It’s challenging to balance how much fans resonate with numerically ranking players and how that process leads to confusion. For instance let’s examine Kevin Alcántara below. He ranked 2nd entering the year on my offseason board and below dropped several notches. As I explain below Alcántara encountered development steps we expected and he’s working through them. Simply put he’s just seen Cade Horton, Ben Brown, Miguel Amaya, and Owen Caissie show out this season. Hardly an indictment on Alcántara.
In an effort to provide context I included snippets of the players’ offseason reports for the first 25 players as well as broke them out into tiers. Midseason prospect rankings are fraught with challenges, but hopefully this addresses them as best I can.
Let’s dive into the rankings
The Elite (60-tier)
1. Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF
What I said in 2022: While I wouldn’t bet against Pete Crow-Armstrong, the AA level is a huge test for any hitter.
Report: There are genuine concerns about approach in swing decisions that PCA will need to address as he continues to adjust to upper-level and MLB pitchers. However, focusing on that takes away from the profile he already provides. Don’t lose sight of the fact that Pete Crow-Armstrong is a true 80-grade centerfielder with plus running ability while producing with both hit and power as a 21-year-old in AA.
Top-50 Caliber Talent (55-tier)
2. Cade Horton, RHP
What I said in 2022: “That Cade Horton is a bad man” became a rallying cry behind the scenes leading up to the 2022 Draft. Horton can do some wicked things with his pitches. Currently it’s more fastball and sweeper slider, but expect the Cubs to build out his arsenal.
Report: Just a few weeks ago I had Horton as the fourth best pitcher in the system (neck and neck with Jackson Ferris). At the time we saw a pitcher who could get whiffs with fastball and slider while developing his newer curveball and split-changeup shapes. In short order, Horton locked in the shapes on those new offerings and gets swings and misses on both. It’s just hard not to be impressed and also hard not to get too carried away with what a pitcher with his command and swing and miss arsenal can do.
3. Ben Brown, RHP
What I said in 2022: Brown has some of the highest upside amongst the organization’s arms. He combines mid-upper 90s velocity along with power breaking pitches.
Report: Brown has had a strong season. We have seen a recent blip of command issues pop up, but that’s expected from time to time as pitchers lose feel in the course of a season. What we’re seeing this season is Brown generate swing and miss from his four seam, curveball and slider, while also mixing in a changeup for good measure. I’d argue he’s ready for the major leagues right now.
4. Miguel Amaya, C
What I said in 2022: 2023 is an enormous year for Miguel Amaya. With Tommy John surgery now a full year behind in his rear view mirror, Amaya has the opportunity to cement his status as the Cubs top catching prospect.
Report: Miguel Amaya’s resurgence is incredible and we shouldn’t overstate the importance to the entire organization. There’s not much to say about Amaya the prospect, but Miguel Amaya the MLB player. He’ll need to continue to iron out some aspects as he adjusts to big league baseball, but the Cubs found their catcher of the future.
Top 100-Caliber (50-tier)
5. Owen Caissie, OF
What I said in 2022: He showed a mature approach. Caissie will need to continue to make adjustments against advanced matchups, but he showed above average contact and power against older competition.
Report: Caissie is 20 (!) years old and showing actual in-game power and production in AA. Defensively he’s looked improved in the outfield as well. But more than any other factor, his ability to hang in there against AA pitchers using the pre-tacked baseball early in the season was impressive. Caissie is setting himself up for possibly making his MLB debut as early as late 2024.
6. Jordan Wicks, LHP
What I said in 2022: Save for an injury scare late in the year, Jordan Wicks had an excellent 2022. The first-round pick in 2021 showed capable of incorporating multiple pitches into a robust repertoire. At times this past year, Wicks used a 4s fastball (now with good ride up in the zone), sweeper slider, his signature changeup, a curveball, sinker, and a new cutter that he broke out late in the year. The 4-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and cutter are particularly compelling. Wicks has the profile of a pitcher that starts a playoff game and you feel great about your chances.
Report: It appears Wicks has had some challenges adjusting to the several new baseballs being used in AA this year, but he projects the same for me long-term. He’s a mid rotation starter using five-six pitches and a bulldog attitude to work through lineups and combine whiffs and soft-contact.
7. Kevin Alcántara, OF
What I said in 2022: Alcántara absolutely oozes potential and he’s beginning to see those results in game. It is incredibly difficult to hit in the Carolina League, but Alcántara didn’t just hit. He showed power, patience, and production. Alcántara also proved capable of playing a solid centerfield. Standing an imposing 6’6″ with plenty of room to fill out, it’s possible Alcántara will outgrow CF, but he looks to be an asset in the outfield.
Report: If you just see the number I have Alcántara ranked at you might think I’m down on him, but I’m not. He’s shown that he’s slowly adjusting to the Mid-West League and I think he continues to rise finishing out the season. There have just been strong developments from Amaya, Brown, Caissie, and Horton. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t get off the Alcántara bandwagon!
The Next Wave (45-45+ tier)
8. Jackson Ferris, LHP
What I said in 2022: Full disclosure I was fist-pumping when I heard the Cubs would go aggressive to draft Jackson Ferris in the second round. In many ways it was a second first-round pick. Ferris throws four pitches and the upside is there for a frontline starter. It’ll take some time to get there. Questions arise for whether the Cubs make any significant mechanical changes. Do they toy with what’s working?
Report: We’re seeing a power arsenal that looks like a dart board. He’s throwing three 20s with a fastball touching 20 inches of carry, a slider touching 20 inches of sweep, and a curveball with 20 inches of depth. It’s nasty stuff. He’ll be on a tight leash as he works on refining that arsenal, but it’s electric and has front line potential.
9. Matt Mervis, 1B
What I said in 2022: It was the year of Matt “Mash” Mervis who took the minor leagues by storm en route to the MVP of the Fall Stars game in Arizona. Mervis showed power and patience, as well as improvements in strikeouts as he progressed each level in the majors. Based on data that I’ve had passed along to me, he showed he could punish fastballs. While he held his own on breaking balls, sliders presented more of a problem. Mervis is underrated defensively and likely provides some value at the position as well. While everyone has high hopes for Matt Mervis, a word of caution: even top flight first basemen (like Rizzo, Freedman, and Goldschmidt) often required some time before they became impact MLB sluggers.
Report: Mervis faced high expectations and had a difficult time matching them. But the building blocks are still there to adjust (especially to upper-level breaking balls). He has the upside of being a quality everyday first baseman.
10. James Triantos, 2B
What I said in 2022: This may feel pessimistic, but Triantos’ ranking mostly reflects the depth of the system. He’s more than performed well enough to be a Top 10 caliber player. It was a long season for Triantos and he had a dip in his performance later in the year. Expect him to start out at HiA where he could move quickly if everything is in sync.
Report: Triantos is divisive, but he’s showing you exactly the type of player he can be. He needs to settle in to a position, but offensively he’s hitting for contact and a bit of juice. His plate discipline has dramatically improved and he’s doing it at age 20 in Hi-A. Hopefully, he recovers quickly from a nagging (but not serious) injury.
11. Jefferson Rojas, SS
No report in 2022
Report: Rojas is electric and has Top 50 overall prospect upside. He is 18 years old and has been showing out for about a year. With him being that young it’s hard to project positionally where he ends up, but the bat is highly encouraging with room to add power. Rojas received a healthy amount of praise from folks out in Arizona over the winter (Nice call, Bryan Smith!). There are big believers in Rojas both inside and outside the organization.
12. Moises Ballesteros, C/1B
What I said in 2022: Ballesteros can really hit. Similar to Owen Caissie last year, Ballesteros performed well enough in the Complex league that he forced his way to Myrtle Beach. Like Caissie, we saw a marked decrease in offensive performance transitioning from the hitter haven of Arizona to the depressed Carolina League, however it was still above league average. Ballesteros also kept his K-rate to a manageable 21.7%.
Report: Mo Baller can hit, really hit. The questions arise about projecting the body long term at catcher. But he has time on his side and I would strongly give him all winter prepping as a catcher before I made any position change. Ballesteros hits for contact and shows power. He’s garnering national publicity as well, which is always a good sign.
13. Cristian Hernández, SS
What I said in 2022: Of all the players, this ranking [8th and in the 45-45+ tier] may come off as the most shockingly low, but it’s also based on just wanting to see Cristian play at Myrtle Beach. Numerous times we find that the jump from the Complex League to Carolina League is a steep one.
Report: Hernández is amid adjustments at the plate. It’s not always going to look pretty as adjustments happen behind the scenes. He’s showing more patience and that will be vital for him as he advances through the system.
14. Alexander Canario, OF
Report: There’s no right spot to rank Canario. He’s back and playing, but we’ll have a better sense for where to rank him this winter. I’m just glad he’s made a significant recovery. And he could be on his way to affiliated ball soon.
**Update: After the finalization of this list, Alexander Canario announced he is going to a minor league affiliate.
15. Michael Arias, RHP
Not ranked in 2022
Report: Arias: Serious breakout potential here. Arias throws a 94-98 mph fastball that elicits weak swing, an impressive changeup, and a slider that is making improvements. He’s Rule 5 eligible after this season and with that live arm he presents an interesting set of decisions for the Cubs and possibly other organizations. Does he finish the year in South Bend and force a 40-man spot? Is he the type of arm you move if you think you might lose him in the Rule 5? I would. Let’s challenge him.
Update: Michael Arias was promoted shortly after this ranking was finalized
16.Pablo Aliendo, C
Not ranked in 2022 though mentioned
Report: “Can we just take a moment to celebrate me?” – Schmidt from New Girl and Pablo Aliendo, possibly. Aliendo was a fun dark horse selection in the Cubs rankings because of the wiry frame and his work behind the dish. He’s no longer just a wiry frame; he’s added serious muscle while also looking like there’s room to grow. Aliendo has put himself squarely in the realm of being a MLB catcher in 2024/2025.
17. Brennen Davis, OF
What I said in 2022: Injuries prevented the debut of one of the most dynamic players in the system. Davis’ had more whiffs than you’d like to see in AAA, but I don’t put much, if any, stock into that this season. He’ll be 23 all of next season and just like last year his goal will be to “Start in one place, play well, and end up playing somewhere else”.
Report: Similar to Alexander Canario, there’s not much I can say here. There is no good spot to rank him because we don’t understand the true extent of his core muscle injury and surgery. Injuries have clouded our projection of Brennen Davis, but he still has the makeup and ability to force his way to the major leagues. I believe in his ability to do so. I just have no clue how to appropriately rank him in this medium.
Very Good Prospects
18. Haydn McGeary, 1B/DH
What I said in 2022: The 2022 draft was all about power. Power arms and a handful of power bats. Despite being taken in the 15th round, McGeary looks the part of a late-round steal. His 35 home runs for Colorado Mesa got the attention, but McGeary is a balanced hitter at the plate. He’s already 23 so look for the Cubs to give him an aggressive start.
Report: McGeary hits the ball so freaking hard it’s incredibly impressive. This is a first-base (if you’re bullish on the defense) more likely DH only profile. He’s also older. But he terrorized HiA pitching and is now doing the same to AA pitching after a short adjustment period. McGeary likely won’t ever make a Top 100 list since it’s so rare for these older DH-likely profiles to do so, but he’s hitting his way up the ladder. He could be a productive MLB hitter next season.
19. Porter Hodge, RHP
What I said in 2022: Perhaps my favorite profile of any of the pitchers in the system, Porter Hodge has the framework of a SP that the Cubs have demonstrated significant success developing. His fastball has natural relative cut and he pairs it with a changeup and sweeper slider. Hodge’s biggest issue is building out execution. If he develops consistency into 2023, he could explode onto the national scene.
Report: Hodge got a ton of publicity starting the year in AA and even had the legendary Arizona Phil hyped up about his work in Spring Camp. Hodge has had an up and down 2023, but he’s still showing flashes of some really quality pitches. It’s hard to know how much the AA ball has affected him and is likely coming up on a Development List stint soon to back off on innings and tighten up his mechanics.
20. Daniel Palencia, RHP
What I said in 2022: No one in the organization can throw a fastball like Daniel Palencia. It is truly elite and probably the only 80-grade I have ever given to a tool. The fastball has excellent ride and upper tier velocity. Currently he’s starting and I would expect that to continue into 2023, but if he had to move to relief, it’s an MLB caliber arsenal right away.
Report: Love Daniel Palencia. He’s transitioned to the pen where he has elite pen arm upside. Those adjustments aren’t always seemless and he has work to do to iron out his work in the pen. I’m still very much in on Palencia and believe he contributes to the Wrigley pen this season.
21. Brody McCullough, RHP
Report: McCullough was a significant find out of DII Wingate, and he’s put himself squarely on the pitching prospect map. His stuff is dominating Single A hitters. It’s time to promote him to South Bend at the very least.
22. BJ Murray Jr., IF
Report: It’s hard to determine where BMJR will ultimately end up on the positional side, but he shows the patient hitterish profile that succeeds moving up the ladder. It’s already working at AA. Could be coming to an MLB ballpark near you soon.
23. Luis Vazquez, SS
Report: I just wasn’t high enough on Vazquez and maybe I’m still not high enough on a 23-year-old who looks incredible at defense at shortstop, hits for power, and could be on his way to AAA soon. This is the type of prospect that I would be aggressively targeting in trades if the Cubs were selling. If I’m the Cubs I’m getting him a good run at 3B to wrap up the year,
24. DJ Herz, LHP
Report: The timing of Midseason prospect reports is always challenging. I believe I’d rank Herz much higher if he keeps up his trend of limiting walks and continuing to rack up strikeouts. Herz is a bulldog out there and he’s making real improvements. Hopefully we look back here this winter and laugh about how low this is relative to his success.
25: Yonathan Perlaza, OF
Report: Criminally overlooked, Perlaza just keeps hitting. he’s prompted calls for him to get a run as the Cubs DH and i can completely understand that sentiment. The Cubs need to figure out a plan for Perlaza soon, either via trade or promotion. There is no good letting him mash at AAA.
26. Kevin Made, SS/2B
Report: Made looks like a quality shortstop and he may just need time at each level to adjust like his experience at Myrtle Beach. Could he be in the midst of that adjustment right now? Over the last two weeks Made is hitting .306/.390/.556. He has the ability to rank a full tier higher if he keeps hitting during the second half.
27. Brandon Birdsell, RHP
Report: We haven’t seen the best of Birdsell yet, though he’s looked solid in his first full pro season. Birdsell has a higher leverage talent then some of the players in this tier and his relative pro inexperience gives him room to grow.
28. Ed Howard, SS/2B
Report: Howard returning from his gruesome knee injury was the most important thing we could see for his development. The next steps are building back his offensive game. It’s a slow process but one that I hope we start to see gains with the rest of the season.
29. Kohl Franklin, RHP
Report: Kohl has battled control issues, but at least he was generating strikeouts. Recently that’s fallen off, which is concerning. This could be a blip, but it merits watching. Franklin still boasts multiple swing and miss pitches.
30. Jake Slaughter, 3B/2B
Report: Slaughter began the season red hot but has hit a relative rough patch. It’s about time he gets an opportunity to hit at the MLB level either in Chicago or with another team.
31. Luke Little, LHP
Report: Little was transitioned to the pen and he’s had difficulty throwing strikes with the AA ball. A development list stint could be useful as a reset and as a way to avoid the AA ball when it goes away shortly.
32. Luis Devers, RHP
Report: ranked here largely based on last season’s performance and velocity questions. Devers retains the same pitch ability while also maintaining the concerns the raw stuff won’t be enough at upper levels.
33. Richard Gallardo, RHP
Report: Gallardo has velocity and age on his side. But there is so much more than just those two factors when it comes to pitching development. There are a few encouraging signs here with the strikeout rate climbing, but still very significant work to do. He could be due for an overhaul on multiple pitches within his arsenal. Let’s see how his promotion to AA takes.
34. Drew Gray, LHP
Report: Ranked this low is primarily because I’d prefer to give an “incomplete” grade on gray. He’s on his way to Myrtle Beach now and has incredible potential. It’s far enough off now so I’ll share that right after there was chatter that Gray had to have Tommy John surgery, baseball folks inside the Cubs were crushed. One person within the game even went so far as to say they (the Cubs) “lost out on their [Kyle Harrison]”. Big, big praise.
Other names to watch
35. Nazier Mule, RHP/SS
36. Mason McGwire, RHP
37. Alexis Hernandez, SS
38. Luis Rujano, RHP
39. Chase Strumpf, 3B/2B
40. Christopher Paciollla, SS
41. Bailey Horn, LHP
42. Caleb Kilian, RHP
We made the decision at North Side Bound not to rank DSL players from the recent International Free Agent class in this Mid-season Rankings. So names like Angel Cepeda were not eligible. They will be eligible in our offseason prospect lists
There are no perfect steps to midseason rankings but hopefully this system addresses the concerns. We can expect a good deal of movement over the next few months. One thing is clear though. The Cubs are beginning to see true top end talent move closer to making their debuts at Wrigley Field.