Pete Crow-Armstrong and Owen Caissie – Picture by Todd Johnson
This is getting to be quite the ritual. At the start of every August, I look at the Cubs’ system by position and I gauge the depth of those positions. There’s no scientific formula or mathematical sequence, it’s just a pure collection of talent at each position. It’s the same thing I did over at Cubs Central and now I’m bringing it here to North Side Bound.
One thing that I take into consideration in ranking them from 10 to 1, with one being the best, is not just the depth of the position, but also the impact of those at the top of the position. Could there really be someone who could be an every day position player? Could someone fit into the starting rotation in the backend, middle, or top of the rotation. Are the relievers just set up guys, long relievers, or are there some flame throwing closers in there.
Let’s keep going with number 10 and then we’ll work our way all the way down to number one.
10. LHRP – This sort of surprised me. As a year ago, this was a much better thought of position mainly because of Brandon Hughes. You could also thrown Scott Kobos and Burl Carraway in there. Some guys have had disappointing seasons while others like Riley Martin are promising. The same is true for Chase Watkins and Adam Laskey. South Bend has a luxury with Martin and Adam Laskey and the same holds true for Tennessee with Pelham and Bailey Horn, who is on fire this month. However, what puts them at number 10 is just the lack of a dominant lefty reliever. Who knows, maybe some of the them will take a big jump this winter or Kobos and Carraway could have bounce back years. You never know.
9. 2B – It looks like most of the shortstops are staying at shortstop. Part of that is due to injury concerns, but the amount of second base impact players is quite low. There’s some nice players like Andy Weber, but there’s no real dominant guy that you can see being a major force of the plate in the majors. Then again, we also have Chase Strumpf moving over to second since Jake Slaughter has emerged this summer at 3B. That could change the 2B position if Strumpf stays at second. We’re also at that point where Pedro Ramirez could be a guy for the future too. He is definitely showing that he can hit at two levels the past summers. Whether that carries over to Myrtle Beach next year is another story as his performance could reshape the position. And, if the Cubs keep Preciado at second upon his return, that would be another impactful player.
8. 3B – There is some hope here with James Triantos and Luis Verdugo. Both have had decent years with Verdugo finishing the year strong. The rise of Jake Slaughter this summer has been one of the biggest surprises. The fact that he’s producing at a high-level for the third month in row should be proof enough that the changes they made this winter are real and that his bat, which has a much shorter swing path, can be an impactful bat here in the future.
7. C – The Cubs have a lot of good catchers in the system. However, they don’t have a lot of good hitting catchers. Pablo Aliendo has had a pretty good second-half this year to go along with his outstanding year at Myrtle Beach last year. Bryce Windham has been up and down every month; currently he’s on an upswing. Miguel Amaya has returned as a DH right now and the plan is that he’s going to start working behind the plate this fall, probably in Arizona Fall League. Depending upon his return, they could influence a lot of things for the Cubs future, especially if Amaya’s arm returns to form.
6. 1B – This position has really taken off in the last year. Part of that is Matt Mervis, part of it is the success of Bryce Ball this year along with BJ Murray at both Myrtle Beach and South Bend. And Felix Stevens has shown some potential from time to time for huge power. He just needs to hit for average more consistently.
5. SS – This position took the biggest fall in this year‘s rankings. A lot of that has to do with injury, some of it has to do with other position groups gaining more depth. But being ranked fifth in a deep system is not a bad thing. The Cubs have a lot of potential at shortstop. From Luis Vasquez, who is now a AAA, to Andy Weber now back at shortstop in Tennessee along with Kevin Made, possibly Reggie Preciado, the new Christopher Paciolla, and Cristian Hernandez, there’s a lot of active healthy players. Ed Howard will hopefully come back to full strength next year. There’s just a lot of guys who aren’t fully formed yet. And that’s probably the best way to describe the shortstop depth.
4. RHRP – This group was at number two last year. While they have slipped a little bit, that’s more about the other groups obtaining more depth in the draft and in trades. I see Ben Leeper and Jeremiah Estrada are doing well this month at Iowa. Danis Correa is now at Iowa and then we have the trio of Eduarniel Nunez, Zac Leigh, and Hunter Biggie coming up right behind. I’m really impressed with how Hunter Bigge’s hard work has paid off. It looks like he did back in 2019 Eugene. The guy I think is going to takeoff next year is Michael McAvene. He’ll be fully healthy and ready to just tear apart some hitters.
3. LHSP – Coming in at number three is left-handed starting pitchers. I thought about putting them at two because they are going to have possibly three left-handed starters in the Cubs’ top 10 prospects this winter. You have Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Jackson Ferris, and Drew Gray, who should bounce back next year. And if Brailyn Marquez is healthy for a change, you can throw him in there. But I don’t think anybody’s counting on that. Still Wicks is doing well enough the last few starts to begin 2023 in Iowa.
2. RHSP – The Cubs have been acquiring power arms through whatever means possible the past two summers. They got Cade Horton in the draft this year, they got Hayden Wisniewski, Ben Brown, and Caleb Kilian through trades. They went out and acquired Nazier Mule in the fourth round of this year’s draft. And they picked up some guys armed with power sliders like Will Frisch, Luis Rujano, and projects like Brody McCullough. Combined them with Daniel Palencia, Riley Thompson, Ryan Jensen, Kohl Franklin, Porter Hodge, Luis Devers, Tyler Schlaffer, and Koen Moreno, and you’ve got a parade of power arms up and down the system. In about one years time, it’s going to turn into a flood.
1. OF – The Cubs are stacked at outfielder. Problem is, you may only need four of the current crop of prospects in the near future. And not all of them are going to make it to the majors with the Cubs. Some of them will be traded and used to acquire whatever it is the big league club thinks it needs. There’s no way you can have a team that has a Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario, Yonathan Perlaza, Darius Hill, Jordan Nwogu, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Yohendrick Pinango, Owen Caissie, Christian Franklin, Parker Chavers, Kevin Alcantara, and Ezekiel Pagan. That’s a lot of talent and the Cubs will get something substantial back when they decide the time is right to package a few of them up.
Over the next two winters, the Cubs are going to use the strength of their prospect capital to get things done. I don’t recall the depth of the farm system being this strong in 2014. What that 2014-2015 group had was more elite players like Bryant, Soler, and Baez. The Cubs don’t quite have that type of all world prospect although PCA is getting there. Depending upon the draft lottery, they may get that guy next summer weather that’s Dylan Crews, Max Clark, or even pitcher Chase Dollander.
Cubs fans have to know that we reached the bottom of this rebuild that is not a rebuild. This winter could see the Cubs move several pieces but still have a very strong system that’s capable of regenerating players when needed. With the amount of young talent in the system, it’s gonna be a while before all of them are ready. The club they put together in 2023 could be supplemented by these guys for the next 5 to 7 years. I don’t know that everybody understands that part of the plan because Jed Hoyer has not really talked about it.
Having depth and position redundancy throughout the system allows the Cubs to be flexible in their talent acquisition strategies. The Cubs may not have all the shortstops this time, but they do have a lot of outfielders, right handed starting pitchers, and left-handed starting pitchers which are all valuable currency for their own big league club and to also to acquire other players.