Cristian Hernandez – Pic by Rich Biesterfeld
I’ve done this post for a few years now and it’s kind of a fun way to look at the system. The number one thing I notice is that under Dan Kantrovitz the Cubs do have a lot more youth in terms of players under 20 years old. He takes a lot more risks with high school players than his predecessor Jason McLeod did. As a result, there’s a lot of depth in that age group. Six of the Cubs top prospects turned 20 years old the past year: PCA, Owen Caissie, Yohendrick Pinango, Kevin Alcântara, Ed Howard, and Kevin Made. That’s an impressive group that the Cubs had last year.
16-20 à la carte
I think you’re going to like this next collection of prospects who are all under 20 and most of them will be at Myrtle Beach next summer with a couple of guys starting the year at South Bend. I am going to leave it up to you which five of these guys you would put in your 16-20 grouping.
Gabriel Agrazal – He was probably the most consistent starting pitcher in the Dominican throughout the entire season as he did not waver too much and I am excited to see how he does in Mesa this summer.
Wilson Cunningham – He only played in a couple games, but the Cubs are taking a risk in the long run on a 6-foot-8 lefty pitcher that will hopefully pay off in about four or five years
Jose Escobar – He’s probably the most unknown position player on this list and then he kind of came out of nowhere last year in the Dominican and hit pretty well. The young infielder hit .295 with 4 HRs in 50 games.
Dominic Hambley – The former Oregon state commit was used mostly in a relief last year in Arizona and it was a bit rough to read the box scores for the first couple weeks before he started to figure things out. Hopefully, a year of maturity both physically and mentally will do him some good.
Ismael Mena – I am still finding it hard to believe that the young outfielder is not 20-years-old. He had his moments last summer in Arizona and will probably make it to Myrtle Beach to start 2023.
Erian Rodriguez – He did not really pitch very much and hasn’t since the Cubs taken in the 2021 draft. The RHP is still a bit raw and will probably be back in Arizona again this summer.
Freilyn Silverio – He got some early pub from Ben Badler last year before the season began. As a big armed pitcher, he seemed to struggle at times and he also seemed to flash at times. He’ll be in Arizona this summer in the complex league.
Anderson Suriel – After a great second half in the Dominican in 2021, I was looking forward to seeing Anderson do very well in Mesa. He struggled quite a bit early on and I am interested to see where he begins 2023. He might just start in extended spring training but this kids got a lot of muscles and that may translate more in the US than it did in the Dominican.
The Top 15
15. Carlos Altuve – The young catcher hit almost .300 in the DSL and I’m excited to see how he does this year in Mesa
14. Mason McGwire – He did not pitch in the regular season this year and only threw a couple of times in instructs. He did fairly well. The key is going to be getting him physically ready to compete and that involves getting his fastball bumped up from the low 90s into the mid 90s which seems to be happening fairly quickly. He may fly up the 20 under 20 charts next year because he’ll still be on this list.
13. Luis Rujano – I was stunned the Cubs were able to get the big righty out of Florida as he was a top 250 prospect on MLB Pipeline. He’s gonna come big and he’s gonna come hard and I am here for that. I have no preconceptions of where he’s going to start next year other than spring training.
12. Jefferson Rojas – What I enjoyed most about Rojas last year was that he got off to a good start, struggled, and then adapted to be one of the better hitters in the DSL. He played mostly at second and some at shortstop and third. He should be in Arizona for the season.
11. Alexis Hernandez – After an 0-for-19 start, he had almost .300 the rest of the way in to go with on base percentage of close to .400. That dog’ll hunt for the shortstop
10. Adan Sanchez – The young catcher was the Cubs’ top prospect in the 2022 international free agent. He basically fell out of bed and went 1-for-3 every day in the Dominican. Depending on how he does this year, he could easily be the top prospect in this grouping if he shows off some power in Arizona.
9. Reggie Preciado – Like Mena, I’m not sure just how good this kid’s going to be. He got off to a rough start in 2022, seemed to rebound, was injured and thought lost for the season only to come back and play decently down the stretch in Myrtle Beach as he got a lot of time in at third, short, and even second. That’s pretty good for a 6-foot-4 prospect.
8. Nazier Mule – There’s a lot of promise about the two-way player and he might be one of the most exciting follows and also one of the biggest mysteries about just exactly what the Cubs are going to do with him and how they’re going to do it in 2023. I somehow feel this ranking is way too low in a year’s time.
7. Christopher Paciolla – The young SS/3B displayed a little bit of pop in Arizona last summer. Taken in the 2022 Draft, Paciolla is going to be an exciting follow most likely at Myrtle Beach this year.
6. Drew Grey – The Cubs will probably take the lefty and stretch him out slowly over the course of four or five months. He might only see two innings a game through May. He’s going to be starting, but he’s not going to be going deep into the games coming off of Tommy John surgery.
5. James Triantos – This is where there’s like a big separation and talent for me on this list. Most years, these guys would all be top 10 prospects on a regular list. But this is not a regular list and I have Triantos at five because that’s how good one through four are. I’m excited to see him play every day at South then next season. His power game should play a little bit better there, especially if he gets stronger over this off-season.
4. Pedro Ramirez – Even though he came up late in the year to Myrtle Beach, I would not be shocked to see him in South Bend on opening day. He’s a pretty talented kid who is just going to be 19 next year.
3. Jackson Ferris – I am all about the Cubs second round pick who they paid quite a bit of money to last summer. He’s big, he’s got experience against advanced competition, and is probably the best young pitcher the Cubs have signed in the draft since Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood in 2012.
2. Moises Ballesteros – What I wouldn’t give to see him in South Bend on opening day weekend in Davenport. I don’t think he’s going to be ready for that, but I do expect to see him in the second half and that’s gonna be a glorious time covering his at-bats. I’m not worried about where he plays, just making sure that barrel stays in the zone as long as it can.
1. Christian Hernandez – The young shortstop didn’t have a bad season, but it was not as productive as many expected. However, he did rebound to have a nice fall instructs and now he’s going to be at the prospect camp all winter where I would expect the Cubs add some muscle to him and work on his approach at the plate. Other than that, I think he’s good to go for Myrtle Beach in 132 games. Who knows, I could be seeing him in the Midwest League in the second half of the year if all goes really well.
As for next year, about half this list will graduate some as soon as January. But with Derniche Valdez, Angel Cabrera, and Ludwig Espinoza signing in January along with some breakout guys from the Dominican and some draft picks, the Cubs should be ripe with young toolsy talent in 2023 as well..