Picture of Owen Caissie by Rich Biesterfeld
Prelude: The weather may have turned cold while Cubs fans prod the hot stove embers waiting for signs of action, but the prospect reports will heat things up. Numerous national publications will be releasing their breakdown of the Chicago Cubs minor league prospects. We here at North Side Bound have released our rankings, but we’ll also be covering the reports from other publications all winter.
Let’s dive into Just Baseball’s updated 2023 prospects.
The national consensus now appears to be that Pete Crow-Armstrong (PCA) is the Chicago Cubs top prospect. Just Baseball (JB), spearheaded by Aram Leighton, agrees. In tool grades, it’s no surprise that PCA continues to garner rave reviews for his defense – Leighton lists him as having a 70 (plus-plus) future grade for defense- but even more telling is how he’s viewed with the bat. We watched as Crow-Armstrong demonstrated power throughout the year. JB’s ranking now gives him a major league average power grade. Leighton ends the dynamic centerfielder’s report with a line that should warm any Cubs fan’s heart.
Crow-Armstrong is a hard-nosed gamer who is doing all of the things we thought he would do pretty well, exceptionally well while doing the things we weren’t totally sure he was capable of with the bat already.Aram Leighton in Cubs Top Prospects for 2023
Perhaps the biggest plant my flag section of the article is the inclusion of LF Owen Caissie in at number 3 overall. Caissie receives glowing remarks not only for his hitting prowess, but also his work to gain speed and agility. Leighton includes a link to a podcast episode interview with Caissie in the report. It’s a great listen and well worth the time. Leighton’s data on Caissie includes 38 batted balls with exit velocities over 105 mph. It’s a big power projection.
The remainder of the Cubs Top 10 list includes usual suspects such as Kevin Alcántara, Hayden Wesneski, Jordan Wicks, and Cade Horton. Similarly to Greg Zumach’s and Todd Johnson’s Rankings, Matt Mervis also is a Top 5 prospect according to Leighton. A name noticeably absent from the Top 10, which the NSB writers agreed with, was Alexander Canario. Factoring in both injuries to his shoulder and ankle clouds future projections.
In the 11-15 range, there are a handful of players who would normally rank much higher in other organizations. Daniel Palencia, Canario (mentioned above), Porter Hodge, Yohendrick Piñango (“this guy has juice” according to Aram and Jack on The Call Up podcast breakdown of the ranking), and James Triantos all offer intrigue. Triantos, in particular, is a player with differing views on him depending on who you ask. Leighton offers this note. “His 98.9 mph 90th percentile exit velocity is well below average though there is some room for strength in Triantos’ frame”, Leighton said. Reaching out to folks on the hitting side of baseball, an opinion is that Triantos could benefit from shrinking the strike zone instead of relying on his natural (“freaky” according to Fangraphs) contact ability. It’s better to drive hard contact than just to make contact.
In the Other Names to Watch section, the rankings feature Darius Hill. The 25-year-old centerfielder gets solid marks from Leighton, “Capable of playing all three outfield spots, Hill profiles nicely as a fourth outfield type if he can keep hitting”. It will be fascinating to see if Hill and fellow Other Names to Watch member, Luis Devers are selected in this year’s Rule 5 draft.
Just Baseball had a great look at the Cubs system. Make sure to check out the whole article and North Side Bound’s Top 30 to compare and contrast.