Chicago Cubs Top 47 Prospects

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. This is the fourth year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but we use that as a rule of thumb.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

Cubs Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Pete Crow-Armstrong 22.1 MLB CF 2024 55
2 Cade Horton 22.7 AAA SP 2025 55
3 Matt Shaw 22.5 AA 3B 2025 55
4 Kevin Alcántara 21.8 AA CF 2024 50
5 Jordan Wicks 24.7 MLB SP 2024 50
6 Owen Caissie 21.9 AAA RF 2025 50
7 Michael Busch 26.5 MLB 1B 2024 50
8 Moises Ballesteros 20.5 AA C 2026 50
9 Jefferson Rojas 19.1 A+ 2B 2027 50
10 Fernando Cruz 17.5 R SS 2030 45
11 James Triantos 21.3 AA LF 2026 45
12 Ben Brown 24.7 MLB SIRP 2024 45
13 Brandon Birdsell 24.1 AA SP 2025 45
14 BJ Murray Jr. 24.4 AAA 3B 2025 45
15 Michael Arias 22.5 AA MIRP 2025 45
16 Brody McCullough 23.9 AA SP 2025 40+
17 Luke Little 23.7 MLB SIRP 2024 40+
18 Nazier Mulé 19.6 R SIRP 2027 40+
19 Jaxon Wiggins 22.6 R SIRP 2026 40+
20 Will Sanders 22.1 A+ SP 2026 40
21 Tyler Schlaffer 23.0 A+ SP 2025 40
22 Pablo Aliendo 23.0 AA C 2025 40
23 Yahil Melendez 18.7 R SS 2028 40
24 Porter Hodge 23.2 AAA SIRP 2024 40
25 Alexander Canario 24.0 MLB RF 2024 40
26 Brennen Davis 24.5 AAA RF 2024 40
27 Alfonsin Rosario 19.9 A RF 2028 40
28 Zac Leigh 26.5 AA SIRP 2025 40
29 Caleb Kilian 27.0 MLB MIRP 2024 40
30 Kohl Franklin 24.7 AAA MIRP 2025 40
31 Eriandys Ramon 21.4 R 1B 2027 35+
32 Connor Noland 24.8 AA SP 2026 35+
33 Riley Martin 26.2 AAA SIRP 2025 35+
34 Sam McWilliams 28.7 AAA SIRP 2024 35+
35 Luis Vazquez 24.6 AAA SS 2024 35+
36 Christian Franklin 24.5 AA CF 2025 35+
37 Brett Bateman 22.2 A+ CF 2026 35+
38 Richard Gallardo 22.7 AA SP 2025 35+
39 Eduarniel Nunez 24.9 AA SIRP 2025 35+
40 Jose Romero 23.1 A+ SIRP 2026 35+
41 Drew Gray 21.0 A+ SIRP 2026 35+
42 Nick Dean 23.4 A MIRP 2027 35+
43 Josh Rivera 21.6 AA SS 2026 35+
44 Derniche Valdez 18.1 R 2B 2029 35+
45 Matt Mervis 26.1 MLB 1B 2024 35+
46 Yohendrick Pinango 22.0 AA LF 2026 35+
47 Haydn McGeary 24.6 AA 1B 2025 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Harvard Westlake HS (CA) (NYM)
Age 22.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 35/50 60/60 70/80 55

PCA showed relevant swing adjustments when he returned from injury in 2021, including a more upright setup, a more pronounced leg lift, and a simplified, more compact load. While those changes may have been aimed at eliminating PCA’s upper-zone swing-and-miss issues, they have instead resulted in a power surge over the past couple seasons the likes of which he’d never previously displayed. After sending out 16 bombs at Low- and High-A in 2022, he upped the ante in 2023 with 20 homers in roughly the same number of games, this time at Double- and Triple-A, where he was far younger than most of his competition. The upper- and outer-zone whiffs are still present, though, and while we think PCA is going to get to his power, it’s likely that his hit tool and OBP skills will wind up comfortably below the big league average. That’s been the case so far as Crow-Armstrong approaches 100 big league plate appearances.

But of course, PCA boasts some of the most electric center field defense in the sport and could be a nearly three-win player on that basis alone. His proficiency and fearlessness on the basepaths is undeniable – a significant portion of his doubles in 2023 were of the hustle variety – and as long as he’s doing something offensively, he is going to be an impact big leaguer. He’ll likely continue to be challenged by the upper-zone heaters that have long confounded him at the plate. If he can plug that hole over time, he’ll be a five-tool superstar. More likely, he’ll have some 20-25 homer seasons amid a ton of strikeouts and a low OBP, with peak years resembling Mike Cameron‘s (though almost certainly not to that level of annual consistency). He has assumed the Cubs’ everyday center fielder role during Cody Bellinger‘s injury absence and initial return, but it’s feasible he’ll effectively be in a timeshare with Michael Busch and Patrick Wisdom as a fully healthy Bellinger shuttles back and forth between center field and first base.

2. Cade Horton, SP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from Oklahoma (CHC)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 50/55 45/55 40/50 92-95 / 98

Horton was a draft-eligible sophomore who was seen as a “tip of the iceberg” prospect, as he missed his freshman year due to TJ and didn’t focus solely on pitching until pro ball. It seemed as though things were clicking for him at a different level toward the end of the 2022 college season and the Cubs were emboldened to select him seventh overall that year. In his 2023 pro debut, Horton posted a .996 WHIP across 88.1 innings and reached Double-A. Perhaps more influentially (as far as how Horton was measured against other prospects in the sport), he sustained the velocity surge he showed during his breakout junior year despite throwing more innings.

That hasn’t quite been the case so far in 2024, as Horton has lost about two ticks of fastball velocity in the early portion of the season; his heater is sitting more 92-95 rather than the 94-97 of last year. Horton is still pitching pretty well and was promoted from Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa after a couple of starts, but he isn’t dominating. His breaking ball quality (both have mostly vertical movement and tend to be in the 83-87 mph range) is still plus, though he struggled to land it in his outing just before list publication. Horton’s screwball-style changeup, usually 86-88 mph, flashes plus but he spikes a lot of them. The projection on this pitch is still pretty big because Horton has only been developing that offering in earnest for a little over a year. The downtick in arm strength is more something to monitor than it is something to be concerned about (for now). Horton still has a mid-rotation look.

3. Matt Shaw, 3B

Drafted: 1st Round, 2023 from Maryland (CHC)
Age 22.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 60/60 45/60 60/60 30/35 45

Shaw’s junior spring at Maryland was electrifying enough to earn him the 13th overall selection in the loaded 2023 draft, and if the college season tired him out, he certainly didn’t show it. He hit the ground running as a pro, putting up disgusting numbers on the complex and then leapfrogging to High-A, where he racked up a 197 wRC+ over 20 games, before finishing the season with 15 games at Double-A, where Shaw has been assigned again to start 2024.

Shaw’s pro Trackman data last year was elite: He posted a 91% zone contact rate and plus peak exit velos in a medium-sized post-draft sample. He hasn’t been quite as amazing in the early stages of 2024 but, across a fairly small sample, he’s been much more selective. Shaw is a powerful, short-levered hitter with really explosive wrists and an odd, max-effort swing that, so far, has worked for him. His quick hands allow him to barrel up offerings throughout the strike zone, but his odd bat path, which cuts down at pitches in the bottom of the zone, hasn’t been tested by back-foot breaking stuff that could be a problem for him eventually. He has enough pop to torch contact the opposite way and is also a speedy dead-ahead runner, though Shaw’s lateral range on defense is not as good.

Having stuck to the middle infield as an amateur, Shaw has now seen pro reps at third base, where he has been playing most often in 2024. With Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson entrenched on the middle infield, Shaw’s fastest path to Wrigley is through the hot corner. Still, there has to be substantial development on defense before Shaw is a big leaguer. He plays defense with a high center of gravity and his hands are a little bit clunky. There’s a chance he isn’t even an infielder at all, but if he works on his defense with as much effort as he brings to an actual game, then he should improve enough to stay there. Shaw’s swing and tightly wound brand of athleticism are atypical looks on a baseball field, but his track record of hitting and hitting for power is that of an above-average regular.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 188 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 60/70 20/60 60/60 50/60 55

Still very young and very toolsy, Alcántara presents a volatile mix of ceiling and variance. Alcántara is already very dangerous to the opposite field, he has plus measureable power before the age of 22, and he’s going to get stronger. His lanky build has plenty of room for added muscle, and the fact that he’s already been a 20-homer pace guy in the minors and still has room on his frame for another 20 pounds or so suggests he might have elite power at peak. Built like Jerami Grant, Alcántara’s long limbs provide him with big natural power, but also sometimes make his swing hard to time correctly. He is so long-limbed that he’ll likely always have swing-and-miss issues (they may get worse as he faces big league fastballs), and the fact that he’s chase-prone doesn’t help. He’s inconsistent in games, sometimes looking like a stud and other times looking somewhat uncoordinated and out of sync with his body. That’s a pretty common problem for young hitters built like this. Center fielders whose contact profiles resemble Alcántara’s include Jose Siri, Michael A. Taylor, James Outman, and Jazz Chisholm Jr., guys whose performance tends to vary a lot year-to-year, and the same will likely be true of Alcántara.

The thing that stabilizes Alcántara’s profile is his center field defense, which has become quite good. He’s a plus runner with plus range and ball skills, and a fearlessness around the warning track. He’s gotten very good at the minutiae of the position, like running to a spot and positioning himself to throw before he’s collected the baseball. The 2024 season is Alcántara’s second option year, and he’s the sort of player who tends to peak deeper into his 20s and isn’t a lock to hit the ground running versus big league pitching next year. With Pete Crow-Armstrong and Cody Bellinger entrenched ahead of him, it’s possible that roster pressure puts him in the crosshairs of a trade.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Kansas State (CHC)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 50/50 60/60 45/50 55/60 91-94 / 96

Wicks graduates having performed right in line with our projection. Here is his Top 100 and Cubs Imminent Big Leaguer report: Wicks is an athletic lefty with a six-pitch mix that allows him to keep hitters off balance thanks to impressive command of his arsenal. He has two distinct fastballs that sit in the low-to-mid-90s, as well as two distinct breaking balls — a high-70s curveball and a low-80s slider — but it’s his plus changeup that gives hitters fits most often. Wicks has a vertical arm slot that helps his fastball play as a bat-misser at the belt by imparting ride on the pitch. He’s also added an upper-80s cutter to flesh out the middle part of his velocity range. As noted in our previous write-ups, the lefty-with-a-changeup-and-command combo is one that tends to at least earn a spot at the back of a starting rotation, and Wicks has now added a host of different breaking balls to go with it. He’s been a low-variance Top 100 prospect for a couple of seasons now, as we expect he’ll hold down a no. 4 role on a good team.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Notre Dame Catholic HS (ON) (SDP)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/80 55/65 40/30 30/50 60

The ginger-locked Caissie has some of the biggest raw power in pro baseball, with the hardest-hit 10% of his 2023 balls in play averaging 110 mph, which is in Yordan Alvarez and Matt Olson territory. That power manifested in games more often in 2023 than it had in previous seasons, as Caissie doubled his homer count from 2022 and slugged .519 at Double-A Tennessee. His contact rate isn’t great; in fact, in 2023 it was at the bottom of what there’s precedent for among corner sluggers in the majors. But early on in 2024, Caissie’s contact rates have been much better at Triple-A Iowa. His in-zone contact rate is north of 80%, his overall rate just above 70%, and those are more stable metrics than he showed in 2023. He also looks leaner and faster. All kinds of late-bloomer traits have been part of Caissie’s profile since he was a draft prospect and he’s still only 21. He’s an enormous Canadian kid who didn’t play a baseball game at night until 2021, after he had turned pro and been traded already. There are going to be a lot of strikeouts here, but Caissie projected to get to power sufficient to carry an everyday corner outfield profile even before he showed the little improvement to start this season. He’s a virtual lock to be put on the Cubs 40-man roster after the season and could compete for a spot on next year’s Opening Day roster.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from North Carolina (LAD)
Age 26.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 60/60 55/60 45/45 30/30 30

After a few short big league stints with the Dodgers in 2023, Busch finished the season just shy of graduating from prospect eligibility; he was dealt to the Cubs in January and in 2024 has been the team’s everyday first baseman. As he crosses the rookie graduation threshold, Busch is performing to the level we expected but not in exactly the way we thought he would. He’s striking out more than anticipated but getting to enough power to offset it. Much of his swing-and-miss is occurring outside the strike zone. It’s not that Busch is chasing a lot, but he’s struggling to contact pitches out of the zone much more than the average big league hitter (major league average O-Contact is 56%; Busch is at 48.4%). There’s bigger hit tool and on-base ceiling here than Busch has shown to this point. He’s been selective for his entire career and as that skill starts to surface at the big league level, it will buoy both his OBP and contact abilities. Again, Busch has been good so far, but he’d feel like a more stable hitter if he weren’t striking out a third of the time, especially since he’s officially a 1B/DH-only defender now.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2021 from Venezuela (CHC)
Age 20.5 Height 5′ 7″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 55/60 25/55 20/20 30/40 40

Ballesteros is as husky, bat-first catching prospect with fantastic vertical plate coverage. He has a career OPS over .800 as of list publication and has achieved it through a potent combination of flush contact and plate discipline. His best contact comes via traditional low-ball lefty lift, though Ballesteros is adept at flattening his bat path to spray high fastballs the opposite way. His spray chart has shifted from a more balanced all-fields spray to more frequent oppo contact early in 2024, though this appears to be more about how Double-A pitchers are approaching him than a regression in Ballesteros’ bat speed or ability to turn on the baseball.

He’s a squat, heavier young guy, but Ballesteros is athletic in the batter’s box. His swing has a leg kick with a big hip turn and explosive hip-and-hand separation. Athletes with maxed-out builds like this can be vulnerable to sudden and early physical regression, and this sort of risk is associated with Ballesteros’ profile in the same way it was with Alek Manoah‘s and Alejandro Kirk‘s. For now, Ballesteros looks sufficiently athletic and he has made enough technical progress to be more comfortably considered a catching prospect than before. He is still not great, but not many 20-year-old catchers pushed to Double-A are. Ballesteros’ best defensive attribute is his arm accuracy. He doesn’t have a hose, but he has a surprisingly quick release for a guy his size and throws a lot of accurate one-hoppers to second in the 1.95-2.00 second range, sometimes from his knees. Ballesteros will show you a little bit of every ball-blocking technique — backpicking to his right, hunched over balls right in front of him, moving laterally to his left — and he is by far the worst at the last of those. If he can clean that up and become a better receiver, then he’s going to catch pretty comfortably. All the risk associated with Ballesteros comes from characteristics one can assess visually. He has a very strong statistical profile at a premium position that he looks more likely to play now than a year ago. He’s tracking similar to Austin Wells.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 19.1 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 20/55 45/45 30/40 50

Rojas is the first of our 2024 Picks to Click to click as, despite his flaws, he’s off to an exciting and encouraging start with the bat at High-A South Bend. Rojas has some of the best hitting hands in the minor leagues, his timing at the dish is exceptional, he can create precocious power in a short mechanical distance, and he can move the baseball to all fields. Many of these characteristics act as force multipliers with one another, and combine to make Rojas a skillful and dangerous young hitter. Despite an approach that is a bit more expansive than it should be, Rojas is putting balls in play at an impressive rate for a 19-year-old infielder in the mid-minors. He mostly has gap-to-gap doubles power right now, but he should add enough power to his well-built, medium frame to make him a pole-to-pole power threat at maturity.

Where Rojas struggles some is on defense. He has mostly played shortstop as a pro (and as of list publication, has played there exclusively so far in 2024), but he’s not as athletically gifted as most big league shortstops, with his range and throwing accuracy in particular falling short of that position’s standards right now. He’s going to be a better fit at second or third, and there’s risk he moves off the dirt entirely. The further down the defensive spectrum Rojas falls, the more important it is for him to hit despite below-average plate discipline. This evaluation expects Rojas to eventually produce like Jordan Westburg has so far (lacking enormous raw power, but with consistency and quality contact amplifying his game power) or like Alec Bohm (as a stat/production comp, not at all as a build/athleticism comp) has in aggregate.

45 FV Prospects

10. Fernando Cruz, SS

Signed: International Signing Period, 2024 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 17.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 40/55 20/50 60/60 45/60 50

Cruz shined in a showcase setting as an amateur and was one of the first top prospects from the 2024 class to be identified. He signed for $4 million in January and will begin his pro career in the DSL.

Cruz has gorgeous infield footwork and actions, turning the baseball around in the blink of an eye. He can make strong, accurate throws from all kinds of platforms and could eventually be a special defensive player. While his swing can be a little noisy and long, Cruz is loose and athletic in the box, has plus bat speed, and can spray contact to all fields. Mechanical polish isn’t terribly important at this stage, the talent piece of the evaluation is, and in this regard Cruz is a complete, exciting player with big upside. This was all once true of Cristian Hernandez, another elite amateur Cubs signee, who has had hit tool issues in pro ball. Hit tool volatility is an inextricable part of international amateurs’ projections, and Cruz is no exception, but he has the potential to mature in the Goldilocks Zone, where he adds a bunch of power while also staying a shortstop, giving him enormous ceiling if it turns out he can hit.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Madison HS (VA) (CHC)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 45/45 30/35 50/50 30/40 40

Triantos was a bat-to-ball prodigy who didn’t have as much big showcase experience as your typical high-confidence hit tool high schooler. He has more or less run the minor league table as a plus or better contact hitter with all-fields doubles power, and has reached Double-A with a career .286/.349/.420 line and 14% strikeout rate.

Initially developed as a middle infielder, the Cubs have also tried Triantos for long stretches at third base (where he spent most of 2022) and center field (where he’s only played a handful of games). As of list publication, Triantos is exclusively playing second base so far in 2024. He has not looked very good at any position, and he might be best suited to play a corner outfield spot (which he hasn’t tried yet) than be an infielder at all. He’s a worse hands-and-feet athlete and thrower than is typically found on the infield. Triantos had surgery for a torn meniscus and missed the first part of 2023, and it’s possible he’ll improve on defense as he gets further away from the surgery, but he looks like a 30-grade infield defender right now. The Cubs still have at least all of 2024 and 2025 to find a comfortable defensive fit for him, because Triantos doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man until after the 2025 season.

It isn’t as if being a bad-but-versatile defender (a poor second base & average left field mix seems feasible) is going to prevent Triantos from having a meaningful big league role, because he rakes. He posted an 82.4% overall contact rate and 92% z-contact rate in 2023, and he has a 9% swinging strike rate since entering pro ball. Medium raw power and a proactive approach tend to limit Triantos’ slugging and stops one short of forecasting him as a star player, but he’s going to hit enough to be a complementary regular who probably comes off the field for defensive purposes late in games.

12. Ben Brown, SIRP

Drafted: 33th Round, 2017 from Ward Melville HS (NY) (PHI)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 70/70 40/45 94-96 / 98

Brown was taken in the 33rd round of the 2017 draft as a high schooler, and a series of injuries and the pandemic limited his inning totals throughout his first four seasons with the Phillies. He was traded to the Cubs for David Robertson in the middle of a breakout 2022 season during which Brown struck out 13/9 IP across 100 innings of work. He started the 2023 campaign with a hot streak at Double-A, where he posted a 39% strikeout rate and a 0.45 ERA over four starts. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he spent the remainder of the season. He was able to maintain an impressive strikeout rate at the higher level, but it came with an uncomfortable spike in his walk rate, which more than doubled — his BB/9 jumped from 2.70 to 6.32 — and Brown failed to work 100 innings due to his own inefficiency; he was shifted to the bullpen at the end of 2023. He was sent to Iowa when camp broke in 2024 to work as a starter, and it wasn’t long before he was needed in the big leagues.

Brown’s lack of fastball command impacts his performance in a few different ways, because he throws a lot of them nowhere near the zone and locates too many of them at the bottom of the zone, where the pitch is more vulnerable to contact. We’ve tended to think Brown will eventually be a reliever, albeit a damn good one. His fastball and breaking ball (he has scrapped his slider during the spring of 2024 to work with just one breaker) both generated plus chase and miss rates in 2023, and give him two impact pitches. He’ll either need to develop a better changeup or a second distinct breaking ball to have what we’d consider a starter’s pitch mix, and on top of that he needs to improve his command as he approaches age 25. It feels like a tall order. For now, it looks like Brown is going to shuttle back and forth between the rotation and bullpen as needed. Over time, we think Brown will be a nasty setup man.

Drafted: 5th Round, 2022 from Texas Tech (CHC)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 45/50 30/40 30/45 92-97 / 99

Birdsell was selected by the Twins in the 2021 draft, but an ill-timed shoulder injury resulted in him returning for his senior year at Texas Tech, and a year later he was a fifth round selection by the Cubs. He’s progressed to Double-A and met little resistance in pro ball, as he has a career 3.14 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Scouts are still split as to whether Birdsell will start or relieve in the big leagues. His strike-throwing track record is strong and long, and Birdsell has had two healthy seasons in a row during which he’s maintained good velocity. One thing working against him in this regard is his style of pitching with his fastball. He has a riding mid-90s heater that he commands to the top of the strike zone consistently, but this isn’t an efficient approach. Command consistency does not always extend to his secondary offerings, though Birdsell has a deep enough coffer of them to start. His arm action is so short that it was the crux of a Kevin Hart joke at the Tom Brady roast. He doesn’t have a beautiful, athletic delivery, but it’s incredibly simple, it doesn’t require violent effort, and Birdsell is a big, sturdy dude who looks like he can eat innings. Fastballs that play like Birdsell’s do tend to carry (literally) a lot of water for starter prospects. He projects as a good team’s no. 4/5.

14. BJ Murray Jr., 3B

Drafted: 15th Round, 2021 from Florida Atlantic (CHC)
Age 24.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 45/45 45/45 45/45 55/60 50

Born in the Bahamas (Murray competed for Great Britain in the 2023 WBC), Murray went to high school and college in Florida and has put together an impressive, well-rounded offensive resume since entering pro ball. He’s a career .259/.376/.426 hitter in the minors and, though he’s off to a slow start in 2024, he’s reasonably within range of helping the big league team if they suddenly have a need at one of the corner infield positions. Murray lacks a true plus tool (except for his plate discipline), but he does a little bit of everything well. His swing has lovely natural loft from both sides of the plate. He’s vulnerable to fastballs up and away from him but otherwise has excellent plate coverage and all-fields doubles pop. Murray has also improved markedly as a third base defender. He’s still a little inconsistent, but his ability to throw from odd platforms is exceptional. Murray doesn’t have the versatility to play a utility role and he doesn’t have the obvious power of an everyday third baseman, but he’s too good a hitter to put a generic 40 on. He projects as a second-division third baseman.

15. Michael Arias, MIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TOR)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 45/50 50/60 40/50 94-97 / 98

Arias is a converted shortstop who moved to the mound around the time he signed with the Cubs. Because he’s relatively new to pitching, it seemed feasible that Arias could develop a more potent third pitch and starter-quality command, but in 2024, the Cubs have moved Arias out of the rotation and into a multi-inning relief role at Double-A Tennessee. At a lanky 6-feet or so, Arias is fun to watch pitch because his stuff is nasty, his delivery is funky, he looks great in the uniform, and he has great taste in spikes. His low-slot delivery, which is similar to Luis Castillo’s, creates huge tail and uphill angle on his 94-97 mph heater. He topped out at 98 in his last outing prior to list publication. Arias’ upper-80s changeup has so much tailing movement that it sometimes doesn’t entice opposing hitters, but it has the potential to be a special pitch. His mid-80s bullet slider can be terse and cutter-y, but it looks to have more length early in 2024 than in the past.

Arias, who is on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, threw just over 80 innings in 2023 and is on pace to pitch about that much again as he works about two innings every three days. This is Arias’ first year on the 40-man. He was a Pick to Click in our Prospect Week fortune telling, but at that time, the notion that he’d continue to start was more realistic. This is a slightly dialed-down FV grade compared to our last Arias update because he’s more likely to be a reliever, but he still projects as an impact arm in that role.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 10th Round, 2022 from Wingate (CHC)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 50/50 40/50 50/60 91-94 / 96

McCullough carved at Division-II Wingate University, then boosted his pre-draft visibility with a stint on Cape Cod. He had a very successful first full season in pro ball split between Low- and High-A, as he struck out 108 in 86.1 innings across 21 starts. He began 2024 on the IL recovering from a 2023 knee surgery, finished rehab in Arizona, was quickly moved up to Double-A and then was put in the IL again just before list publication. When healthy, McCullough has the look of a backend starter. He commands a riding 92-94 mph fastball (that’s where it was as he rehabbed in Arizona) and low-80s, bullet-style slider to the locations in which they’re most effective, and his changeup flashes bat-missing action (though this was less true in his healthy 2024 window). McCullough stood a chance to climb into the 45 FV tier by the end of this year and was off to a great start before he hit the IL again.

17. Luke Little, SIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from San Jacinto (CHC)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 260 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 60/60 45/50 30/30 94-96 / 99

Little struck out 40% of opposing hitters from May through the end of the 2023 season and looks like a contender’s multi-inning relief weapon when he’s really humming, though he’s been erratic early in 2024. There’s an unanswerable question here: How long can an athlete like Little, both in terms of size and stiffness, throw strikes? He’s going to be effective for as long as he can do enough of that. Little’s size and funky delivery help him create a rare combination of extension and deception. He is going to chuck his fastball past a lots of frozen hitters who struggle to time him, and Little also has a deadly lefty slider that would all but ensure him a big league specialist role on its own. Little’s changeup is good enough to be a third pitch for righties to worry about. He still hasn’t proven he can maintain throwing strikes across a whole season, and he may be a lightning-in-a-bottle type who is dominant for stretches and frustrating for others. He’ll likely be back and forth from Iowa until he becomes consistent enough to merit being rostered in perpetuity. As of list publication, Little has enough active roster days to have graduated from rookie status even though he’s only thrown 15.2 big league innings.

18. Nazier Mulé, SIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2022 from Passaic Tech (NJ) (CHC)
Age 19.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/70 55/70 30/45 20/40 94-97 / 99

One of the most electric athletes in the entire 2022 draft, Mulé was a two-way prospect with hit tool questions generated by his swing’s bizarre look. He was a capable defensive shortstop with a 70 arm, and his strapping frame was poised to grow into huge power, but Mulé’s hit tool was scary enough that we (and most teams) had him projected as a pitcher only. He was considered a very talented developmental prospect with elite arm strength and athleticism projection, while being sushi raw from a pitchability standpoint. Pretty quickly, Mulé was flashing a better slider during backfield live BPs the fall after he was drafted, but he blew out during the spring of 2023 and needed Tommy John. He returned during 2024 extended spring training and has pitched in a few outings across the late extended and early complex schedule as of list publication. In those outings, Naz has been 94-97 and touched 99 while flashing a plus-plus slider in the 84-87 mph range, often with huge late movement. He is still wild, and his upper-80s changeup is predictably behind, but Mulé has backend bullpen stuff in place and he’s a high-end athlete who is literally only just starting to focus on pitching. He’s probably a reliever, but Naz’s profile has a bit more right tail outcome possibility.

19. Jaxon Wiggins, SIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2023 from Arkansas (CHC)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 60/60 30/40 30/40 96-98 / 100

Wiggins was a lights out reliever as a freshman at Arkansas and looked like a future top 15 pick, but he struggled as a sophomore when he was moved into the rotation. Things were so bad that the industry wondered if he was healthy, but Wiggins’ final 2022 appearance (which came out of the bullpen) saw him sit 97-100 with a nasty mid-80s curveball. After some rest and a great autumn, Wiggins’ elbow barked and he had Tommy John not long before the start of the 2023 season. He already had significant relief risk prior to the injury and this pushed things a little further in that direction. The Cubs took him in the second round and gave him $1.4 million, and Wiggins rehabbed into 2024; he’s begun to get his first pro reps in Mesa on the complex.

In his most recent ACL outing prior to list publication, Wiggins’ fastball ranged 96-98 across 1.2 innings. He works downhill with vertical shape, typically with about 17 inches of induced vertical break and single-digit horizontal break. Wiggins worked with four different pitches in that complex outing, and his two breaking balls (87 mph sliders, 81 mph curveballs) were operating in the high-end of the velocity ranges he showed at Arkansas. Both averaged three ticks below that in 2022 and looked nasty in his pro debut. Wiggins was already reliever-y and looks understandably rusty in Arizona. He has huge stuff and is a potential impact arm of some kind, with an overwhelming likelihood that he ends up in the bullpen. It’s logical to develop him as a starter in the event that things do click for him under pro tutelage, and because more reps will give him more opportunities to find his command and develop his secondary stuff, especially if a curveball is going to be a bigger part of his mix than in college.

40 FV Prospects

20. Will Sanders, SP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2023 from South Carolina (CHC)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 208 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 55/55 50/50 45/50 35/55 92-95 / 97

Sanders had a down 2023 junior spring because of an injury to his knee and lower fibula that caused him pain during the season even before he was shut down for most of May and after the draft. His pro debut came with an assignment to High-A South Bend, where Sanders has looked like he did in college. He can work the angle of his fastball past hitters at the letters even though he doesn’t throw incredibly hard, and both of his breaking balls are capable of missing bats when he executes location, which he tends to do. His fastball is pretty vulnerable in the strike zone, so Sanders doesn’t have a great way to get ahead of hitters. He tends to use his changeup as an action pitch in the zone just to show a different look, and early in 2024, that offering has also been pretty hittable. Improving his breaking ball demarcation (there are definitely two different pitches here, they just run together) as a pro might also help with this. The entire package presents a pretty low variance backend starter look.

21. Tyler Schlaffer, SP

Drafted: 9th Round, 2019 from Homewood Flossmoor HS (IL) (CHC)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 45/50 45/55 30/50 91-93 / 95

Schlaffer is back from Tommy John and looks relatively similar to his pre-injury self. His arm strength is intact at the start of 2024, as he’s averaging about 93 mph and touching 95. Prior to his injury, he was evaluated as a future fifth starter whose command and secondary pitch quality would help facilitate that role despite a generic fastball. His trademark curveball does not have quite the same nastiness and finish right now, but Schlaffer’s changeup feel (which had taken a leap right before he got hurt) is already back. A fully operational Schlaffer has the potential to sequence in three vertical tiers — with high fastballs, in-zone sliders, and curveballs in the dirt — and also threaten you with a good offspeed pitch. This projection assumes he’ll round into peak form as he gets further away from surgery.

22. Pablo Aliendo, C

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CHC)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/55 30/45 40/40 30/45 70

Aliendo is an athletic and angular catcher who badly needs to improve his receiving and ball-blocking. He has an absolute hose, often popping sub-1.90 seconds on throws to second base. Aliendo also has a power-over-hit profile on offense. His uppercut swing produces big pull-side pop for a young catcher, but he’s extremely vulnerable to sliders. This is a watered down Jorge Alfaro skill set with a long-term bat-first backup fit.

23. Yahil Melendez, SS

Drafted: 7th Round, 2023 from B You Academy (PR) (CHC)
Age 18.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 30/50 20/45 50/40 40/45 55

Melendez signed for $400,000 as a seventh rounder rather than go to Rice, and he’s one of a few interesting young hitters in Chicago’s Arizona complex group. He has rare size for a potential shortstop at a strapping 6-foot-3, and he also has an unusually compact swing and shorter levers than most hitters this size do. Melendez is not the bendiest athlete and plays the game with a higher center of gravity, which is evident in his swing and on defense. This limits his ability to reach some pitches and makes him a “maybe” fit at shortstop, though he’s trended better on defense as the spring has progressed. Flexibility is a key visual piece of Melendez’s evaluation to monitor. He has a chance to be both quite strong and also short to the baseball, and viable infielders for whom that’s true don’t exactly grow on trees.

24. Porter Hodge, SIRP

Drafted: 13th Round, 2019 from Cottonwood HS (UT) (CHC)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 45/50 35/40 94-98 / 100

Hodge is a bullpen behemoth who moved out of the rotation in the middle of 2023 and had enough success that the Cubs put him on the 40-man during the offseason. He’s had a small velo spike in the early portion of 2024 and appears to have added a splitter in just the last couple of weeks. Big time extension and unpredictable movement (sometimes rise and run, sometimes cut) movement contribute to his fastball’s effectiveness, and to the success of Hodge’s slider, which generated chase and miss rates approaching 40% in 2023 and even better miss than that early in 2024. Upon conversion last year, Hodge looked like a standard middle reliever who needed to polish his command. He has special physicality and his stuff is still growing and changing. Hodge needs to find another gear of control in order to be relied on in a big league bullpen role but he also has more ceiling than just a standard middle inning guy.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (SFG)
Age 24.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 60/60 45/55 50/45 40/40 60

Canario is a bat speed maven who came to the Cubs from San Francisco in the Kris Bryant trade. He is a prototypical right field prospect with plus raw power, and he clubbed a whopping 37 homers in 2022 (mostly at Double-A) before suffering a couple of severe injuries (fractured ankle, dislocated shoulder) in a collision at first base during winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Those injuries had him shelved for the early portion of 2023, but he returned in mid-June and slashed .276/.342/.524 (only a 111 wRC+ at Triple-A) with Iowa before a brief late-season big league call-up. His strikeout rates have spiked to concerning levels early in 2024.

Canario’s power is very impressive. He’s capable of hitting balls out to all fields and posted a whopping 53% hard-hit rate when healthy in 2023. Similar to Yankees outfield prospect Everson Pereira, Canario’s swing-and-miss issues give us substantial pause when it comes to projecting his role. His tendency to misidentify sliders against righty pitchers destabilizes his entire profile and is probably going to limit his role to the short side of a platoon where he’s mostly facing lefties. He’s best at hitting hanging breakers and spraying high fastballs the opposite way. A stiff lower half makes it tough for Canario to bend and do damage in the bottom of the zone, though we’re hoping this changes as he gets further away from his severe injuries. Here we have Canario projected as a 200-ish PA corner outfielder who gets situational starts and in-game at-bats against lefties or, to get even more metagame-y, against pitchers who live at the top of the strike zone. He’s more a contributor than a franchise pillar.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 60/60 40/55 40/40 45/50 60

Davis’ minor league career has been plagued by fluky ailments that have caused him to miss so much time in virtually every season that it’s been hard for him to truly get going as a professional. In 2023, he required a surgery on his core that kept him sidelined for six weeks in the middle of the season; the year before that, it was back surgery to address a somewhat mysterious (albeit painful) condition, for which he missed more than three months. 2021 was the last (and so far only) uninterrupted season of his minor league career. Most recently, Davis’s strong 2024 spring training came to an end when he suffered a concussion on a hit by pitch. From an evaluation perspective, these starts and stops make it hard to get a good read on his hit tool despite Davis’ obvious power, and the timing issues he’s displayed may largely be the result of him having yet to spend a full season facing high-quality pitching. Injuries and a sketchy hit tool are inextricable aspects of Davis’ profile. Now back from the concussion, Davis is using simple in-the-box footwork and has been more on time early in 2024, but he’s still running a contact rate below 65%. He’s a dangerous low-ball hitter, but he’s more of a bottom-of-the-40-man type than a steady role player.

Drafted: 6th Round, 2023 from P27 Academy (SC) (CHC)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 50/60 25/55 45/45 30/50 70

If you live in the east end of the Phoenix metro area and heard loud, concussive noises in the middle of the day throughout April, it might have been one of Rosario’s many extended spring training home runs. Rosario mashed his way up to Myrtle Beach before the end of extended and he continues to hit for power there. He’s also striking out a lot. Strikeouts have been a huge and concerning part of Rosario’s profile since high school. The Dominican native grew up in Newark, then went to an athletics-focused school in South Carolina while he was also a fixture on the showcase circuit. He doesn’t track pitches especially well nor does he move the bat around the zone, but beware of leaving one in the middle-in portion of the zone to this guy or he’s going to deposit it into the next town over. Rosario also has a huge arm that will make an impact in right field. Note that while Rosario’s player page has him listed at 6-foot-6, he looks much closer to 6-foot-1; this is some kind of clerical error. As polarized as a right field profile can be, Rosario is a low-probability, high-variance prospect who is off to an encouraging start.

28. Zac Leigh, SIRP

Drafted: 16th Round, 2021 from Texas State (CHC)
Age 26.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/55 50/55 30/40 92-95 / 98

Injuries have prevented Leigh from throwing more than 40 regular season innings since he’s entered pro ball, but when he’s healthy, he looks like an absolute steal of a 16th round pick. He’s capable of missing bats with three different pitches — a cutting 92-95 mph fastball, an upper-80s changeup, and an upper-70s slurve — and has done it through Double-A. Leigh’s cutting fastball and 80 mph slider look like they tunnel well, and his changeup has enough action to miss bats even though his feel for it is pretty limited. Having a platoon-neutralizing weapon should make him a key middle-inning option.

29. Caleb Kilian, MIRP

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Texas Tech (SFG)
Age 27.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
70/70 45/45 50/50 40/45 55/55 50/50 97-99 / 101

A 2019 eighth rounder out of Texas Tech, Kilian missed what would have been his first full pro season due to the pandemic and looked underwhelming during 2020 instructs, sitting 91–93 mph with fringe secondary stuff in a few short outings. In the couple of seasons since then, he was sent from San Francisco to Chicago as part of the Kris Bryant trade, experienced a velocity spike, and saw his command (once projected as a 70-grade attribute) regress somewhat (due to a stylistic shift) en route to his 2022 big league debut. He came out this spring throwing incredibly hard, touching 101 in one of his three two-inning outings (one start, two in relief) before an MRI revealed a teres major strain in his right shoulder, which will shelve Kilian until close to the middle of the 2024 season. We consider it pretty likely he’ll just be put in the bullpen when he returns to preserve his last option and manicure the rest of his 2024 innings load.

Kilian will work with a nasty two-seamer that eats right-handed batters alive on the inner third. He also throws a four-seamer that at times has natural cut, as well as a more overt cutter in the upper-80s. He could reach back for velocities peaking in the 97–99 band as a starter but tended to sit in the 93–97 range. If we’re correct in speculating he’ll be a reliever when he returns, then we expect he’ll sit 97-101 like he was prior to his shoulder issue. After showing a precise east/west style of pitching early in his pro career, Kilian has begun to take a less efficient north/south approach, especially with his four-seamer. He doesn’t have a plus, bat-missing secondary, so pure velocity is his best way of punching hitters out, and he may pare down his repertoire if he shifts to the bullpen. He’ll frequently show you a 77–82 mph curveball, but that pitch is as much about stealing early-count strikes as it is about finishing hitters off. Without a swing-and-miss secondary, we forecast Kilian will be a fastball-heavy multi-inning reliever eventually, though probably a single-inning option as he first works back from injury.

30. Kohl Franklin, MIRP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Broken Arrow HS (OK) (CHC)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 40/45 50/50 70/70 40/40 93-95 / 97

Franklin missed 2020 due to the pandemic and all of 2021 with oblique and shoulder strains. Across the last two seasons, he had built up to something approaching a starter’s load of innings, with 105 frames of walk-prone ball in 2023, mostly at Tennessee. He left the mound in visible pain during his first Triple-A start of 2024 and was put on the 60-day IL almost immediately. Franklin had missed so much time that it made sense for the Cubs to give him a little extra time to develop as a starter, but you have to imagine that when he comes back from this most recent injury, it will be in the bullpen. In addition to his impact power changeup, Franklin uses lots of curt, high sliders at the top of the zone and will snap off the occasional plus curveball. It’s enough repertoire depth to consider him a multi-inning relief prospect.

35+ FV Prospects

31. Eriandys Ramon, 1B

Signed: International Signing Period, 2023 from Cuba (CHC)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 30/50 20/50 40/30 35/60 50

Ramon is pretty comfortably the most physically projectable Cubs hitting prospect in Arizona for complex-level ball. He’s a skinny but broad-shouldered 6-foot-3 switch-hitter with some barrel feel from the left side of the plate. Ramon signed in June of 2023 and is already 21 years old. He’s a bit behind the developmental curve as a college-aged hitter in complex ball, and because the pitching in Cuba is generally so bad, it’s probable that he will have a developmental hiccup or two as he climbs the minors. But he’s athletic enough that the Cubs are trying him all over the diamond on defense (1B/3B/OF), and his hitterish look is a pleasant surprise given the quality of pitching he saw as an amateur. There’s pretty considerable power projection here if Ramon can get stronger. He’s a great developmental sleeper to follow near the bottom of the system.

32. Connor Noland, SP

Drafted: 9th Round, 2022 from Arkansas (CHC)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
30/30 55/60 40/50 30/50 89-92 / 94

Noland had a busy freshman year at Arkansas. He played quarterback in four football games that fall, then finished the school year with a trip to the College World Series and SEC All-Freshman honors. He lost most of 2020 to the pandemic and much of 2021 to a forearm injury, returning in a bullpen capacity that year. He reclaimed a rotation spot in 2022, filling in for fellow Razorback Peyton Pallette, and made the most of his Friday starter role with a dominant senior year that earned him a ninth round selection by the Cubs. He was immediately assigned to High-A in 2023 and had a second consecutive 100-plus inning season with efficient strike throwing. He’s begun 2024 at Double-A and continues to look like a quick-moving depth starter. Noland’s stuff isn’t sexy, but he mixes and commands it well, which is especially true of how he deploys his breaking stuff. He could feasibly be ready for spot-start duty as soon as next year. That’s probably also his ceiling.

33. Riley Martin, SIRP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2021 from Quincy University (CHC)
Age 26.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 70/70 30/35 91-94 / 96

Martin has the look of a good lefty reliever thanks to his fantastic breaking stuff, but he badly needs to rein in his control if he’s going to be a consistent part of a big league bullpen. He has two really nasty breakers in the low-80s with tight movement and bat-missing depth. His heater has enough carry to keep it above barrels despite pedestrian velocity. The ingredients for a rock solid mid-game southpaw option are here, it’s just that Martin has had two straight years of 13% walk rates or worse, and he’s laying track for a third in 2024. In his age-26 season, it’s fine to hope for improvement in this area but not expect it, so Martin is valued entering his 40-man platform year as more of an up/down lefty.

34. Sam McWilliams, SIRP

Drafted: 8th Round, 2014 from Beech HS (TN) (PHI)
Age 28.7 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 30/40 95-97 / 98

McWilliams is on his eighth organization (ninth if you count his Mexican League stint) since he was drafted out of high school in 2014, and he has yet to make his big league debut. After bouncing around for years, he briefly retired in 2022 and did sales and player development activity for third party companies while he wasn’t pitching; the Cubs even offered him a scouting job at one point. McWilliams was goaded into throwing in the Mexican League more or less on a lark, which then led to an opportunity in the Dominican Winter League, where he looked good enough for the Cubs to sign. He’s currently enjoying his best bat-missing season since moving to the bullpen in 2021, striking out 14 per 9 IP as of list publication. He sits 95-97, tends to pepper the glove-side and high portions of the zone, and has a really hard upper-80s sweeper with inconsistent finish. Both pitches are playing like above-average offerings, McWilliams’ body and athleticism look as good as they ever have, and he’s throwing enough strikes to put himself in position to finally make his big league debut at some point in 2024.

35. Luis Vazquez, SS

Drafted: 14th Round, 2017 from Melendez Torres HS (PR) (CHC)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 50/50 40/40 50/50 45/45 55

Vazquez is a fair shortstop defender with some power who hit .271/.361/.456 with 20 bombs split between Double- and Triple-A in 2023, and is off to a strong offensive start at Iowa in 2024. Viable shortstop defenders with any offensive tool tend to live on a 40-man roster, and Vazquez’s best swings show you average big league power. His feel to hit is awkward and his swing is grooved, which sometimes causes him to spray the ball at funky but effective angles. Mostly, he swings through a lot of fastballs. Because he’s only an okay defender, Vazquez is less likely to be a true utility guy than he is a suitcase-carrying journeyman who wears a lot of different uniforms for the next half decade.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from Arkansas (CHC)
Age 24.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 50/50 35/45 50/50 40/50 45

Franklin is a well-rounded college player who really performed in the SEC, slashing .288/.402/.499 during his career at Arkansas while drawing tweener extra outfielder visual evaluations. He suffered a torn patellar tendon and missed all of 2022, which would have been his first full pro season. Back from injury in 2023, Franklin looked fine at all three outfield spots (average in center, plus in the corners) and was hitting the ball hard (47% hard-hit rate, with big league average peak exit velos) albeit as a slightly older-than-is-typical High-A hitter. He’s off to a slower start in 2024 (literally — he’s running in the 4.5s), but here Franklin still projects as a fifth outfielder, one ideally deployed as a lefty-mashing part-time corner guy.

37. Brett Bateman, CF

Drafted: 8th Round, 2023 from Minnesota (CHC)
Age 22.2 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 30/40 20/30 60/60 40/50 40

Little Bateman posted a .319/.406/.373 career line at Minnesota and has continued to post OBPs north of .400 so far in pro ball. The diminutive outfielder has a patient approach that prioritizes opposite field contact. He just barely runs well enough to play center field, and plays it with the sort of infectious, wreckless abandon that fires up his teammates. Bateman is smaller than a typical big leaguer; Guardians outfielder Will Brennan (who got stronger in pro ball, but still isn’t especially powerful or big) is a fair comp for what to hope Bateman can grow into. Especially if opposing pitchers attack him fearlessly due to his lack of power, his OBP skills will probably dip a bit as he climbs. Bateman has enough in the way of skills to have some prospect value, but he’s probably a low-impact bench outfielder if he makes it.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CHC)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 187 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/50 50/50 45/50 40/50 92-96 / 97

Gallardo is a sinkerballing 22-year-old strike-thrower who had kissed Double-A a few times before he was assigned there to start 2024. He was shut down with elbow inflammation in April, then moved to the 60-day IL about a week before list publication. He’s a groundball merchant with plus command of a mid-90s sinker that doesn’t really miss bats, as well as a low-80s slider/curveball that does. Gallardo has tended to run groundball rates around 50% throughout his career and has a career walk rate of 7.6%. When healthy, he looks like a valuable spot starter.

39. Eduarniel Nunez, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 70/70 20/20 95-98 / 100

Nunez has had a tough time getting past Double-A despite wielding some of the nastier pure stuff in the system. He sits 95-98, his breaking ball has huge two-plane wipe, and once in a while, he will show you a good changeup. Nunez’s curveball could be a monster. It’s approaching Bryan Abreu-level depth at 85 mph on average. His lack of command (Nunez has a pie-thrower’s arm action) really hamstrings the effectiveness of both his pitches. Nunez’s issues throwing strikes will probably keep him in a lower-leverage role despite his special stuff.

40. Jose Romero, SIRP

Signed: International Signing Period, 2020 from Venezuela (CHC)
Age 23.1 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
50/50 70/70 30/35 93-95 / 97

Romero has a catcherly build at 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds or so (he’s listed at a hilarious 185), but he’s an ultra-loose athlete who creates ridiculous hip and shoulder separation. The power and athleticism in his delivery is tough for Romero to control and he’s quite wild, but he has mid-90s arm strength and a huge two-plane sweeper that often looks like a plus-plus pitch. After it looked like Romero’s command was improving in 2023, he’s back to walking about a batter per innings early on in 2024. Over time, he should corral his mechanics enough to be a big league middle reliever.

41. Drew Gray, SIRP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from IMG Academy (CHC)
Age 21.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/55 45/60 30/45 30/40 88-92 / 93

Gray got just shy of $1 million in the third round of the 2021 draft, then had TJ in 2022. Back in 2023, he struck out a little more than 33% of opposing hitters as he pitched 34 affiliated innings across 14 starts, working two to three innings per outing. In 2024, he’s been more in the three to four inning range and is again missing a ton of bats, but he’s also missing the strike zone. Gray has walked nearly 20% of opposing hitters since returning from TJ. His delivery has deception and a late arm stroke that he doesn’t really have feel for repeating, and many of his pitches sail nowhere near the zone. He also hasn’t quite retained his peak pre-surgery velocity: Gray’s fastball has been sitting about 91 mph so far in 2024, a tick or two below the way he looked at his best. That pitch has enough riding life to play despite it’s velo, and Gray’s upper-70s slurve has plus break. It’s reasonable to hope Gray will hone his control as he gets his footing in pro ball but probably not so much that he can start. He’s looking more and more like a lefty relief prospect.

42. Nick Dean, MIRP

Drafted: 19th Round, 2023 from Maryland (CHC)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 40/40 60/70 30/40 91-94 / 95

Dean had a roller coaster career at Maryland as he dealt with lingering forearm issues, and he got knocked around as an upperclassman. He appears to have righted the ship early in 2024 as the old-for-the-level righty leads Chicago’s Low-A group in swinging strike rate. Dean’s disappearing changeup is the primary cause of this: It has big tailing action and is a weapon against hitters of both handedness. The rest of Dean’s repertoire is below average. His fastball has a little bit of sneak to it but not enough to help it play much better than its velocity, and while Dean has shown better feel for locating his breaking ball early in 2024, it isn’t especially nasty. Realistically a bulk reliever, Dean has prospect clout because he has a premium weapon in his changeup.

43. Josh Rivera, SS

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2023 from Florida (CHC)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 50/50 30/40 50/50 45/55 70

A career .290/.382/.486 hitter at Florida, Rivera was nonetheless a glove-first prospect coming out in 2023. His swing is so long and uphill that, barring a significant mechanical overhaul, he seems unlikely to hit enough to be an impact player. But his defensive ability at shortstop and the power to run into the occasional extra-base hit gives him a floor and should enable him to be a bench infielder.

44. Derniche Valdez, 2B

Signed: International Signing Period, 2023 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 18.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 45/60 20/50 60/60 40/60 50

Valdez was one of the better infield athletes in the 2023 international class, an explosive individual with rare power for a teenage hitter his size, let alone one who is athletically capable of playing the middle infield. He is quite like Rangers prospect Luisangel Acuña in this way. While his power is incredibly exciting, Valdez struck out a whopping 40% of the time in the DSL last year and is off to a similar start in 2024. His breaking ball recognition is poor and he takes lots of wild swings, but the power/speed combo here is too enticing to damn Valdez to the Honorable Mentions section. He’s a tooled-up, low-probability prospect who needs to show a better eye.

45. Matt Mervis, 1B

Drafted: 39th Round, 2016 from Duke (CHC)
Age 26.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 65/65 50/50 30/30 40/40 40

Mervis has been back and forth between Iowa and Chicago the last two years, and the yawning chasm between his Triple-A performance and his big league stats are indicative of a Quad-A hitter. Mervis swings with a ton of effort, with his head often flying all over the place throughout. This doesn’t tend to allow for sustained contact ability, and Mervis is particularly struggling to make meaningful contact with pitches in the upper, outer portion of the strike zone. His overall chase and whiff rates have increased since 2022, and they are an important area in need of improvement in order for him to consistently bring his plus raw power into games, especially given his shortcomings as a runner and a defender. Mervis could be a dangerous bench bat and may have a 25-ish homer season or two in him if he’s ever given regular first base at-bats, but we’re skeptical his hit tool is exceptional enough to clear the very high bar of an average first baseman.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (CHC)
Age 22.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/50 35/50 40/40 40/40 40

Pinango’s 2024 Opening Day assignment to High-A means he has played at that level at least a little bit for four years. It puts his hot start in a sobering context, as he’s essentially threepeating the level. A hot start should force a promotion to Tennessee, where his tendency to chase will be tested. This isn’t to say that Pinango isn’t a prospect. The stout, hard-swinging 22-year old has pretty good plate coverage and posted contact rates and peak exit velos right around the major league average last year. That isn’t spectacular for a left field-only defender without physical projection (let alone one repeating a level), but Pinango’s all-around offense makes him an above-replacement type. He’s a high-priority depth player and injury stopgap, but he lacks the defensive versatility to be rostered consistently.

47. Haydn McGeary, 1B

Drafted: 15th Round, 2022 from Colorado Mesa University (CHC)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 60/60 45/50 30/30 30/40 50

McGeary was a small school prospect and developmental catcher who had a breakout 2023, when he had one of the better hitting lines in the entire minor leagues. He slashed .275/.397/.462 at High- and Double-A, and posted peak exit velocities that were nearly elite on the big league scale. The biggest caveat, of course, was that then 23-year-old hadn’t yet faced the quality of pitching that might be able to expose his grooved swing. Early on in 2024, it appears that’s begun to happen, as he has been ice cold for the first six weeks of the season. McGeary is a stiff guy whose swing cuts through the middle of the zone. He’s a fairly discerning hitter and is dangerous when he gets a mistake to hit, but he lacks great feel for moving the barrel around. When, very early on in his pro career, it looked like he might still catch, some of these issues were more palatable. Now that he’s locked into 1B/DH (more of the latter), he looks more like a righty bench bat than someone who holds down one of the 30 big league jobs at either of those positions.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Young Cubs
Cristian Hernandez, SS
Alexis Hernandez, SS
Geuri Lubo, RF
Angel Cepeda, SS
Joan Delgado, UTIL

This whole group is still relatively young and has meaningful maturation ahead of them, physically and otherwise. Cristian Hernandez, now 20, was a $3 million amateur signee whose hit tool bottomed out pretty early in pro ball. He’s had somewhat of a rebound from a strikeout standpoint, but he still doesn’t look like he’s going to hit. Alexis Hernandez, 19, started striking out at a scary rate in 2023, a trend that has continued in 2024. He’s still so skinny and young that he could add the necessary strength to handle the bat more capably. Lubo is a converted infielder with a huge arm who is now a power-hitting right field prospect. Cepeda and Delgado are versatile complex-level youngsters with above-average bat speed and questionable feel for contact.
Ezequiel Pagan, OF
Pedro Ramirez, 3B
Jose Escobar, 2B

Pagan, 23, is an undersized outfielder who plays with a ton of effort. Ramirez is a stocky, undersized 2B/3B who is off to a white hot start in 2024. Escobar is a versatile lefty-hitting youngster on the Arizona complex. All three of these guys are good baseball players without the big time physical ability typical of a major leaguer.

Hard-Throwing Relievers
Cam Sanders, RHP
Riley Thompson, RHP
Cayne Ueckert, RHP
Ben Leeper, RHP

Sanders sits 94-96 and has a good slider, but his fastball plays down and he walks nearly a batter per inning. Thompson has had a bit of a K% uptick in 2024 as he’s moved to the bullpen. He’s a kitchen sink long reliever now and still gets a lot of swing-and-miss at his breaking balls, though he also throws a lot of non-competitive pitches. Ueckert seems to be in the midst of a bit of a velo swoon. He looked like a mid-90s/slider reliever at peak, but right now he’s sitting more 92. His arm action still looks great, though. Leeper is also a mid-90s/slider guy who is a little over a year removed from his third Tommy John.

One of These Things…
Erian Rodriguez, RHP
Freilyn Silverio, RHP
Jake Reindl, RHP

Rodriguez, 22, and Silverio, 19, have prototypical 6-foot-3 starter builds but struggle with mechanical consistency. Silverio also has a dandy curveball. For you low release height goobers, the low-slot Reindl is missing a lot of bats at Double-A right now. He sits 92 and has very consistent command, but his slider’s raw quality was a little short of the main section of the list.

System Overview

This is one of the very best systems in all of baseball, with the most Top 100 prospects (nine) of any team in the sport. About half of those came over via trade, some during the team’s tear down of the World Series-winning core (PCA from the Mets for Javier Báez, Kevin Alcántara from the Yankees for Anthony Rizzo), while the others have come from both the draft and the international amateur talent pool. The Cubs’ hit rate on some of those trades wasn’t high (for instance, the Yu Darvish trade has yielded Owen Caissie, theoretically, but Yeison Santana and Reginald Preciado have not panned out) and yet here we are, with the big league team in legitimate contention for their division while the org also boasts what might be the best farm system in baseball.

The Cubs have been great at developing velocity for the last handful of years, but they’re less adept at developing other aspects of pitching (it’s not like they have a changeup assembly line the way the Dodgers do) and, anecdotally, the guys who have arm strength gains often don’t sustain them or stay healthy. Cubs prospect lists have had a lot of year-to-year turnover as guys similar to the “Hard-Throwing Relievers” group of the Honorable Mention section have slid out of the main section of the list. Seven Cubs big league pitchers are on the IL as of list publication.

A lot of these guys are slated to arrive either this year or next. This system is due for decline across the next 18 months for good reasons, namely trades and graduations. Who might be most likely to be dealt in a deadline deal this year? We mention in Alcántara’s blurb that the presence of PCA and Cody Bellinger plus his dwindling options and late-bloomer body could push him out to a team more comfortable letting him develop at the big league level. James Triantos is blocked by Nico Hoerner, Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ for the next three years, and also feels more likely to be dealt than others. Unless the Pirates (who feel like they’re one more year away from this) decide to participate, the Cubs are much, much better equipped to add at the deadline without mortgaging the entire farm than any of their division mates, and perhaps more so than anyone in the National League besides the Dodgers (their system has similar depth) or Padres (they’re wily and find a way to make huge deals, depth be damned).

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Cave Dameron
15 days ago

Thank you Tess, very cool!