I’d like to begin by wishing those who celebrate holidays at this of year a very Merry Christmas and a happy seventh day of Hanukkah. And if you celebrate Festivus, I hope you aired your grievances properly.

TIP OF THE DAY: If you have not read Rich Biesterfield’s second article at North Side Bound, it’s a classic! Rich reached out to a lot of players who commented on some holiday memories in an unforgettable post.

Heading to Iowa

There was some news this week regarding the minor leagues. The Cubs signed Sergio Alcantara to a minor league contract. He has already been assigned to Triple-A Iowa. He played with the Cubs last year and the year before and he will provide some depth for the major league squad in case of injury. The Cubs also signed pitcher Nick Neidert to a MiLB deal. He had previously pitched for the Marlins. In addition, left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias, who was a free agent pitcher from the Mariners, inked up with the Cubs. Elias is pitching down in the Dominican this winter as a starter and has been dominant.

The Bahamian HR King

BJ Murray topped everyone this week as he won a home run derby in the Bahamas that involves hitting baseballs into the Atlantic ocean. It was a pretty cool format, and it was awesome to see him take first place. Murray was born in the Bahamas and played college ball at Florida Atlantic.

Hudson Moves On

In a sad bit of news, long time Cubs Prospect Bryan Hudson signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was assigned to Oklahoma City. Bryan pitched in Iowa this past year and was very close to making it to Chicago. Good luck to him in chasing his dream as he is very close to fulfilling it. Best of luck! PS – He’s still just 25.

Pipeline’s Porter Hodge Love

MLB Pipeline picked a breakout prospect from 2022 for each organization. For the Cubs, a surprising choice was made. It was not Matt Mervis nor was it Luis Devers. Instead, it was my guy Porter Hodge! Here is why Jonathan Mayo selected Porter:

A high school draftee from Utah who signed as a 13th-rounder in 2019, Hodge had back surgery in 2020 and posted a 6.44 ERA combined in 2019 and 2021. Improved conditioning and athleticism led to a 2022 breakout that saw his stuff get better and the results followed: Hodge pitched across two levels of A ball and finished with a 2.63 ERA, 11.6 K/9 rate and a .202 batting average against.

Prospects Live’s Porter Hodge Love

MLB Pipeline is not the only one who loves Porter Hodge. Yesterday, Prospects Live dropped their top 10 Cubs list for the public and a top 30 list for paying customers. Greg Zumach covered it for us and Porter came in a number 6 in a stunning placement. Strangely, there was no player description about him in the free version.

As a result, prospect list season is 1/3 the way complete. As far as the standings go, PCA is on top followed by a tie of Kevin Alcantara and Brennen Davis and then Cade Horton and Hayden Wesneski. Matt Mervis is in sixth despite not being in yesterday’s top 10. Cristian Hernandez is the only other play in double digits with 10 prospect list points so far.

IFA Buzz

As for international free agency, we all got a sneak peek at the Cubs possible top signee in the 2024 signing period. Fernando Cruz is still growing, but the young shortstop already is showing impressive skills. One exec said that if there were an international draft in 2024, Cruz would easily go #1.

Video of the Week

Greg Huss is continuing to go through his top 40 prospect list in video form. This week he did 30 through 21. Check it out!

Stat of the Week

Walker Powell was also a guy who broke out last year. The pitching equivalent of Mervis, the 6-foot-8 righty carved through three levels of the minors last year improving at every step which included adding 3-4 mph to his fastball and pinpoint control and an amazing ground ball rate. Walker should begin the year in Iowa.

Coming Up on North Side Bound

Things are getting close to normal here at North Side Bound. Over the next week, the position breakdown series will take a look at outfielders. That means we will have passed the halfway point and all we will have left will be four pitching posts. The “5 series” will take a look at Kohl Franklin while South Bend will get the “affiliate sneak peek treatment.” “Cubs on Deck” will be back with episode number four as Greg and Greg will be talking about baseball. Look for that on North Side Bound’s YouTube Channel as early as Tuesday morning. Make sure and click the subscribe button to be alerted to any of our videos.

Greg Huss will also be back with part three of his four part video series as he breaks down 20 to 11 in his top 40 prospect list. And we should also have our seventh mail bag post. It is going to be busy.

Hannukah Session of the Week

I am taking a break from the album of the week this off-season to highlight a video I saw this week from the Hanukkah sessions. These were started four years ago by Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl and producer Greg Kursten where are each night of Hanukkah the duo released a video of a song written or performed by a famous Jewish person, Dave’s daughter Violet, who is only 16, sang a beautiful and touching rendition of Janis Ian’s coming of age tale, “Seventeen“. Her timing/phrasing is just impeccable.

Have a great day!