Haydn McGeary – Picture by Stephanie Lynn

Normally, breakouts tend to happen at the lower levels of the system. In recent years, Myrtle Beach and South Bend have seen their fair share of breakouts and last year alone, we saw Jake slaughter, Matt Mervis, Alexander Canario, Jeremiah Estrada, Porter Hodge, and Luis Devers all pop from middling prospects to guys to watch heading towards Chicago.

Originally, I started out with 9 hitters for today’s pick. Then I started thinking of pitchers, All of a sudden, the list was 20 names long. That’ a good problem to have.

Then i remembered I basically made a team of guys earlier in the winter to think about. Even in early January, the buzz was on for Jefferson Rojas and Haydn McGeary and Adan Sanchez and Ethan Hearn… and those were just the hitters.

My fellow NSB writers chimed in with their picks too!

Let’s see who everybody picked!

Greg Zumach

There are going to be a ton of great names in this one but I’ll toss in that what Haydn McGeary did in a short time in pro ball was so intriguing. He has huge power and that could really play. I’m buying in.

Greg Huss

I think this is Jordan Nwogu’s award to lose. He has had back-to-back season where he has gotten off to a slow start followed by a scorching hot end to the season and I think this year we get a full season of the best version of him. The power will be officially tapped in and he’ll continue to see that walk rate climb and strikeout rate fall.

On the bump I’m gonna roll with Brody McCullough. I don’t care if he is ultimately used as a starter or a reliever, I think he is going to thrive this season with some serious quirks that will allow him to carve up inferior talent in the lower levels of the minors.

Todd Johnson

Haydn McGeary – I have no doubt that he’s going to become a fan favorite throughout Cubs Twitter fairly quickly for his prodigious and mammoth home runs. In addition, he should hit for average too. I like that he uses the whole field. The 15th round pick out of Colorado-Mesa could move quickly if he hits for power AND average. I am so excited to see him flat out rake!

Pitcher – Johzan Oquendo – Drafted in 2019 in the same class as DJ Herz, Tyler Schlaffer, and Porter Hodge, this prepster out of Puerto Rico showed he has some nasty stuff at Myrtle Beach in the second half in 2022. This year, the big armed righty should be closing to start the year in Myrtle Beach before quickly moving to South Bend.

Rich Colaizzi

Batter – It’s tough to define what a breakout player is, but in my mind I decided against picking one of the Cubs top 4-5 hitting prospects as I think a lot of us believe that the talent pool is well stocked for the future.  Taking into account that guys like Alexander Canario, James Triantos and Ed Howard have various injury concerns, it led me to my choice – Moises Ballesteros.  A top 20 prospect by most industry standards but not quite in the upper echelon, at least not yet. Ballesteros is a 19-year-old Venezuelan who has been in the Cubs system since being signed in January of 2021.  He will be the starting catcher at Myrtle Beach in 2023 after making his pro debut last season and holding his own in a tough hitter’s environment.  Moises has blossoming power to go along with his advanced eye at the plate.  I could see Moises having a similar year in Myrtle Beach as Kevin Alcantara did last season at a similar age.  He has legit 15-20 HR power and with his defense improving should be mentioned as a top 10 system prospect by season’s end.  I will be in Myrtle Beach in June and he is one guy I cannot wait to see in person.

Pitcher – Expectations are high for Cade Horton, but he’s my choice for breakout pitcher.  Can a high draft pick be a “breakout” player?  I certainly think so, especially if it’s a pitcher like Horton.  There is still enough of the unknown with Cade that I think he is going to blow us all away this season.  He will start the season at Myrtle Beach and in a big time pitchers park he should thrive.  The fastball is 60-65 grade and he’s working on adding a change up and improving the curve.  His best pitch might just be his slider which sits consistently in the mid to upper 80’s.  I expect the Cubs pitch lab to only enhance this pitch and improve the rest of his offerings.  Guys who blossom late in college are tough to predict as they enter pro-ball, but I think Cade has a bright future for this organization.

Rich Biesterfeld

With all of the talent in the Cubs system, it’s difficult to pick a single player who I think is going to be ‘the breakout guy’. I considered the obvious choices like PCA and Kevin Alcantara, and while I expect big things from them, they are already fairly well established on most people’s radar. I also thought about Ethan Hearn as a dark horse candidate since he picked up his offense last year and already has strong defensive skills. But I went with a position player pick of Owen Caissie. Owen came up big in the playoffs last year for South Bend and then gained additional experience playing in the Arizona Fall League and the World Baseball Classic. Those experiences, plus he has continued to physically mature, leads me to believe he is going to have a big season in AA with the Smokies.

From a pitching standpoint, I didn’t want to pick the players who would most likely be spending considerable time with the big league team, so I went with Bailey Horn. I watched Bailey carve up hitters this spring and PCA said Bailey had some of the best pitches he had seen. Bailey is starting the season in AA, but I believe he may move up to AAA quickly and be a force there.

Thank you all for checking out the finale of our preseason extravaganza. Starting tonight, the 2023 season begins for Tennessee and Myrtle Beach and tomorrow it is South Bend’s turn. From here on out, we are all about the 2023 MiLB season!!!