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 Prospects Live 2023 ranking. As a reminder, much of the information at Prospects Live 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.
It’s unanimous so far the ranking season that Pete Crow-Armstrong (PCA) is the Chicago Cubs top prospect. Prospects Live continues the trend placing him first in the system. PCA has been receiving rave reviews for his work this season and national and local analysts believe he’s an elite centerfielder who features hit, plus speed, and emerging power.
A true double-plus defender in center field gives the Harvard-Westlake product an easy path to the big leagues, but it’s the bat that could push Crow-Armstrong into all-star potential.
Scouting Grades: Hitting: 50. Power: 50. Speed: 70. Fielding: 70. Arm: 60Ian Smith in Prospects Live’s Cubs Top Prospects for 2023
The Prospects Live Top 10
Fans will no doubt be surprised to see Brennen Davis’s placement at 4th overall. This is the lowest we’ve seen Davis ranked in publications so far. We’ll dive into Davis shortly. But Kevin Alcántara sitting at 2nd overall in the system feels like a strong statement for “The Jaguar”. PL gives Alcántara average or better grades across the board with a plus power projection. It’s a fantastic profile from a prospect who came into the system as a high risk/ high reward player featuring more tools than success. That’s no longer the case. Alcantara has jaw-dropping potential.
Cade Horton and Porter Hodge sitting at 3rd and 6th overall, respectively are further statements about the strength of the Cubs emerging pitching scouting and development infrastructure. Horton received plus grades for his fastball and slider with PL by Tyler Jennings. Jennings goes on to suggest a bullish above-average (55) grade for Horton’s curveball. We at NSB similarity feel that Cade Horton is only scratching the surface of his potential. Cade Horton is a bad man and clearly Prospects Live agrees. Porter Hodge is ranked 6th overall and so his writeup is behind a paywall. But we will share that PL’s Trevor Hooth is very bullish on the profile giving Hodge a plus grade for his fastball and above-average for his slider and changeup. He features a four-pitch arsenal (his curveball is the remaining one) that Prospects Live feels can be a rotation arm and breakout performer.
Jordan Wicks 9th Overall
Like Baseball America, Prospects Live is soft on Jordan Wicks’ potential suggesting he has “below-average stuff overall”. Prospects Live does a great job at evaluating data with the eye-test so it’s hard not to respect the opinion even if the writers at NSB disagree. Part of the divide is that NSB is buying in on Wicks incorporating three new pitches (slider, curveball, and cutter) and recognizing there are going to be some adjustments as he tries to optimize pitch shape. Despite how that report doesn’t sound encouraging, it still is. PL’s Tieran Alexander still feels he is a “safe major league starter”. Here’s hoping Wicks even outperforms that expectation.
It’s no doubt that Brennen’s injury and performance has given prospect evaluators more doubt so it’s not a surprise to see him fall a full tier to an OFP (Prospect Live’s similar but not the exact same as Fangraph’s FV) of 50. He’s a full tier below Alcántara and Horton’s 55 OFP. The challenge with Davis is just how much emphasis to put on performance knowing that he was playing with a back injury. The writers at NSB are hoping that Davis comes back strong in 2023 and soars back up rankings before his Chicago debut.
Personally we love the aggressive ranking of Adán Sanchez who could really pop in 2023. PL notes he makes great swing decisions. He ranks 30th. Ballesteros also receives a lot of interest at 22nd overall. It’s a fun system that saw breakouts in 2022, but looks primed for even more this upcoming system.
Prospects Live combines data and scouting looks perhaps better than any national publication. The majority of the reports are for their Patreon subscribers and (we don’t receive any kickback here) it’s well worth it if you’re in a position to afford it. Make sure to read more at Prospects Live and North Side Bound’s Top 30 to compare and contrast.