Welcome to the 2022 position ranking series!
It is going to take 10 articles for me to go over the depth that the Cubs have reached at each position in the organization. In the past, I’ve done this by affiliate, I’ve ranked them by player, and sometimes I’ve just talked about who I think are the top five. But it never ends up being just five because it’s almost impossible for anyone at North Side Bound to talk about just five prospects.
In publishing this series, normally I do it based on how I ranked them as groups which I did in August. But this year, I just decided to start by going around the infield. Which means that this year’s series starts with catchers.
Over the years, the catcher rankings tend to fluctuate greatly. Player performance goes up and down, some guys just stall out, and attrition takes its toll as some players just don’t pan out.
This year, it’s pretty exciting to look at the catching corps and see some possibilities. A year from now, things could be turned around in the rankings if one or two guys catch fire. Right now, I tend to favor the bat over the defensive skills in where I rank guys.
1. Moises Ballesteros – His swing just seems so effortless. He generates a serious amount of power and it looks like his defensive skills improved quite a bit over the second half of 2022. He will be 19 next year and at Myrtle Beach to start the year. The big concern is what a 132 game season is going to have on his bat. There are those who would put him at first base, but let him stick behind the plate for now. He will be catching every other day, but his bat is going to be in the lineup almost every day as he spends a lot of time at DH.
2. Miguel Amaya – The bat took a huge leap forward last year when he returned from Tommy John surgery. I don’t recall him hitting as well as he did in 2022 for an extended stretch in his career as a Cub. The issue was he did not throw one baseball all year. In the past, he’s played a little first base and I’m wondering just how much the Cubs allow him to catch to start the year? Will it be every other day or every third day? And we’ll see if his glove and arm can catch back up to his bat for the first time.
3. Ethan Hearn – In the second half of 2022 his bat started to finally produce for both power and average. He was one of my favorite players to watch in August and September. I’m excited to see him play opening weekend in the Quad Cities in April. And a year from now, if his bat produces 15 to 20 homers, he could be the number one catching prospect in the system as well as he plays defense right now. Yeah, it could be a very exciting 2023 for Ethan Hearn.
4. Adan Sanchez – This is the guy that might change everything next year. He’ll only be 18, he’ll be in Arizona, and how well his bat performs is going to be one of the most interesting follows of the year. Last year in the Dominican, it seemed like he just hit 1-for3 every day. He was very consistent at the plate and if he has any kind of power, It becomes hard to envision what his ceiling will be.
5. Pablo Aliendo – He is one of the class acts in the system. He’s well liked by his teammates, he loves to win, and he’s bilingual. He’s not afraid to get on guys in either language and still be well liked for it. What is a concern is just how much the bat is going to play at Tennessee. He struggled mightily in the first part of 2022 before things kicked in when it got warmer. Hopefully, that’s not an issue this year as he faces his toughest challenge. His arm might be the most accurate in the system.
6. Haydn McGeary – This position is just loaded with guys to watch develop in 2023. McGeary just looks the part of a major league hitter. He did play some at Myrtle Beach at the end of the year and it’s still up in the air just exactly where he might begin next season. But if his bat plays, I’m wondering how much longer he’ll stay at catcher. He does have some experience at first base. And he also has done some time in the outfield in college. With an offseason of pro instruction that he wouldn’t get a D2 school, I’m just wondering how good he is going to be.
7. Bryce Windham – After the recent house cleaning at Iowa, Bryce is going to be a step away from the majors. I’d like to see the Cubs get him back to having him fill more of a utility role as he did in South Bend where he played a lot of second and some third in addition to catching. I’m hoping he starts the year in Triple-A but he did have an up and down year at the plate in Tennessee.
8. Casey Opitz – After missing most of the first half of 2022, Opitz arrived in South Bend and quickly showed that he could be a force behind the plate. The issue was his bat. I am beginning to wonder just how much the Cubs are wanting his bat to produce and at what level. He’s got a great defensive skill set. He’s got an excellent arm and he understands the game very well. I thought he would move faster, but injuries sort of slowed him down. If he’s healthy to start 2023, he should be at Double-A with Aliendo.
The only affiliate about who’s catching corps of which I am unsure is Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach could be a free-for-all as to who ends up there.
Unlike most positions, I do not have a breakout catcher on the horizon. I would like to see Ronnier Quintero pop, as we all probably do. Coming into 2023, there are just a lot of unproven backstops in competition for a spot beyond Mesa.
First Base will be up next week!