and the athleticism. It’s an aggressive ranking and one that I don’t normally make, but I really buy the whole package.
- Miguel Amaya, C, FPG 40+: Amaya underwent Tommy John surgery last winter and he’s already back to hitting in pro games. This is a reset and hopefully just the beginning of a career resurgence.
- Brailyn Marquez, LHP, FPG 40+: He’s the biggest question mark in the organization, and to some degree, that’s just horrible luck. Brailyn Marquez entered the 2020 season on a skyrocketing trajectory. The world turned upside down, and it’s been 2.5 years since he’s logged starter innings. The arm is all a pen projection, but it remains to be seen when he next gets on the mound for a professional outing.
- Ryan Jensen, RHP, FPG 40: This is a ranking very much in progress. Jensen came back from the developmental list with a shorter arm path and it’s helped his control in most outings. There is still the hope he could be a starter at the next level.
- Alexander Canario, OF, FPG 40: Blessed with incredible tools, Canario is a human highlight reel. He’s still working to address whiffs, but he’s made improvements. The power projection is legitimate.
- Jordan Nwogu, OF, FPG 40: Nwogu has battled injuries, but he’s productive when he’s in there. The power/speed projection is exciting.
- Luke Little, LHP, FPG 40: Luke Little continues to show wicked stuff. The walk rate isn’t sustainable and needs to be addressed, but there are big-league offerings.
- Jake Slaughter, 3B, FPG 40: Slaughter made meaningful changes, and he’s having an all-world season. He deserves all the credit in the world for battling through a disappointing assignment to extended spring training.
- Reginald Preciado, SS/3B, FPG 40: Preciado had a season-ending knee injury, but will still be young for his level in 2023. In previous situations, the Cubs have had hitters with season-ending injuries work on pitch recognition while out. Preciado could benefit from that in his downtime. He has upper-level potential.
- Porter Hodge, RHP, FPG 40: I‘m a believer in the profile and impressed with the arsenal. He’s succeeding in full-season ball at age 21. Hodge is an arm to watch next season.
- Cam Sanders, RHP, FPG 40: The stuff is wicked and while the command lags behind, it’s improved. It’s time to give Cam Sanders a legitimate MLB opportunity.
- Yeison Santana, SS, FPG 40: Santana’s power lags behind, but it’s an athletic profile and one that should stick at SS.
Honorable mentions: All of the following players (listed in alphabetical order) deserved merit and fit within the same 40 FPG tier.
- Bryce Ball
- Yovanny Cruz
- Jeremiah Estrada
- Christian Franklin
- Richard Gallardo
- Drew Gray
- Ben Leeper
- Cole Roederer
This midseason re-ranking is only a snapshot of the development path that each of these players (and ones not mentioned) are taking during the 2022 season. Who would you have included?