Kevin Alcantara – Picture by Todd Johnson
Trying to look ahead at the 2024 season is a little bit difficult right now because of the moves the Cubs could make this offseason. While it does give me some pause to do any previews of what could happen in 2024, or what storylines I might follow next season, the possibility of trades is not going to stop me from digging into what might be the biggest hitting storylines for next year.
Rather than break it down by individual players, I thought it would be fun to discuss what some of the hot topics are going to be at each affiliate and in Mesa. Let’s get started with the Iowa Cubs.
Who will still left after a busy offseason?
Even if the Cubs trade three of their top 10 prospects, they still have enough depth to put an exciting team on the field in Des Moines next spring. I am not going to make any prognostications about who the Cubs will most likely trade other than to say it’s probably going to be an outfielder or a shortstop or a combination thereof. The Cubs seem to have plenty of depth at both positions throughout the system. The redundancy is a little scary when it comes to the outfield because that depth is so immense.
Will PCA make the opening day squad in Chicago?
If I had to guess today, my answer would be no. It’s not that he hast to work on his defense like Kris Bryant, but there’s some definite aggressiveness the Cubs don’t want to take away from him, but they don’t want it to dominate his plate appearances. We’re probably going to see him get plenty of time with the big league club in Mesa in February and March.
The Brennan Davis Storyline…
Will 2024 be his year? I am not sure. I’d like it to be but we will see. Deep down, he has to be going crazy to prove he still has the goods. We will probably expand his story later this winter.
How long before we could possibly see Owen Caissie and BJ Murray in Chicago?
Both of these guys were outstanding in 2023 in Tennessee, and I would not be surprised to see them near the end of the first half in June in Chicago. For me, this is just really surreal when you think about where they were just a year and a half ago with South Bend. Caissie struggled that spring and Murray began the year at Myrtle Beach before coming over to South Bend where he struggled for a couple weeks before the two of them just went off in the second half. Now, they look to be just a phone call away. How long that phone call will take remains to be seen.
It looks like Iowa is going to be the most prospect heavy team we’ve seen in Des Moines in a long time. I didn’t even get to Pablo Aliendo, Luis Vazquez, Alexander Canario, or Haydn McGeary. There’s just so going to be so much talent there.
Will Matt Shaw be promoted at the speed of light in 2024?
It’s clear that Matt Shaw is a man among boys in the minor leagues. His ability to square the ball up is not in question and I am going to be intrigued as to how fast he finds his way to the international League.
How will the AFL impact Triantos and Alcantara next season?
As I’m dictating this into my phone, both players were slated to play in the AFL All-Star game. The post is going to be published a few days later, but I have to wonder just how much their experiences in Arizona are going to impact how they begin 2024. Currently, the two 21-year-olds (note from GZ: WOW James Triantos is still 20. Amazing to think how far he progressed this season) are going to most likely begin the year in Tennessee and how much that confidence they gained this fall is going to impact spring is going to be fun to watch.
I know this is technically not a hidden question, but how much time will Ballesteros spend at first base next year versus catching?
As someone who got a front row seat to his performance in the second half last year, I was really impressed with how hard he works at being a better catcher. I’m not saying the Cubs should keep him back there, but I’m not saying they should stick him at first base either. There’s some value in him doing both for a while.
Which Christian Franklyn will we see in 2024?
The young outfielder out of Arkansas had an amazing second-half last year and made MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects late in 2023. Yeah, if that Franklin shows up, look out!
One of the top storylines is going to be the opening day lineup for South Bend. Because of the depth of talent in the upper levels of the system, not everybody’s going to go from South Bend to Tennessee. That’s going to make for quite a competition just to see who exactly can be playing for South Bend in Davenport on April 4.
If I was a betting man, about the only ones I could say for certain that will be there are Brian Kalmer, Reivaj García, Jefferson Rojas, Jonathan Long, and Brett Bateman. Pedro Ramirez is also on the table along with Rafael Morel and Andy Garriola. As for Christian Hernandez, I am not at 100% but I would not be surprised to see him make the squad.
This storyline is usually the same every year, too. Who is going to be the breakout player in the first half and what young stud prospect is it going to get the early bump to Myrtle Beach in June?
Last year, Moises Ballesteros was the answer to part A, and then both Jefferson, Rojas and Jackson Ferris could be seen as the answers for part B.
I’m not sure who the answers at Myrtle Beach will exactly be in 2024. My money for the breakout player in the first half is going to be on both Zyhir Hope and Miguel Olivo. Both finished the year strong in Mesa, and they might just be the tip of the iceberg, depending upon how much each player develops this winter. Alfonsin Rosario might be in the mix, too!
The other question for this level is: Will Nazier Mule begin the year in extended spring training or will he be assigned to Myrtle Beach?
If I had to make an educated guess, the Cubs will probably take it easy with the two-way player in 24 and have him begin the season in extended spring training. He can play shortstop almost every day and then pitch once a week when his arm is ready. Right now, it’s a little hard to assess his progress coming back from TJS in early November.
You could look at rookie league stories in two parts. One is who is catching fire in extended spring training and who is busting out in the Arizona Complex League?
Hopefully, Derniche Valdez and Angel Cepeda are going to be the two guys to tear it up. We could also see Ramon Eriandys and Ludwing Espinoza do the same. Their season is still full seven months away. A lot can happen in that span.
I will be back in a day or two with a look at some Starting Pitching storylines to follow in 2024