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Chicago Cubs Top 20 prospects for 2018: mid-season review

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Checking in on the Cubs

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs
David Bote
Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Continuing with our mid-season organization reviews, we turn our attention to the Chicago Cubs farm system.

This list was originally published December 2nd, 2017, and revised December 18, 2017.

*****THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST******

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE PRE-SEASON LIST

THESE ARE NOT NEW GRADES

1) Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Grade B: Age 23, signed out of Venezuela in 2012, breakthrough season in 2017, in 2018 posted 4.76 ERA in 40 innings in Triple-A with 27/13 K/BB before going on DL with lat strain, will miss rest of season; dominant in some starts but had others where command failed; will hold this grade for now.

2) Aramis Ademan, SS, Grade B: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2,000,000; .220/.306/.290 in 345 at-bats in High-A, 34 walks, 86 strikeouts; not much on the surface here but very young for the level, good approach, hitting should improve as he gets stronger; has tools to stick at shortstop.

3) Alex Lange, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2017 from Louisiana State; 3.78 ERA in 105 innings in High-A with 88/29 K/BB, 93 hits; not a bad year by any means but I felt he was capable of better; looked strong early but metrics started to slip in early July, may have been tired although last start on August 14th went well; stock holding overall.

4) Jose Albertos, RHP, Grade B: Age 19, signed out of Mexico in 2015, looked good in the Northwest League in 2017 but completely fell apart with his command in 2018, 15.52 ERA in 29 innings between Midwest and NWL, 36/63 K/BB, 63 walks is not a typo; doesn’t seem to be a physical issue but mechanics need to be completely rebuilt.

5) Victor Caratini, C-1B, Grade B: Age 25, second round pick by Braves in 2013 from Miami Dade JC, traded to Cubs in 2014, hitting .252/.315/.304 in 115 major league at-bats; in the long run I think he’s a .270 hitter with a solid OBP and may develop more power.

6) Oscar De La Cruz, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic as an infielder in 2012; 5.24 ERA in 77 innings in Triple-A with 73/31 K/BB; suspended 80 games after testing positive for Furosemide, a masking agent; pre-bust profile hadn’t changed much, fine arm with command issues, may wind up in bullpen.

7) Thomas Hatch, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Oklahoma State, 3.75 ERA with 97/57 K/BB in 127 innings in Double-A, 112 hits; command inconsistent but can be tough with his fastball/slider combination on the right day.

8) Brendon Little, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2017 from State Junior College of Florida; 5.08 ERA in 96 innings in Low-A, 85/42 K/BB, 100 hits; can hit 95 and has a plus curveball but delivery falls apart at times, hampering his command; high ceiling.

9) Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, signed out of Taiwan in 2013; 6.52 ERA in 117 innings in Triple-A, 103/44 K/BB, 141 hits; was much more successful at the same level in 2017; command within the strike zone has slipped a bit this season and his margin of stuff is narrow enough for that to be a problem, especially in the Pacific Coast League; I wouldn’t give up yet but stock is down a notch.

10) Mark Zagunis, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, third round pick in 2014 from Virginia Tech; hitting .271/.393/.372 in Triple-A, 65 walks, 92 strikeouts in 347 at-bats, 10 steals; no change in profile, good OBP player with some speed and occasional pop, not much left to prove in minors but no obvious slot on major league roster.

11) Duane Underwood, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, second round pick in 2012 from high school in Georgia; 4.32 ERA in 106 innings in Triple-A, 91/33 K/BB, 110 hits; seems to have improved along the margins if you watch him in person but no huge changes in overall performance, can hit mid-90s, curve, change, cutter all show potential but remain inconsistent from start to start.

12) Nelson Velazquez, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, fifth round pick in 2017 from high school in Carolina, Puerto Rico; hitting .218/.288/.339 in 316 at-bats between Midwest and Northwest Leagues, 26 walks, 109 strikeouts, 12 steals; 60 raw power, 60 speed, but “raw” is the key word here; high ceiling but will need time.

13) Alec Mills, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, acquired in 2017 from Kansas City Royals for outfielder Donnie Dewees; missed most of 2017 with bone chips; back this year with 4.93 ERA in 119 innings in Triple-A, 101/39 K/BB, 118 hits; could be a sneak-up-on-us guy in 2019 with even a small improvement.

14) Charcer Burks, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, ninth round pick in 2013 from high school in Texas; hit .270/.370/.395 with 10 homers, 16 steals, 69 walks, 107 strikeouts in 456 at-bats in Double-A in 2017; in 2018 he’s at the same level hitting .235/.340/.326, 55 walks, 116 strikeouts in 387 at-bats, 13 steals; a bit weaker in most respects; has tools to be better than this but sometimes a guy gets frustrated in his second go-around a level if he did OK there the first time.

15) Cory Abbott, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2017 from Loyola Marymount; 2.91 ERA in 99 innings in Low-A/High-A with 111/31 K/BB, 83 hits; was expected to be polished when drafted and he’s been that, stuff plays up due to deception and command.

16) Michael Rucker, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 11th round pick in 2016 from BYU; 3.49 ERA in 119 innings in Double-A, 109/32 K/BB, 97 hits; curve and change have improved to go with low-90s fastball, solid season, stock up a notch, potential fourth starter.

17) Keegan Thompson, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, third round pick out of Auburn in 2017; missed 2016 with Tommy John, 2.96 ERA in 112 innings in High-A/Double-A with 95/29 K/BB, 88 hits; strong command of fastball/curve/change arsenal; like Abbott and Rucker he’ll be a potential call-up about a year from now.

18) Bryan Hudson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick in 2015 from high school in Illinois; more of an upside arm than the guys ahead of him but lacks polish, 4.41 ERA in 98 innings in High-A, 66/53 K/BB, 87 hits; stands out with 6-8, 220 build but still working to refine secondary pitches and command.

19) Dillon Maples, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, 14th round pick in 2011 from high school in Southern Pines, North Carolina; career looked ruined by control problems and injuries but the Cubs didn’t give up and he turned things around in ’17; back in Triple-A this season, 2.48 ERA in 36 innings, 69/36 K/BB. . .well, strong in the strikeout and radar gun columns but with control that has gone backwards again.

20) Wladimir Galindo, INF, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2013; I thought he was a breakout candidate but 2018 has not gone well, .218/.272/.315 in High-A with 25 walks, 110 strikeouts in 362 at-bats; defense has gone backwards, too, still young but will be passed by others without a quick turnaround in ’19.

OTHER GRADE C+:

David Bote, INF; Very nice season from 25-year-old, .268/.342/.494 in Triple-A, then .321/.410/.512 so far in 84 major league at-bats; I think he’s more of a .250 guy long-term but with significant versatility and enough power/patience to be quite valuable; sleeper prospect made good.

Jesus Camargo, RHP; 2.62 ERA in 45 innings in Low-A, 40/10 K/BB before going down with injury; just placed on rookie ball rehab list.

Trevor Clifton, RHP; Nice year in the high minors, 3.37 ERA in 115 innings, 93/46 K//BB, 94 hits; ready for an MLB trial as potential back-end starter or bullpen option.

Jeremiah Estrada, RHP; Hasn’t pitched due to elbow issues

Fernando Kelli, OF; Hitting .216/.298/.259 in the Northwest League at age 20.

Eddy Martinez, OF; Cuban outfielder hitting .219/.270/.367 with 11 homers, 25 walks, 76 strikeouts in 360 at-bats in Double-A at age 23.

Erling Moreno, RHP; 3.41 ERA in 58 innings with 36/19 K/BB between Low-A and rookie ball, coming back from shoulder issues

Jose Paulino; LHP; Disappointing year with 6.75 ERA in 69 innings in High-A, 52/18 K/BB, 95 hits.

Duncan Robinson, RHP; Control type, 3.39 ERA in 125 innings in Double-A, 106/21 K/BB, but 139 hits; Dartmouth guy.

Randy Rosario, LHP; Some success in Cubs bullpen, 3.00 ERA in 33 innings, 21/19 K/BB, 31 hits; would like a better K/BB ratio but lefties with a pulse live forever.

Justin Steele, LHP; Coming back well from Tommy John, 1.71 ERA in 32 innings between rookie rehab and High-A, 39/9 K/BB, watch him closely in 2019, stock moving back up.

Jason Vosler, INF; Hitting .256/.344/.476 with 20 homes, 49 walks, 128 strikeouts in 403 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A; wants to be the David Bote of 2019.

D.J Wilson, OF; Hitting .245/.347/.332 in 184 at-bats in High-A, nine steals, has the tools to be better.

Rob Zastryzny, LHP 4.37 ERA in 47 innings in Triple-A, 42/24 K/BB; 4.76 ERA in 5.2 major league innings; will bounce between Triple-A and the majors for the next eight years.

**************************

The big breakout this year has come from catcher Miguel Amaya. I had him as a Grade C pre-season following his disappointing 2017 season in the Northwest League but he’s taken a large step forward in ’18 at .268/.353/.430 in the Midwest League with excellent defense and a Futures Game nod. He’s just 19 and is probably the best prospect in the system now.

2018 draftee Nico Hoerner will also rank highly, while lefty Brailyn Marquez has developed quickly as well. Also watch for outfielders Brennen Davis and Cole Roederer for aggressive placement on the 2019 list.