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Chicago Cubs

Original Published Date: October 4, 2019

cubsSince we started publishing our prospect list in 2012, the first traditionally has been the Cubs.  That was when the Cubs had Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler in their system.  In 2013, Kris Bryant, Danny Voglebach and others would join the list.

It was fun to write about the Cubs and candidly, easy.  Unfortunately, our job has gotten harder as we are having to dig deeper to find players that could potentially be impact performers one day in Wrigley.   There are a few.  We like Brennen Davis a lot and despite an inconsistent performance by Miguel Amaya in High-A, we still think he’ll be a major league catcher.  But, there’s no Bryant or Baez.  In fact, I’m not sure there is a Danny Voglebach in the group.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Brennen Davis
  • Biggest Mover: Brailyn Marquez
  • Emerging Prospect: Ronnier Quintero

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

1. Brennen Davis (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF
  • Tools Summary: Five tool player.  Needs time to develop.

Brennen Davis was a sexy pickup in many Dynasty Leagues this year and for good reason.  He’s been one of the better performers in the Midwest League showing an intriguing speed and power combo with a semblance of an approach.

The Cubs selected Davis in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft based on his great athleticism, plus bat speed, and plus running ability.  The bat speed has already started to translate into in-game power as he slugged .509 with seven home runs in 2019.  He hasn’t attempted to steal many bases yet, but the speed is at least 65 on the 20 to 80 scale.  The approach is still a work-in-progress, but he has shown some plate patience with the ability to not expand the strike zone.

He’s likely three years away from contributing at the Major League level but could start to be in the discussion of our Top 100 list as early as mid-season 2020.  If he’s out on your waiver wire, now is the time to make the move.

2. Nico Hoerner (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: Strong hit tool with average speed and power.

As is many times the case, an injury at the Major League level can create the opportunity for a player to be promoted to fulfill his baseball dream.  In Nico Hoerner’s case, it was a season-ending injury to Javier Baez in September that prompted the Cubs to promote their young middle infielder a mere 15 months after selecting him in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft.

Prior to his promotion, Hoerner had a solid season in Double-A.  In 271 plate appearance, he only struck out 10% of the time while walking 8% of the time.  While he can clearly hit, I worry about the amount of speed and power he will ultimately bring to the table.  The swing is geared more for contact and I clocked him going down first as an average runner.  Even with a juiced ball, I can’t see him hitting more than 12 to 15 home runs and stealing 15 bases.

While a 15-15 player who can hit .280 with a .360 OBP can be helpful to your fantasy team, I think the speed and power are a best-case scenario.  He’s still a Top 100 player for me but given his high floor, and low-ceiling, he will likely be in the back half of the list.

3. Miguel Amaya (C)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 C
  • Tools Summary: Strong hit tool with above-average power.

After 332 games of professional ball, it’s hard to get excited about a player that is hitting .244.  But, that’s what Miguel Amaya is hitting and I continue to be bullish on his upside.  Living in a North Carolina Beach town in the spring and fall, I had a chance to see Miguel Amaya a lot during April and May and like what I saw.  He has a great understanding of the strike zone, has very good bat speed and while he’s far from an elite defensive catcher, is just fine.

If you dig deeper into the stats, Maya has demonstrated his ability to control the strike zone.  In 100 games in the Carolina League, he walked nearly as much as he struck out with a strikeout rate of 16.8%.  He also hit 11 home runs, but given his bat speed, once he adds more loft to his swing, I think he will push 20 home runs.  If you add it all up, the ceiling is a .260/.340/.440 hitter with 18 to 22 home runs.  That offensive profile should make him at least a Top 10 catcher, if not Top 5 in a fantasy league.

4. Brailyn Marquez (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP or a Closer
  • Tools Summary: Premium velocity from the left side.

Brailyn Marquez had a solid season in 2019 logging time across both the Midwest and Carolina League.  He showed swing and miss stuff but inconsistent control.  In 22 games, he’s pitched to 3.13 ERA striking out 11 per nine but walking over four per nine.

There’s a lot to like with Marquez.  It’s premium velocity from the left-side with his fastball sitting 95 to 96 MPH and scraping higher.  He’s ditched his curveball and is now throwing a slider that is starting to miss bats while also showing a feel for a change-up.  His delivery still needs work as he doesn’t always repeat it which is causing control issues.

At 6-foot-4, he’s got the size and velocity to at least be a mid-rotation starter.  There’s still a lot of work left to refine his delivery.  In fact, whether he winds up in the bullpen or as a mid-rotation starter, perhaps more, will be about his ability to smooth out his mechanics to allow him to throw more strikes.  From a fantasy standpoint, I’m rostering him because even if he moves to the pen, he’s got closer potential.

5. Adbert Alzolay (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: Fastball/Curveball pitcher.  Lacks a good change-up.

Adbert Alzolay split his time between Des Moines and Chicago logging 65.1 innings in Triple-A and 12.1 innings in the big leagues.  He showed very good swing and miss stuff but continued to struggle with finding the plate as he walked nearly five per nine between the two levels.

Alzolay is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that sits 94-95 MPH and a curveball that will miss bats.  He still lacks a change-up and that’s caused him problems as lefties hit over .300 against him.  He’s also on the smallish size, standing only 6-feet and weighing 180 pounds.  If you add it all up, the ceiling is a number four starter with a chance to be more if his change-up develops.

He likely begins the 2020 season back in Triple-A with multiple call-ups as injuries dictate.  It might take a year or two before he establishes himself, but I do see him as a Major League pitcher; either in the starting rotation or in the pen.

6. Pedro Martinez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS/2B
  • Tools Summary: Plus runner with an idea at the plate.

 Pedro Martinez was signed in May of 2018 from Venezuela and had an impressive year in the DSL where he hit .310 with 31 stolen bases, walking as many times as he struck out.  The Cubs brought him state-side in 2019 and he continued to play well.  He spent the first month in the AZL where he hit .359 before being promoted to the Northwest League where he hit .265.

Martinez is an intriguing prospect with plus speed and the ability to make solid contact and control the strike zone.  His swing is more contact-oriented, but he has enough bat speed and natural strength to eventually hit for average power.  However, it will likely be more doubles than over-the-fence power.  He is a switch hitter with a bit more power from the left side.  If it all comes together, he could develop into a top-of-the-order hitter with 30 plus stolen bases and a handful of home runs.

7. Cole Roederer (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF
  • Tools Summary: Good runner but needs to cut down on strikeouts.

After some very good reports on Cole Roederer last season, I ranked him very high within the Cubs system last year.  He rewarded my confidence in him by hitting .221 in 110 games in the Midwest League.  Part of his poor average can be attributed by his .285 BABIP, but the bigger problem was his 25% strikeout rate. It wasn’t all bad as he showed good speed on the base paths where he stole 16 bases.  It should be noted that he played the entire season as 19-year-old.

I still think Roederer is a Major League talent, but the ceiling is looking more like a fourth outfielder.  He’s a good runner but is not a burner and I would put his base-stealing ceiling at 15 to 20 per year.  He has good bat speed but is far from a power hitter.  That said, once he matures, the power could develop.  Two evaluators in which I spoke with both told me that they thought he would develop power.  However, his success will hinge on his ability to make contact and control the strike zone.  For now, there is much work to be done.

8. Richard Gallardo (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Rookie ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Arm strength and athleticism.  Very young.

Richard Gallardo is one of the more interesting players in the Cubs minor league system.  He was one of the big J2 signs during the 2018 signing period and brings a nice combination of arm strength and athleticism.  The Cubs brought him stateside in 2019 and while he didn’t put up glowing numbers, but he did hold his own as a 17-year-old.  In 34.1 innings, he pitched to a 3.93 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 14 walks.

But he gives the Cubs something to dream on.  He has a fastball that touches the mid-90s but as he matures, the hope is that he will increase velocity.  His secondary pitches are very raw but he does show an ability to spin a curveball.  What the Cubs like the most is his athleticism and the ability to already repeat his delivery.  If it all comes together, the upside could be a mid-rotation starter.  He’s not someone to own yet in a Dynasty League, but he should be monitored as athletic pitchers that throw hard are not easy to find.

9. Riley Thompson (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: Premium velocity with improved control.

The Cubs drafted Riley Thompson in the 11th round in 2018 as an arm strength guy who needed an overall with his delivery.  During his Junior year at Louisville, he struck out nearly 10 per nine but he also walked nearly seven per nine.  Part of his control problems could have stemmed from having Tommy John Surgery during his freshman year.

His control problems appear to be a thing of the past as he walked less than three per nine in 21 starts in Low-A in 2019.  Now, he’s old for the league as he’s already 23, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.  You have what you have.  Now that his delivery has been fixed, the Cubs should start to push him and he could easily see the big leagues in 2021.

Again, Thompson has good stuff with a fastball that can touch the upper 90s with a quality curveball.  He’s still trying to find a feel for his change-up, but assuming he does, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.

10. Cory Abbott (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: Average stuff.  Needs to pitch effectively to be successful.

Cory Abbott had his breakout season in 2018 where he emerged as one of the best pitching prospects in the Cubs organization.  His move to Double-A in 2019 proved more difficult as he became homer-prone.  In 26 starts, he gave up 15 home runs.  He was still striking out plenty with nearly a 10 K/9 ratio.

He doesn’t have premium stuff but gets by with good fastball command, good movement on his fastball and nice pitch sequencing.  The ceiling is a number four pitcher or a swingman out of the bullpen.  While he doesn’t have the same kind of upside as some of the more heralded pitchers in the organization, he is getting close the major leagues and in fact, should see time there in 2020.

11. Chase Strumpf (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: Solid approach and hit-tool.  Lacks secondary tools.

As a three-year starter at UCLA, Chase Strumpf demonstrated an advance hit-tool that resulted in a .301 average and a .414 on-base percentage over his college career.  The Cubs liked what they saw and took him in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft.  He had a good start to his professional league splitting his time between the AZL and the Northwest League.  He did strike out more than I would have thought (25%) but continued to take his walks.

Strumpf is likely limited to second base defensively and therefore his bat will need to carry him.  While I think he’ll hit, he’s not a plus runner and doesn’t project to hit for more than average power.  If he hits enough, he could have success similar to what Jeff McNeil has had this year.  But McNeil was a late bloomer and is being helped out by a .366 BABIP this year. I have put Strumpf’s fantasy upside as a Middle Infielder.

12. Ronnier Quintero (C)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 C with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Natural power with the ability to hit, but he’s 16-years-old.

The Cubs spent over $5 million dollars in 2019 to sign three top international players with Ronnier Quintero being the one they coveted the most.  He compares favorably to Diego Cartaya, the top International catcher signed in 2018 by the Dodgers who got off to a strong start to his professional career.  Evaluators love the swing, athleticism and the natural power in his swing.

For fantasy players, he’s at least five years away but if it all comes together, he could become a Top 15 catcher in fantasy.

13. Ryan Jensen (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 SP or Closer
  • Tools Summary: Premium velocity.  Needs to work on secondary pitches.

The Cubs drafted Ryan Jensen with the 27th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.  At 6-feet and 180 pounds, he’s not the prototypical starter that teams are drafting, but he has a big fastball that at worse, he can develop into a high-leverage arm in the bullpen.

He started his college career at Fresno State and pitched poorly as a Freshman.  In fact, he didn’t have a solid year until his Junior campaign where he went 11-1 with a 2.92 ERA striking out 9.6 per nine while walking 2.5 per nine.  That performance got his first-round money and chance at the big leagues.

Jensen signature pitch is his upper 90’s fastball.  He also throws a slider and change-up that grade out as average pitches.  The delivery needs work as he has a long arm action (think Jon Duplantier).  If it all comes together, the ceiling is a back-of-rotation starter or perhaps a high-leverage bullpen arm.

14. Ethan Hearn (C)

  • Highest Level:  Rookie ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: Raw athletic talent.

The Cubs drafted Ethan Hearn in the sixth round of last June’s draft and went well over-slot to sign the catcher inking him to a $950,000 signing bonus.  He really struggled offensively in his first taste of professional ball hitting .162 in 23 games in the AZL while striking out nearly 40% of the time.

The Cubs knew that Hearn was raw but loved his athleticism and ability to catch.  He has good bat speed and projects to hit for power.  He needs work on his pitch recognition and developing a more compact swing to cut down on his strikeouts.  If it all comes together, he has the ceiling of a full-time catcher in the big leagues but he’s at least five years away.

15. Justin Steele (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 SP
  • Tools Summary: Average arsenal.

Justin Steele was drafted in 2014 and has been hampered by injuries which has slowed his progression down.  He missed most of 2018 season and was put on the 7-day DL on June 24 and did not pitch again in 2019.  During his short tenure last season for Double-A, he didn’t pitch particularly well.  In nine starts, he pitched to a 5.13 ERA striking out nearly 10 per nine but also walking nearly five per nine.

He has good stuff with a fastball that sits in the low 90s with a slider and curveball that can both miss bats as well as change-up that shows promise.  But injuries and inconsistent control, which is likely related to not pitching enough are holding him back.  The ceiling is likely a back-of-the-rotation starter or even a swing starter.

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