Picture of Pete Crow-Armstrong by Todd Johnson

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 Baseball America’s updated 2023 prospects. As a reminder, much of the information at Baseball America is behind a paywall. The writers at North Side Bound honor fellow publications decision on utilizing subscription-based content. We will not be posting large sections of the articles, but will include some interesting tidbits.

Pete Crow-Armstrong

It’s unanimous so far the ranking season that Pete Crow-Armstrong (PCA) is the Chicago Cubs top prospect. Baseball America continues the trend placing the young CF tops among the prospects. PCA has been receiving rave reviews for his work this season and it’s becoming apparent that national and local analysts buy-in to an elite centerfield who features plus hit, plus speed, and emerging power. The question is quickly becoming, “what can’t Pete Crow-Armstrong do?”.

Crow-Armstrong projects to hit at the top of the Cubs’ lineup and contend perennially for Gold Glove awards in center field. He will open 2023 at Double-A Tennessee and has a chance to reach Wrigley Field by the end of the season.

Scouting Grades: Hitting: 60. Power: 45. Speed: 60. Fielding: 80. Arm: 55

Baseball America in Cubs Preseason Prospects for 2023

The Baseball America Top 10

It is hard not to be impressed with how Matt Mervis is gaining national prospect steam. Ba’s ranking of 4 matches Greg Zumach’s ranking and lands one spot higher than Just Baseball and Todd Johnson’s. BA goes on to describe Mervis’s strengths (“demolishing fastballs”, bat speed and arm strength) along with weaknesses (lefties, softer pitches out of the zone). Could Matt Mervis actually land on Top 100 lists this offseason? It’s possible. He slots in behind Kevin Alcántara, who was BA’s 100th overall ranked prospect.

Cade Horton at 5th overall in the system is the highest we’ve seen yet for the 2022 Cubs first-round selection. Cade Horton is a bad man and clearly BA agrees. They gave him a 70 (plus-plus) grade fastball and a 60 (plus) grade slider. Perhaps even more exciting to two members of North Side Bound is that Horton’s fastball is listed as a cut-ride pitch. Baseball America believes he can be a front-line starting pitcher and they have Horton slotted in as the No. 1 starter in their annual 5-year in the future roster predictions. Early discussion from The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney is that Horton is adding a curveball and changeup to those two pitches. 2023 could be the year of Cade Horton as he’s unleashed into the minor leagues.

Jordan Wicks?

We can’t bury the lede here. If you saw from the rankings in the embedded tweet, there are some noticeable absences from similar Top 10 lists. It’s not surprising to see Alexander Canario omitted, but disappointing as there is another confirmation that from a national perspective, writers are cautious about the injury. But what was puzzling about Jordan Wicks not featured in the Top 10 and falling below Caleb Kilian. And I have some thoughts.

Not to disparage Caleb Kilian. It’s great to see him receive some good national feedback. I also think Kilian has the potential to rebound, however we saw that his success is directly tied to his ability to control and command his fastball. The following line offers both optimism and worry in projecting Kilian: “He no longer uses his lower half efficiently in his delivery and struggles to repeat his mechanics, leading to fringy control and a lack of quality strikes. Cubs officials identified the problem with his lower half and believe they can fix it, but acknowledge they have concerns.”. It’s hard to know without being in the room, text chat, direct message or phone call between Baseball America and Cubs officials, but if there is still concern, I too, grow concerned. Kilian still has potential and I believe that a strong winter could lead to a solid 2023 where he can lean on fastball command and his cutter.

But let’s talk about the 800-pound first-round, lefthanded gorilla absent from the room, Jordan Wicks. I have to say, I don’t understand the rationale in Wicks not only not in the Top 10, but also behind Kilian. Wicks successfully deployed a new slider, curveball, and cutter along with his improved 4s FB. He has pedigree as a former first-round pick that most analysts expected to be taken in the top 15 picks (he went 21st in 2021). Knock on wood, he’s remained injury free. The late-season scare with his forearm proved to be just that, a scare. And while I don’t want to comment publicly on injury-related discussions, I will say that there was relief from multiple officials that Wicks avoided anything serious.

Jordan Wicks avoids walks (2.66 BB/9, 7.0% BB-rate), gets strikeouts (11.5 K/9, 30.1% K-rate), and limits hits (.245 BAA). His BB%-K% of 23.1% is very good and a positive predictor that he will succeed. Don’t let a silly stat like AA ERA (4.19) get in the way of believing in Jordan Wicks. I welcome disagreement so I’m very curious what the rationale is. I’ll provide updates as more information from Baseball America come into play.

Final Thoughts

It’s always good to hear dissenting opinions and NSB appreciates the work Baseball America writers and analysts put into this report. Make sure to check out the whole article and North Side Bound’s Top 30 to compare and contrast. Consider subscribing to Baseball America as well.