2017 Chicago Cubs Midseason Top 10 Prospects
The Cubs have spent 2017 nursing one hell of a hangover.
|Cubs Midseason Top 10|
|1. Victor Caratini, C|
|2. Thomas Hatch, RHP|
|3. Jose Albertos, RHP|
|4. Adbert Alzolay, RHP|
|5. Isaac Paredes, SS|
|6. Brendon Little, LHP|
|7. Alex Lange, RHP|
|8. Aramis Ademan, SS|
|9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B|
|10. Oscar de la Cruz, RHP|
For a team that won 200 regular-season games the last two seasons, this was unexpected. The Cubs’ main culprit has been starting pitching, with Jon Lester pitching fairly well until a disastrous final start; Jake Arrieta remaining inconsistent in his walk year but leading the team in wins; John Lackey looking every bit of 38; and Kyle Hendricks injured. The Cubs ranked 17th in the major leagues in starter ERA, and while Eddie Butler has been a nice find, the Cubs’ inability to develop homegrown arms remains a factor.
Chicago had more than one issue. Its offense ranked 19th in the majors in runs, even with rookie Ian Happ slugging 13 homers in 51 games. The Cubs’ slumping players, however, include young building blocks such as Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber who are unlikely to be traded, plus expensive vets such as Jason Heyward, whose contract is nearly untradeable.
Club president Theo Epstein told Chicago media that the improvements would have to come from "inside this clubhouse.” But then he turned around and made an aggressive move, dealing Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease—who would have ranked Nos. 1 and 2 on this midseason list—with two other minor leaguers to the White Sox for lefthander Jose Quintana.
Club officials indicated they did not expect Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and company to stop being aggressive. Winning one World Series was incredible, but the Cubs’ aim is to win more within their current window of opportunity.
1. Victor Caratini, C Chicago Age: 23
The closer he’s gotten to the major leagues, the better Caratini has hit, and he earned a big league promotion to replace Miguel Montero after the veteran was designated for assignment in late June. Caratini makes consistent hard contact and is a competent receiver whose bat is ahead of his glove and fringe-average arm. He hasn’t made a radical change to his approach, he’s just gotten hot and stayed hot this season. More confidence has allowed him to take more chances and get the ball out front this year, leading to more power. His even-keeled approach should make him a fine complement to high-energy starter Willson Contreras.
2. Thomas Hatch, RHP high Class A Carolina Age: 22
The Cubs have built last year’s top pick up slowly in his first season. Hatch generally sits 92-94 mph with sinking life on the fastball and has to harness the command of it and his hard, mid-80s slider. His changeup and approach to lefthanded hitters (.795 OPS) need refinement, but he’s been effective in his first year.
3. Jose Albertos, RHP Short-season Eugene Age: 18
The Cubs have tried to handle Albertos very carefully, but when he is on the mound, he has shown a significant ceiling. Albertos can sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, which gets up to 97, and has a plus changeup that flashes better. He’s been working to improve his breaking ball.
4. Adbert Alzolay, RHP Double-A Tennessee Age: 22
No one in the organization has improved his stock more than Alzolay, whose athleticism stood out in the past along with the natural cutting action on his fastball. Alzolay has used his legs more in his delivery and improved the tempo in his delivery, keeping him in sync more and improving his velocity into the 93-96 mph range.
5. Isaac Paredes, SS Low Class A South Bend Age: 18
One of the Cubs’ influx of prospects from Mexico, Paredes is the top hitter of the group and was tied for fifth in the low Class A Midwest League with 22 doubles. He combines a contact approach with power to the gaps thanks to a sound approach and physical frame.
6. Brendon Little, LHP Not Yet Assigned Age: 20
Little struck out 133 in 85.1 innings at State JC of Florida this spring and the Cubs drafted him 27th overall and signed him for $2.2 million. Little is athletic with a plus fastball velocity and life. His curveball also flashes plus, and he has present strength. Command will be his biggest issue going forward.
7. Alex Lange, RHP Not Yet Assigned Age: 21
Lange helped Louisiana State reach two College World Series and signed for $1.925 million as the 30th overall pick. Lange signed a below-slot deal amidst reported issues with his physical, which one source said was related to his back. Lange has a 90-94 mph fastball and plus curveball at his best with a firm changeup. He also will need to refine his command.
8. Aramis Ademan, SS Short-season Eugene Age: 18
Signed for $2 million in 2015, Ademan has a lean, high-waisted frame with a simple line-drive swing and enough strength for gap power. He’s an instinctive defender who is still learning which plays he can make and when to let it go. Ademan has maturing to do, but has a promising foundation to build off of.
9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B Chicago Age: 23
Candelario has bounced from Triple-A Iowa to Chicago several times the last two seasons amd struggled at times to handle the shuttle. He remains a capable defender at either corner, with plenty of arm strength for third base. The Cubs see him as a reserve as a switch-hitter who can defend.
10. Oscar de la Cruz, RHP High Class A Myrtle Beach Age: 22
The enigmatic de la Cruz has a big pitcher’s body that portends durability, but he hasn’t surpassed 100 innings in the last two seasons combined with various ailments, including a "tender arm” this year. While de la Cruz has big stuff when healthy, with a fastball up the mid-90s and a power breaking ball, he’s not healthy enough to showcase as a trade chip or help on the mound.
• Finally given a spot as an everyday regular, 2B David Bote consistently produces with high exit velocities with a strong, line-drive swing.
• One of the system’s best stories, RHP Dillon Maples, the oft-injured 2011 draft pick, has broken through in 2017, hitting 100 mph with his fastball and getting swings and misses (14.4 K/9) with two breaking balls, including a hard, plus slider. With 45 IP, he’s thrown more than any year since 2013 and is expected to be promoted to Triple-A this week.
• LHP Justin Steele has harnessed his delivery in his third pro season, helping him more consistently pound the zone with a low-90s fastball and biting curveball.
• 3B Jason Vosler has worked to be more direct to the ball in his swing, unlocking his plus power. The 23-year-old is a surehanded defender.
• RHP Trevor Clifton hasn’t been able to take the next step in his first stint at Double-A. Last year, he separated himself in the system’s full-season pitchers. He’s fallen back to the pack in 2017.
• OF Eddy Martinez has big tools but remains undisciplined at the plate with a raw approach.
• RHP Duane Underwood has been durable and still throws hard, but he’s yet to develop a strikeout pitch. In his 40-man protection year, he’s squarely on the bubble.
• INF Chesny Young’s contact ability remains strong, but his lack of power (.044 ISO in the Pacific Coast League) overshadows his versatility and bat control.
• de la Cruz has missed nearly two months with his tender arm and has no known timetable to return.
• 3B Wladimir Galindo has been disabled both with shoulder and leg injuries.
• LHP Rob Zastryzny was working in relief at Triple-A before a lat strain caused him to miss all of June. He is currently rehabbing in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
• Acquired from the Royals for Donnie Dewees, RHP Alec Mills made just three starts before heading to the disabled list.
• OF/2B Ian Happ has done more than the Cubs could have asked, giving a fairly moribund offense a jolt.
Adbert Alzolay Looks To Take Hold Of Rotation Spot
The 26-year-old righthander made tremendous strides in 2020 and pitched effectively in the big league rotation. This season he aims to stay there.
• OF Albert Almora doesn’t control the strike zone enough to get to his power but has contributed with a contact-oriented bat and solid defensive chops in center.