With the 2018 Minor League Baseball season coming to a close as playoffs begin at all levels, its time to take a look at which prospects took the biggest jump in 2018, as well as who took the biggest step back.
In this new series, I’ll be taking a look at six players per system—three of whom rose the most in 2018, while the other three fell the most in 2018.
Next up are the Chicago Cubs.
Heading into 2018, David Bote was off of most Top-30 prospects lists in the Cubs system, and was pretty much just a depth piece in Triple-A.
Two walk-off home runs and a scorching-hot month later, and David Bote is practically a household name in Chicago.
While the 2012 18th-rounder hasn't put up huge numbers (.240, six homers, 33 RBIs), his impact on the Cubs goes far beyond the stat sheet. Bote produced in a big way while superstar third-baseman Kris Bryant was on the DL, giving the Cubs a boost from an unexpected source.
Bote has even moved Bryant to left field temporarily, finding his way into one of the MLB’s best lineups.
A September slump has watered down his numbers, but Cubs fans know very well how much David Bote has risen in 2018.
In a Cubs farm system that has a serious shortage of left-handed pitching, Justin Steele’s emergence has been a big plus in 2018.
In just 11 starts, Steele excelled, going 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 46.2 innings, striking out 53 while walking 13.
Steele missed most of the season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but his quick recovery, and impressive production in the games following his return certainly helped his stock rise in 2018.
At the age of 23, Steele is a big player to keep an eye on next season. The Cubs likely won't be patient with the lefty, especially if he flaunts the same major-league caliber stuff that he did in limited action in 2018.
Like Steele, Marquez’ emergence as a productive lefty is a monumental development for the future of the Cubs pitching staff.
At the young age of 19, Marquez had a huge 2018, going 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 12 starts between Rookie Ball and Single-A. In 54.2 innings, Marquez struck out 59 batters, while walking 16.
Contrary to Steele, Marquez likely won't be rushed, especially considering his age. The production at the age of 19 could set Marquez up to be a future building block in a shallow Cubs farm system.
While the major league team isn't short on talent now, a couple years down the road, Brailyn Marquez could be an impact-making in the Cubs rotation, especially after his big 2018.
Oscar De La Cruz:
Prior to 2018, Oscar De La Cruz was one of the Cubs top pitching prospects. After a poor performance on the mound in 2018, and an 80-game suspension due to PEDs, De La Cruz’ stock is in shambles.
In 16 games before his suspension, De La Cruz went 6-7 with an astronomical 5.24 ERA. In 77.1 innings, De La Cruz struck out 73, while walking 31.
While De La Cruz probably wasn't going to be making an impact in Chicago in 2018, his value as a trade piece was ruined due to his poor performance and PED suspension.
At the age of 23, its not too late for De La Cruz to recover, but its hard to imagine a 2018 season that could’ve went any worse for him.
Few players in minor league baseball had a worse season than Jose Albertos. One of the Cubs preseason top pitching prospects, Albertos had a horrendous 2018 campaign.
In 20 games between Single-A and Rookie Ball, Albertos went 0-9 with a 14.84 ERA. In 30.1 innings, Albertos struck out 38, while walking 65 (!!).
If Albertos had any semi-premier prospect status going into 2018, its completely erased now. 2018 couldn't have went any worse. Nothing went well on the mound for Albertos, who lost all control, and failed to win a single game.
2019 is a new season. Jose Albertos better view it as such. Any remnants of 2018 will be extremely detrimental to any chance of Albertos making it to Chicago in the future.
After a good 2017 season, Dillon Maples looked to be a potential secret weapon in the 2018 Cubs bullpen.
Maples had a solid season in Triple-A, going 2-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 41 games in relief. Maples struck out 75 batters in just 38.2 innings, saving ten games.
However, once he received a call-up to Chicago, everything fell apart for Maples. In nine appearances, Maples recorded a forgetful 11.81 ERA, walking five batters in as many innings, allowing 2 home runs and striking out nine.
While the good stuff remains for Maples, the failure to translate it to the next level is a major disappointment. Triple-A success is nice, but unless he can produce in the big leagues, Maples is at risk of being a quadruple-a pitcher for the next few seasons, opposed to a big league reliever.