Prospect Report: Chicago Cubs 2024 Imminent Big Leaguers

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an evaluation of the prospects in the Chicago Cubs farm system who readers should consider “imminent big leaguers,” players who might reasonably be expected to play in the majors at some point this year. This includes all prospects on the 40-man roster as well as those who have already established themselves in the upper levels of the minors but aren’t yet rostered. We tend to be more inclusive with pitchers and players at premium defensive positions since their timelines are usually the ones accelerated by injuries and scarcity. Any Top 100 prospects, regardless of their ETA, are also included on this list. Reports, tool grades, and scouting information for all of the prospects below can also be found on The Board.

You may be able to infer that is not a top-to-bottom evaluation of the Cubs farm system. We like to include what’s happening in minor league and extended spring training in our reports as much as possible, since scouting high concentrations of players in Arizona and Florida allows us to incorporate real-time, first-person information into the org lists. However, this approach has led to some situations where outdated analysis (or no analysis at all) was all that existed for players who had already debuted in the majors. Skimming the imminent big leaguers off the top of a farm system in the meantime allows time-sensitive information to make its way onto the site more quickly, better preparing readers for the upcoming season, helping fantasy players as they draft, and building site literature on relevant prospects to facilitate transaction analysis in the event that trades or injuries foist these players into major league roles. There will still be a full Cubs prospect list that includes Fernando Cruz (whose current grade and report you can already access here), Jefferson Rojas (an offseason Pick to Click), Pablo Aliendo and all of the other prospects in the system who aren’t Top 100 guys and also appear to be at least another whole season away. As such, today’s list includes no ordinal rankings. Readers are instead encouraged to focus on the players’ Future Value (FV) grades.

For new readers, let’s revisit what FV means before we offer some specific thoughts on this org (seasoned vets of the site can skip the next couple paragraphs). Future Value (FV) is a subjective valuation metric derived from the traditional 20-80 scouting scale (where 50 is average and each integer of 10 away from 50 represents one standard deviation) that uses WAR production to set the scale. For instance, an average regular (meaning the 15th-best player at a given position, give or take) generally produces about 2 WAR annually, so a 50 FV prospect projects as an everyday player who will generate about that much WAR during each of his pre-free agency big league seasons.

Why not just use projected WAR as the valuation metric then? For one, it creates a false sense of precision. This isn’t a model. While a lot of data goes into our decision-making process, a lot of subjectivity does too, in the form of our own visual evaluations, as well as other information related to the players’ careers and baseball backgrounds. A player can have a strong evaluation (emphasis on the “e”) but might be a great distance from the big leagues, or perhaps is injury prone or a superlative athlete. Context like that might cause us to augment the player’s valuation (no “e”). Using something more subjective like Future Value allows us to dial up and down how we’re interpreting that context.

There are also many valuable part-time players who can only generate so much WAR due to their lack of playing time. As such, FV grades below 50 tend to describe a role more than they do a particular WAR output; you can glean the projected roles from the players’ reports. In short, anyone with a 40+ FV grade or above projects as an integral big league role player or better.

Now some Cubs thoughts. Are the Cubs back? It’s been a little over three years since they non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and approaching that long since they traded Anthony Rizzo. During that time, the org’s ability to develop velocity has improved, they’ve seemingly nailed some draft picks, gotten good individual pieces back as part of a number of trades, built one of the best couple of farm systems in baseball, and now are projected for the second-most wins in a wide open NL Central that seems like it’s there for the taking as of our spring audit of this group. It’s been a fairly swift rebuild in part because the team signed Jameson Taillon and Seiya Suzuki, and hit on a few on-the-margin pickups in Mike Tauchman and a brief buy-low on Cody Bellinger, which put veteran guys in place amid all these prospects.

If you recall, the club’s last window of contention was shortened by the Epstein regime’s inability to draft and developing pitching fast enough to buttress the Cubs’ core group of position players. They’ve got more present and projected depth now than they did at that time, though many of the optionable starters in the upper levels of the org (Ben Brown, Hayden Wesneski, Michael Arias, Porter Hodge, etc.) have some amount of relief risk, or have demonstrated success out of the bullpen but not as much out of the rotation. Chicago’s postseason hopes might ride on this group polishing their command enough to bandage any rotation injuries that arise throughout the season. This system is also deep enough for the North Siders to make a substantial trade.

Some key things we’ll be working on between now and the full Cubs list include (hopefully) getting a look at big-bonus shortstop Fernando Cruz in Mesa this spring, sifting through the older pitching from last year’s DSL group during minor league and extended spring training, and watching how teenage infielder Jefferson Rojas responds to promotion.

Cubs Imminent Big Leaguers and Top 100 Prospects
Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
Cade Horton 22.6 AA SP 2025 55
Pete Crow-Armstrong 22.0 MLB CF 2024 55
Matt Shaw 22.4 AA 2B 2025 55
Kevin Alcántara 21.7 AA CF 2024 50
Jordan Wicks 24.5 MLB SP 2024 50
Owen Caissie 21.7 AA RF 2025 50
Michael Busch 26.3 MLB DH 2024 50
Michael Arias 22.3 A+ SP 2025 45+
Ben Brown 24.5 AAA SP 2024 45+
James Triantos 21.1 AA LF 2026 45
Haydn McGeary 24.4 AA 1B 2025 40+
Luke Little 23.5 MLB SIRP 2024 40+
Caleb Kilian 26.8 MLB MIRP 2024 40+
Alexander Canario 23.8 MLB RF 2024 40
Kohl Franklin 24.5 AA MIRP 2024 40
Zac Leigh 26.3 AA SIRP 2025 40
Brennen Davis 24.4 AAA RF 2024 35+
Riley Martin 26.0 AAA SIRP 2025 35+
Eduarniel Nunez 24.8 AA SIRP 2024 35+
Matt Mervis 25.9 MLB 1B 2024 35+
Luis Vazquez 24.4 AAA SS 2024 35+
Riley Thompson 27.7 AAA MIRP 2024 35+
Cam Sanders 27.3 AAA SIRP 2024 35+
Ben Leeper 26.7 AAA SIRP 2024 35+
Porter Hodge 23.1 AA SIRP 2024 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from Oklahoma (CHC)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 50/55 50/55 40/50 94-96 / 98

Horton missed time during his University of Oklahoma tenure due to Tommy John surgery, but he was impressive enough toward the end of his college career for the Cubs to select him with their first pick in the 2022 draft. In his first pro season, Horton played at three levels of the minors, with most of his innings coming at High-A, where he issued 65 strikeouts against just 12 walks in 47 frames. He finished the year at Double-A, where his strikeout rate dipped below 30% for the first time all season (but not by much), and he kept the ball in the ballpark for his entire stint with the Smokies.

Horton’s fastball sits 94-96 mph, occasionally touching 98, and he mostly pairs it with a vertical slider that sat in the upper 80s when he was in college, but now inhabits the 83-85 mph velo band. In college, left-handed hitters presented Horton with a significant stumbling block, to the tune of a .918 OPS in 2022, but he’s drastically increased his changeup usage against the lefties he’s faced as a pro (going from 7% to 17% when there’s a lefty at the plate) and their combined OPS in 2023 was just .533. The emergence of the changeup as a viable offering constitutes a meaningful addition to his arsenal. Horton now looks like a much more convincing mid-rotation starter, one who could debut in the majors as soon this year.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Harvard Westlake HS (CA) (NYM)
Age 22.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 50/55 35/45 60/60 70/80 55

PCA has made adjustments to his swing since returning from the IL 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.

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). With Cody Bellinger back in the fold, we expect it will be another year before PCA is truly entrenched as the everyday center fielder, though it’s likely injuries will still cause him to play enough 2024 big league baseball to graduate from rookie status.

Matt Shaw, 2B

Drafted: 1st Round, 2023 from Maryland (CHC)
Age 22.4 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 40/40 45

Shaw’s final season at the University of Maryland was electrifying enough to earn him the 13th overall selection in the 2023 draft, and if the college season tired him out, he certainly didn’t show it. He immediately 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. His numbers dipped slightly at the higher level, but he still performed well above the league average over his short stint in Tennessee, which is where he’ll likely begin his 2024 season unless his performance as a non-roster invitee to spring training forces a more advanced assignment. It might. Shaw has looked quite electric this spring, if a bit chase prone.

Shaw’s pro Trackman data last year was elite: He posted a 91% zone contact rate and plus peak exit velos. He’s a powerful, short-levered hitter with really explosive wrists and a bit of an odd swing that, so far, has worked for him. His quick hands allow him to barrel up offerings throughout the zone, and he’s shown an ability to scatter hard contact all over the field. He’s also a fast 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 all non-first base infield spots, including new work at third. With Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson entrenched on the middle infield, Shaw’s fastest path to Wrigley could be through the hot corner. There has to be substantial development on defense before Shaw is a big leaguer, but he looks like an impact offensive player.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.7 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 55/70 20/60 55/50 45/50 55

Still very young and very toolsy, Alcántara is a volatile mix of high-risk and high-ceiling. Built like Jerami Grant, Alcántara’s long limbs provide him with some natural power, but also sometimes make his swing hard to time correctly, especially against breaking balls below the strike zone. His lanky build also has plenty of room for added muscle, and the fact that he’s already a 20-homer guy while still having room on his frame for another 20 pounds or so portends a potent power profile down the line. Alcántara 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, and we don’t want to get fatigued with a player who has been on our Top 100 list since after his first pro season. 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.

Importantly, he is a plus runner and is currently a defensive fit in center field. 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. He’ll probably need to sustain competence in center field in order to make this projection hold true, but we think he will. Alcántara wrapped 2023 at Double-A and then had a stint in the Arizona Fall League. The 2024 season will be his second option year. With Pete Crow-Armstrong entrenched ahead of him, it’s possible that a combination of roster pressure and Alcántara’s value to other teams (who think he can play center field) relative to the Cubs (who have PCA) put him in the crosshairs of a trade fit.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Kansas State (CHC)
Age 24.5 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 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. He’s competing for a rotation spot this spring and has looked very solid in Cactus League play as of Chicago’s Imminent Big Leaguers list publication.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Notre Dame Catholic HS (ON) (SDP)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 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 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, though; in fact, it’s at the very bottom of what there’s precedent for among corner sluggers in the majors. He sometimes has trouble timing his long levers, especially against breaking balls below the strike zone and fastballs at the top of it. His eye for the strike zone is worse with two strikes against him, resulting in a consistently high strikeout rate that he has yet to tamp down and that is likely to be a continued area of focus for the young outfielder. He mostly mans right field, with a plus arm and average defensive instincts, and his power carries his offensive profile to a suitable place for an everyday corner outfielder.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from North Carolina (LAD)
Age 26.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 60/60 50/60 45/45 20/20 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. Since his selection in the 2019 draft, he’s put up solid offensive numbers at every step of his path through Los Angeles’ minor league system, culminating in 27 homers and a .323/.431/.681 line at Triple-A, where he spent most of 2023 in between big league stints. Busch’s strikeout rate dipped below 19% at the highest minor league level and his walk rate climbed to almost 14%, with chase and swinging strike rates considerably better than league average, illustrating a refined approach at the plate. His performance at the major league level was somewhat atypical for him. His groundball rate spiked but it’s too small a sample to be alarming at this point. Jed Hoyer has hinted at first base being his likely defensive home as a Cub. We still think Busch is an excellent, well-rounded hitter who can be a top 15-20 player at that position even though we liked it better when he stood a chance of being an Uggla-esque defender at the keystone. Busch’s well-rounded offensive skill set and track record at the plate are enough to make up for his lack of defensive utility, and he’s much more likely to be the long-term answer at first base in Chicago than anyone else currently on their 40-man roster.

45+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (TOR)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/45 45/55 30/50 94-97 / 98

Arias is a converted shortstop who moved to the mound around the time he signed with the Cubs. He’s walk-prone but has two impact pitches in his mid-90s fastball and upper-80s changeup. These two pitches alone should enable Arias to be at least a very good reliever, and if he can refine his command and slider, he’s going to be a mid-rotation starter. At a lanky 6-feet or so, Arias is fun to watch pitch because his stuff is nasty, his delivery is funky, and he wears a pair of Jordan 1-style spikes that look really slick with the Cubs affiliates’ unis. Arias’ low-slot delivery, which is similar to Luis Castillo’s, creates huge tail and uphill angle on his 94-97 mph heater. His 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. Arias’ mid-80s slider is terse and cutter-y.

Arias threw just over 80 innings in 2024 and will probably need to spend his first option year completely in the minors. He should be built up to around 120 innings by 2025. There’s relief risk here, but Arias has a better chance to start than a lot of the hard-throwing arms in the system, and his stuff is nastier than the Drew Gray/Jackson Ferris types whose command makes them more likely starters. Though his long-term role still isn’t totally in focus, Arias is new to pitching and has a special fastball. He projects as an impact arm of some kind and was a Pick to Click in our Prospect Week fortune telling.

Drafted: 33rd Round, 2017 from Ward Melville HS (NY) (PHI)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 60/60 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.

His lack of fastball command impacts Brown’s 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. His shaky fastball command may have been the deciding factor that ultimately relegated him to the bullpen for the final month of the 2023 season. We tend 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, he’s likely to be starting depth at Triple-A because the Cubs need someone to come up in the event their big leaguers get hurt. Over time, we think Brown will be a nasty setup man.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Madison HS (VA) (CHC)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/45 30/40 50/50 30/40 40

Triantos’ swing is built for contact and he uses it accordingly, posting an 82.4% contact rate in 2023, with just 8.6% swinging strikes and 9.7% in-zone whiffs. That added up to a combined strikeout rate of just 11.4% across High-A, where he spent most of the year (after starting it on the shelf as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus), and Double-A, where he finished it out. While he doesn’t expand the strike zone much, Triantos’ ability to make consistent contact results in an aggressive approach wherein he swings early and often as opposed to waiting out the best pitches to punish, and when he gets behind in the count, his free-swinging is exaggerated, to the tune of a 41.3% chase rate when he has two strikes against him. Unsurprisingly, this approach results in very little in-game power, and his below-average speed further tamps down his slugging ability. Triantos has slimmed down a bit and moved from third base to second base in 2023. He isn’t an especially good defender and we tend to think he’ll be forced to move to the outfield. Matt Shaw’s presence in the org perhaps makes it more likely that Triantos gets dealt this year. He projects in the Harold Ramírez part-time corner outfield role.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 15th Round, 2022 from Colorado Mesa University (CHC)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 70/70 55/60 40/40 30/40 50

McGeary spent time at High- and Double-A in 2023, and swung one of the hottest bats in the minors, posting an average exit velocity above 108 mph (90th percentile). The biggest caveat, of course, is that he hasn’t yet faced the quality of pitching that may be able to punish him for his somewhat grooved swing, so it’s too soon to dub him the Next Big Thing (though he was one of Tess’ Picks to Click this offseason). It certainly bodes well to see that type of bat speed in action, though, especially when combined with the 15.2% walk rate McGeary posted at Double-A. His eye for the strike zone is impressive, with below-average chase and whiff rates, though he becomes a bit more free-swinging when he’s behind in the count. His groundball rate is uncomfortably high for someone with so much power, which is due to the bat path he employs and how it connects when he mistimes a pitch or gets jammed by higher-velocity heaters inside. If McGeary can continue to build on his impressive minor league track record, he looks poised for an everyday first base role.

Luke Little, SIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from San Jacinto (CHC)
Age 23.5 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. There’s an unanswerable question here: How long can an athlete of Little’s ilk, both in 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 this stuff across as lot of innings, which give us pause about being this aggressive, but Little looks pretty nasty again this spring and it makes sense for the Cubs to stand pat with him as a reliever because he could thrive in the role immediately, which is meaningful because you can already see the horizon of his big league level of athleticism.

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Texas Tech (SFG)
Age 26.8 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.

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (SFG)
Age 23.8 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 via 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 amid a brief late-season big league call-up.

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 is probably going to limit his role to the short side of a platoon where he’s mostly facing lefties, and it destabilizes his entire profile. He’s best at hitting hanging breakers and at 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: 6th Round, 2018 from Broken Arrow HS (OK) (CHC)
Age 24.5 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 has built up to something approaching a starter’s load of innings, with 105 frames of walk-prone ball in 2023, mostly at Tennessee. Franklin may never have starter-quality control, but he missed so much time that it makes sense for the Cubs to give him a little extra time to develop in this way. He also has a deep enough repertoire to start. In addition to an impact power changeup, Franklin uses lots of curt high sliders at the top of the zone and will snap off the occasional plus curveball. We’re fine with the Cubs developmental track for Franklin, but we’re skeptical he’ll be able to iron out his control issues enough to be a big league starter; he had 60 total walks and hit batsmen in 105 innings last year. Instead, it’s more likely that he ends up in a long relief role, where we’d welcome a velo bump that might help Franklin’s heater play a little better than it does at his current 93-95 mph.

Zac Leigh, SIRP

Drafted: 16th Round, 2021 from Texas State (CHC)
Age 26.3 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 Leigh’s feel for it is pretty limited. Having a platoon-neutralizing weapon should make him a key middle-inning option.

35+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
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, which 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. During that season, he rose through the minor league system, working his way from High-A all the way up to Triple-A, but the disruptions since then have prevented him from playing enough to find much of a rhythm at the plate. From an evaluation perspective, these starts and stops make it hard to get a good read on his hit tool despite his obvious power, and the timing issues he’s displayed (much of his contact goes to the opposite field in a way that may indicate he’s behind on many of the fastballs he sees) may largely be the result of his having yet to spend a full season facing high-quality pitching.

Most recently, Davis put forth a great performance in spring training, slashing .429/.556/1.000 in his four-game stint with the big league squad, and he looked like a strong candidate to break camp. But alas, he once again suffered an ill-timed injury, this time taking a pitch to the back of the helmet and suffering a concussion, and while the head injury has been described as “mild,” it will likely be to blame for Davis’ long-awaited big league debut being delayed once more; he was optioned to the minors the week before this list’s publication. Fingers are crossed that Davis isn’t felled by fluke again this season. If he stays healthy, he should finally make it to the big leagues in 2024.

Riley Martin, SIRP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2021 from Quincy University (CHC)
Age 26.0 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 93-94 / 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 average 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 was struggling even more severely than that at the end of 2023. Entering his age-26 season, it’s fine to hope for improvement in this area but not to expect it, and so Martin is valued entering his 40-man platform year as more of an up/down lefty.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
70/70 70/70 20/30 97-99 / 100

Nunez has spent a fair bit of time at Double-A during each of the last two seasons, and until 2023 he was running a WHIP of nearly 1.70 despite wielding some of the nastier pure stuff in the system. He sits 98, his breaking ball has huge two-plane wipe, and once in a while he will show you a good changeup. Daniel Palencia is the only pitcher in the org with better arm strength than Nunez, and his breaking ball has vertical drop and depth at 85 mph on average. His lack of command really hamstrings the effectiveness of both pitches. Nunez’s issues throwing strikes will probably keep him in a lower-leverage role despite his special stuff.

Drafted: 39th Round, 2016 from Duke (CHC)
Age 25.9 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 60/60 50/50 30/30 40/40 40

Mervis’ reputation as a pull-heavy pulverizer persisted in 2023. He reached the major league squad for the first time, spending about five weeks as the Cubs’ starting first baseman. During that time, his pull-heavy tendencies were exaggerated and he found himself overswinging, with more rotation in his upper half than usual and his head flying all over the place throughout his swing. This resulted in an uptick in his already high swinging strike rates; his strikeout rate ballooned into the low 30s, while his walks dipped into the single digits. Upon relegation to the minors in mid-June, his mechanics improved and he refocused his approach, returning to the beefy statistical line that had earned him his reputation as a thumper; he finished the season with a .282/.399/.533 slash line at Triple-A and a wRC+ nearly triple the paltry 46 he put up as a major leaguer. While his plate coverage seemed to improve, in particular his ability 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 remain 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 expectational enough to clear the very high bar of an average 1B.

Drafted: 14th Round, 2017 from Melendez Torres HS (PR) (CHC)
Age 24.4 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 before he had a rough winter in Puerto Rico. 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. Vazquez’s feel to hit is awkward and his swing is grooved, which sometimes causes him to spray the ball at funky and 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 and more likely a suitcase-carrying journeyman who wears a lot of different uniforms for the next half decade.

Drafted: 11th Round, 2018 from Louisville (CHC)
Age 27.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 55/60 40/40 45/45 35/35 93-94 / 97

Thompson has battled a number of injuries throughout his career, including a Tommy John surgery just before the draft and and multiple shoulder maladies; last year, he exited a late-July game after just two innings and missed about a month after that. He throws from a high arm slot and his violent delivery has relatively little deception. Triple-A hitters were able to punish him for it, slugging a combined .530 against him with an HR/9 of 1.66, a mark that would have landed him in the top five in that column among qualified big league pitchers in 2023. His fastball sits 93-94 and tops out at 97, which is down from what it was before his many injuries over the past few seasons. Thompson’s plus curveball, which has big downward movement, is the most refined of his secondaries, and he rounds out his arsenal with an above-average slider and an average changeup. But his shaky command and lack of deception allow hitters to pick the ball up earlier than usual and identify what’s coming their way, resulting in fewer missed bats than the depth of his arsenal would otherwise imply. Thompson was mainly a starter at Triple-A in 2023 but middle relief seems like a better fit.

Cam Sanders, SIRP

Drafted: 12th Round, 2018 from LSU (CHC)
Age 27.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/60 55/55 50/50 30/30 94-96 / 99

Featuring a deep mix of offerings with a wide variety of velocities and shapes, Sanders fanned 97 hitters in his 64.2 innings at Triple-A working primarily as a late-inning reliever. He has a proven track record of missing bats with the entire arsenal, with average or above-average swing-and-miss on all five of his offerings in 2023. His riding four-seamer sits 94-96, as does his two-seamer, which features a lot of sink and run that effectively keeps hitters guessing. Sanders complements the two fastballs with a low-80s slider he uses primarily against right-handed batters and a mid-80s changeup reserved more for lefties. Both pitched missed bats in and out of the zone, and he’ll occasionally dip into the upper 70s with his seldom-thrown curveball, which has more of a downward shape than either of his other secondaries. The breadth of his arsenal is remarkable, but his ability to command it is iffier, with strike rates in the mid-50s across the board, well below the big league average. Sanders’ usage varies quite a bit and sometimes seems to depend on which pitches are working for him during any given outing, though since those outings tend to be on the shorter side (he reached three innings of work just one time last year), he might also simply be trying to exploit favorable matchups versus particular hitters. Sanders’ will need to focus on honing his command and lowering his walk rate, which crept into the low 20s in 2023, if he wants to fully maximize his ideal role as an impact late-game bullpen arm.

Ben Leeper, SIRP

Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (CHC)
Age 26.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
65/70 55/60 30/35 95-98 / 99

Leeper had an extreme collection of injury issues as an amateur, including two Tommy John surgeries. He was totally healthy and throwing very hard during his last few seasons at Oklahoma State, but he still ended up being passed over in the shortened 2020 draft and signed as an undrafted free agent. Less than a year after signing, Leeper was at Triple-A blowing upper-90s gas past veteran hitters and working with a plus slider. He seemed poised to debut in Chicago either late in 2022 or sometime in 2023, but he blew out again last spring and had his third career TJ in April. A successful rehab will put Leeper back on the doorstep of a big league relief role.

Porter Hodge, SIRP

Drafted: 13th Round, 2019 from Cottonwood HS (UT) (CHC)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 60/60 40/40 92-95 / 97

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. Big time extension and rise-and-run movement contribute to his fastball’s effectiveness and to the success of Hodge’s slider, which generated chase and miss rates approach 40% in 2023. He looks like a pretty standard middle reliever but needs to locate a little better in order to remain on the 40-man once his option years dwindle a few seasons from now.

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1 month ago

To me PCA would be a prime sell high candidate. A LHH Jose Siri type. the speed is only worth so much when you don’t get on base or even put the ball in play.

Cool Lester Smoothmember
1 month ago
Reply to  jacksonv123

Beyond the fact that Jose Siri had a worse K/BB in A-ball at age 21 than PCA did in the high minors…Siri’s been worth 4.6 WAR in 689 PA, over the last two seasons!

My baseline expectation is JBJ, who was a damn useful player in Boston.

1 month ago

I’m holding a bit of hope he’s in the Devon White/Steve Finley/Andy Van Slyke mold.

Last edited 1 month ago by sourbob
1 month ago
Reply to  sourbob

I personally like the Mike Cameron comps

1 month ago
Reply to  Francoeurstein

Cameron is probably the best possible scenario for him. I don’t think it’s likely. Cameron put up something like 50 fWAR and had multiple 5 win seasons.

But it would be pretty cool if it happened!

1 month ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Agreed. Andy Van Slyke was a damn good player as well. I don’t think PCA will every hit quite that well

1 month ago
Reply to  jacksonv123

Jose Siri looked like Keon Broxton when he was in the minors. He struck out a ridiculous amount. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on Siri and for him to wash out of the league.

Crow-Armstrong played last year in the Southern League, which experimented with a pre-tacked ball that made strikeout numbers uninterpretable. I think if you’re looking at comps, Jackie Bradley Jr, Daulton Varsho, and Trent Grisham all fit.

1 month ago
Reply to  jacksonv123

I’m not expecting much at the plate with PCA. The takes a couple weeks ago on Bellinger blocking him made me chuckle. Sure, absolutely, he’s a legit exciting high ceiling prospect … who has enough holes in his offense that he would more likely than not tank hard if pushed into regular mlb service. Not what a potential playoff team wants to be running out there. Wouldn’t have been end of the world to give him the job but I’m thrilled to give him seasoning at Iowa with the requisite injury replacement call ups until he starts to click.

I can see the rationale for selling high but I’d prefer the Cubs keep him and hope they get the upside version of him. Not sure what you’d sell him for that helps the organization – would want controlled mlb-ready pitching that beats what is on the current roster – not sure he gets us that without giving away a lot more.