Cade Horton – Picture by Todd Johnson
“The state of the Cubs minor league system is extremely strong! “ – Todd Johnson.
The Cubs system’s greatest strength is their depth at multiple positions including outfield, right-handed starting pitching, and shortstop. That depth will probably be used to enhance the strength of the big league club this offseason. How much dealing the Cubs will be doing this winter is still up in the air. How much depth they actually end up using, and from which positions, are going to be the key storylines this winter.
The Cubs system contains a plethora of players who are blocked for a while. Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner will be filling up the middle of the infield for the next few years while Ian Happ and Seya Suzuki will be doing the same at the corner outfield slots. The Cubs might use some of that middle infield and outfield depth to go out and acquire some big-named players via trades. The Cubs will have to use that depth in concert with itself to acquire MLB talent, specifically in the starting rotation and at the corner infield spots. Then again, The Cubs could also just add MLB talent via free agency and the Japanese market. That would be wild if no one is traded, but it is also highly unlikely.
Back to the MiLB System…
Ideally, you’d like to see a balanced system in terms of talent and depth.
In 2024, the system will be top-heavy in terms of talent, most of which was acquired in 2020 and 2021 at the trade deadlines and in both drafts. Almost all of those acquired guys are now on the doorstep of Chicago and anywhere between four or five of them could debut in the first couple months of 2024. We’re sure to see PCA, Owen Caissie, and BJ Murray on that list along with Cade Horton and maybe even 2023 number one pick Matt Shaw.
That imbalance of top-end talent slated to be at Tennessee and Iowa next summer probably will change in 2024. The Cubs really need some bangers and flamethrowers at the lower levels. Eventually, there needs to be some balance at all levels for continual flow and not just a huge position player bulge, which is what the Cubs currently have.
The biggest step forward is going to have to take place in Class A. Both Myrtle Beach and South Bend will have a lot of players looking to take that next step in their development. Some of them are guys that were at Myrtle Beach last year and others were taken in the draft over the last two summers. Nazier Mule is one guy who comes to mind. It is unclear where Mule will start 2024 and how much he will be pitching AND playing SS. Brian Kalmer is another bat I look forward to seeing at South Bend on Opening Day. Jackson Ferris and Drew Gray are close to popping out and will also be in South Bend next summer along with Koen Moreno and Luis Rujano, all viable young arms.
While a lot of eyes might be on Iowa next summer, mine are going to be dead set on Mesa, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend to see if some guys breakout to create some sort of balance in the organization. I would love to see Derniche Valdez, Alexis Hernandez, and Angel Cepeda just destroy the competition next summer in Mesa and Myrtle Beach. There are a lot of other names of guys I could throw out but there is just not enough room to go over every possible breakout.
As this winter goes on, I am going to look to see from which level the Cubs trade from. Will it be younger guys from Myrtle Beach and South Bend? Will be it be the higher ranked players from Tennessee and Iowa? Or, will it be a combination of both? We shall see.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be easing my way into examining some probable storylines to watch in 2024 when it comes to hitting, starting pitching, and relievers. I don’t know how deep I want to get as trades could change the storylines for next year. Still, it is time to start thinking about what could be for 2024 with a system that is currently very strong and very deep in certain positions.