Prospect Report: Cubs 2023 Imminent Big Leaguers

Pete Crow-Armstrong
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Top Prospects Series
* Imminent Big Leaguers article. All orgs will receive a full list.
2023 Preseason Top 100

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 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.

This 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 However, this approach has led to some situations where outdated analysis (or no analysis at all) was all that existed for players who had already debuted in the majors.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 will allow this 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 Cubs prospect list that includes Alexis Hernandez, Cade Horton, and all of the other prospects in the system who appear to be at least another season away. As such, today’s list includes no ordinal rankings. Readers are instead encouraged to focus on the players’ Future Value (FV) grades.

Let’s revisit what FV means before we offer some specific thoughts on this org. 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 guy 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 annual WAR during 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 could be injury prone, or a superlative athlete, and context like that might cause one 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 who is a 40+ FV player or above projects as an integral big league role player or better.

The Cubs are past the point of rebuilding and are now actively trying to improve and become playoff contenders. While they have a handful of intriguing position players poised for entry into the majors, including a couple of Top-100 outfielders, perhaps the most noteworthy contingent of their system is the gaggle of starting pitchers currently on the cusp of big league readiness. It seems the org is determined to execute what it couldn’t during the Bryant/Baez/Schwarber days: develop enough arms to create sustainable pitching depth around a core of hitters. Note however that most of the group of hitters in this near-ready group has a volatile hit tool.

There is likely to be attrition among this young group of arms, but the Cubs have enough depth to overcome a few moves to the bullpen or injury-riddled busts. If most of the current starting prospects do pan out as starters, this depth could open the door for potential trades aimed at buttressing their roster as they head into the back half of the season. With Hayden Wesneski already having settled into the rotation and Ben Brown, Javier Assad, Caleb Killian and Jordan Wicks all waiting in the wings, the Cubs could conceivably make a hopefully healthy Kyle Hendricks available ahead of the deadline and be wide open to either a prospect or a big leaguer-for-big leaguer swap that’s based on fit.

Lastly, two Top 100 tweaks occur here. First, we’ve slid Pete Crow-Armstrong down an FV grade compared to the offseason Top 100 because of the way his walk rates have progressed as he’s faced more advanced arms. There’s more on that in his blurb. He and Red Sox outfielder Ceddanne Rafaela are too similar to one another from a tools and warts standpoint to be two full FV tiers apart. PCA hits left-handed and has more present power — enough that there should be a little bit of separation, but not a ton.

Brown, meanwhile, moves into the Top 100. While, like Andrew Abbott, his stuff is the sort that would be aided by the way the tacked ball is enhancing movement in the Southern League, he still has three impact pitches and late-bloomer characteristics that indicate his command might still improve. He was an offseason Pick to Click who has clicked, and he moves toward the back of the 100 next to the host of MLB-ready power arms with long-term relief risk. The Updated Top 100 list is here.

Cubs Imminent Big Leaguers and Top 100 Prospects
Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
Pete Crow-Armstrong 21.1 AA CF 2024 55
Kevin Alcántara 20.8 A+ CF 2024 50
Ben Brown 23.7 AAA SP 2023 50
Hayden Wesneski 25.4 MLB SP 2023 50
Cristian Hernandez 19.4 A SS 2025 50
Javier Assad 25.8 MLB SP 2023 45
Caleb Kilian 25.9 MLB SP 2023 45
Jordan Wicks 23.7 AA SP 2024 45
Daniel Palencia 23.3 AA SIRP 2024 45
Matt Mervis 25.1 MLB 1B 2023 40+
Miguel Amaya 24.2 MLB C 2023 40+
Brennen Davis 23.5 AAA RF 2024 40+
Alexander Canario 23.0 AAA RF 2024 40+
DJ Herz 22.3 AA SIRP 2024 40
Ryan Jensen 25.5 AA MIRP 2023 40
Miles Mastrobuoni 27.5 MLB SS 2023 40
Bryce Windham 26.6 AAA C 2024 35+
Jeremiah Estrada 24.5 MLB SIRP 2023 35+
Max Bain 27.6 AA SIRP 2023 35+
Riley Thompson 26.8 AAA MIRP 2023 35+
Cam Sanders 26.4 AAA SIRP 2023 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Harvard Westlake HS (CA) (NYM)
Age 21.1 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 45/50 35/45 60/60 60/70 55

Drafted by the Mets, slick-fielding PCA played just six games at Low-A in 2021 before missing the remainder of the season with a labrum injury. While injured, he was dealt to the Cubs, and when he returned in 2022, he wasted little time demonstrating why he’d netted the Mets Javier Báez and Trevor Williams in return. Having made noticeable adjustments to his swing, Crow-Armstrong tapped into in-game power previously missing from his offensive profile. He tore up Low-A, slashing .354/.443/.557 with a 12% walk rate and an 18% strikeout rate over about two months before a promotion.

Since then, at High- and Double-A, a much more aggressive approach has been exposed, with PCA running a 4% walk rate for the last year or so. As an amateur, Crow-Armstrong’s swing resembled that of Blake Rutherford. It was bottom-hand-driven and geared in the extreme for low-ball contact. The revamped swing he showed once he was healthy post-trade from New York was more top-hand driven and direct to the top of the strike zone. While his current swing is definitely better than the one from high school, it still leaves Crow-Armstrong vulnerable at the top of the zone. Most all of his balls in play so far in 2023 have been on pitches down and in, and he doesn’t cover the upper and outer thirds very well. This, in concert with a higher rate of chase, is likely to dilute Crow-Armstrong’s offensive production. Aspects of his report read like Cristian Pache‘s and Drew Waters‘ scouting reports did at one point, as they both performed on the surface despite clear underlying issues. His Gold Glove-caliber defense and the power he generates on contact will have to carry his profile.

That brings us the to lede we buried: PCA’s defense is an unassailable aspect of his profile. He’s an acrobatic wizard in center field, ranging from gap to gap and making athletic plays at the wall, showing elite hands and ball skills. The floor for a prospect who plays a premium position this well is very high. Essentially, even if PCA’s top-of-the-zone hole and propensity to chase result in him being a frustrating offensive player, his defense will still end up making him a valuable big leaguer. Jackie Bradley Jr. is a fair comp.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 188 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/70 20/60 55/50 40/50 55

A backfield wunderkind who stood out immediately because of his rare combination of size and athleticism, Alcántara has been a Top 100 prospect at FanGraphs for a couple of years now. Originally a high-profile Yankees amateur signee, the pandemic and a hamstring injury limited him to just nine stateside minor league games before he was traded to the Cubs for Anthony Rizzo in 2021. He had a successful foray into full-season ball, slashing .273/.360/.451 with 15 homers and 14 steals with Low-A Myrtle Beach.

Athletic, 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcántara can are rare. He is loose and fluid in the box but does have some swing-and-miss concerns, which is standard for a hitter with levers this long. He sometimes has trouble turning on hittable fastballs and tends to pepper the right-center field gap, which is an indication he might struggle to catch up to big league heat at all. The good news is that he already has enough pop to do damage to the opposite field and will probably grow into much more as his wispy frame continues to fill out.

Even though he’s still eons from the big leagues, the Cubs were compelled to put Alcántara on their 40-man roster during the offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. At some point during the next two seasons, Chicago will have to hit the gas on his promotion schedule to avoid burning all of his option years before he establishes himself on the big league roster; he can’t just climb one level each year now that he’s on the 40-man. He should get a second half look in Double-A, which would put him on a more comfortable pace to compete for an Opening Day roster spot in 2025.

Drafted: 8th Round, 2017 from Ward Melville HS (NY) (PHI)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 60/60 40/45 94-96 / 98

A late bloomer, Brown blossomed in 2022, his first fully healthy, uninterrupted season. He started the season at the Phillies’ High-A affiliate, before being acquired by Chicago as part of the David Robertson trade at last year’s deadline. Upon entry into the Cubs org, the 6-foot-6 righty was sent straight Double-A, where he continued his breakout season. He combined for a total of 104 innings between the two levels, which is more than he’d logged across the entirety of his pro career to that point, dating back to his 2017 drafting by the Phillies.

Brown throws a mid-90s power fastball that he pairs with two nasty, distinct breaking balls, both with north-south profiles that allow the fastball to play up despite coming from a high approach angle that may otherwise dampen the effects of its north/south shape. The type of ride he creates on the heater is more often deceptive when it’s coming from shallower angle, but his fastball has played well thus far, and there are examples of success with this combination of approach angle and fastball shape, Justin Verlander being the pinnacle.

Brown’s present lack of fastball command puts him on the starter/reliever projection line. Ideally his fastball would more consistently live at the very top of the strike zone, but at times his unintentionally low fastballs help set up his hard, upper-80s slider as a chase pitch below it. Because his track record of actually pitching is relatively short, Brown stands a chance to improve in the control and command realm, and if he doesn’t and moves into the bullpen, he might throw even harder than he does now. Early in 2023, he also looked to have added a couple inches of induced vertical break to his four-seamer, but it’s important to note that this may be at least partly attributable to the experimental tacky ball they’re using in the Southern League. Regardless, he has three plus pitches and is major league-ready even if he isn’t totally polished, fitting toward the back third of the Top 100 list with other relief risk pitching prospects.

Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from Sam Houston (NYY)
Age 25.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 60/60 45/50 50/50 55/60 92-95 / 96

Wesneski was shipped to Chicago as part of the Scott Effross trade with the Yankees. During his time in New York’s system, he underwent an overhaul to his mechanics and now throws with a more typical starter’s delivery, characterized by impressive flexibility in his shoulders and back. He features a five-pitch arsenal with three distinct fastballs — a four-seamer, sinker, and cutter — all of which have taken a step back in terms of their bat-missing ability thus far in 2023. Not a single one of Wesneski’s offerings is generating an above-average swinging-strike rate as he crosses the rookie graduation line in 2023; three of them generated above-average rates during his 2022 cup of coffee. This has occurred despite a little bit of a velo spike and a tweak that better demarcated his cutter’s movement from his slider. Nothing about Wesneski’s stuff suggests his early 2023 swoon will continue; his slider’s movement is identical to 2022 and still projects as a plus pitch, the best of a repertoire that should enable him to be a stable fourth starter. Even though the early results at Wrigley have not been good, there’s no reason to come off of Wesneski’s long-term projection.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (CHC)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/35 50/70 25/55 55/55 45/55 60

A high-probability shortstop with a long-limbed, projectable frame, Hernandez is your traditional international amateur who excels in a workout environment. His infield actions are smooth and athletic, his swing has a gorgeous, pronounced finish, and he has the right amount of overt physical projection that he might mature into the unteachable, star-making Goldilocks Zone, where he stays at short and also develops impact power.

The components of Hernandez’s swing push and pull against one another; his cut is pretty long, but he also has very advanced barrel control. The latter is more important at this stage of his career. He’s able to pull his hands in and get the barrel on inside pitches, but he swung underneath a ton of fastballs during his 2022 season on the complex, which is why he struck out at a very scary 30% clip. That’s continued early in 2023. The Cubs have had some recent success in tweaking swings, and if Hernandez can shorten up his cut and even be a 40-grade contact hitter at maturity, then he’s likely to be a good big league shortstop because every other tool is in place. He has a great skill and athleticism foundation, and he already has incredible power for a shortstop his age, capable of hitting oppo lasers. There’s substantial bust risk here, but the ceiling is huge — too big to move off of Hernandez after the teenager has been whiff-prone for what amounts to a couple of months of domestic pro ball.

45 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Mexico (CHC)
Age 25.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 55/55 40/45 55/60 50/55 92-96 / 97

For most of his life as a prospect, Assad has looked like a kitchen sink pitchability righty with spot starter’s stuff. But his velocity has blossomed over the last few years and it spiked comfortably into the mid-90s when he was deployed as a long reliever for Mexico’s WBC team in the spring of 2023. The thick, bespectacled righty attacks hitters with a variety of fastball and breaking ball shapes, most frequently his upper-80s cutter. The repertoire depth and command to start are most certainly here, and that’s what Assad’s projection is in a vacuum, but he broke 2023 camp in a long relief role with the big league team. He entered this season having thrown about 100 innings each of the last four years, so he has the innings foundation to leapfrog into a rotation role if Chicago needs him to during the summer. Until then, he’ll be a nasty multi-inning reliever.

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Texas Tech (SFG)
Age 25.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 45/45 50/50 40/45 55/55 55/55 92-96 / 99

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 big league debut.

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 can reach back for velocities peaking in the 97–99 band but tends to sit in the 92–96 range throughout a start, and his stuff is much more about inducing weak contact than it is about missing bats. 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. 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 the tools to strike out a batter per inning, Kilian is more of an innings-eating sort who projects toward the back of a good rotation.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Kansas State (CHC)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/50 45/45 60/60 55/60 88-92 / 93

Wicks arguably had the best changeup in the 2021 draft as well as plus command projection, putting him firmly in the middle of the first round. Lefties with plus changeups and plus command almost always tend to carve out a role at the back of a rotation, and he has been tracking like a no. 4/5 starter since he broke out during the summer of 2020. His fastball, while not all that hard, has traits that enable it to play at the top of the strike zone when he is throwing the four-seam version, and he helps himself further by hiding the ball well. Wicks will vary his breaking ball shape in the 77–83 mph range, at times showing hitters a slider with lateral action and at others imparting more vertical break on a curve. Neither of his breakers are especially nasty, but again, his command helps them shine. One of the more stable starting pitching prospects in the minors, Wicks doesn’t technically have to be added to the Cubs’ 40-man until after the 2024 season, but he’s on pace to debut well ahead of that schedule.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (OAK)
Age 23.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 55/60 40/45 30/40 97-99 / 100

Palencia had barely pitched in the U.S. and had only been seen by a few scouts when the A’s traded him to the Cubs for Andrew Chafin. (Luckily for the Cubs, one of those scouts was a relatively new hire combing the backfields in Arizona.) Palencia’s fastball stood out from the jump, as he was sitting 97–99 mph immediately during backfield activity. His heater still sits 98–99 and frequently tops out in the triple-digits with late life, a near-elite offering that plays down due to his middling control. His two secondaries include an above-average slider that he throws hard enough (it averaged just south of 90 mph in 2022) to make up for its generic shape. He hasn’t yet been able to locate any of his three offerings consistently, and he’s been especially erratic early on in 2023. Listed at 5-foot-11, Palencia has a maxed-out, muscular frame that might not age well athletically. The combination of power and fluidity he shows in his mechanics (even though he doesn’t have consistent feel for release right now) is akin to Pirates righty Luis Ortiz, who is similarly built and has been able to withstand a starter’s workload while maintaining upper-90s velo. While we buy that he’ll hold his stuff under a starter’s load of innings, Palencia hasn’t proven it yet. His outings have been on the truncated side; the last time he lasted longer than four innings was back in June of 2022. He may indeed be better in small, electrifying doses, and with the type of velocity he provides, Palencia will profile in a high-impact relief role if his command doesn’t develop.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 39th Round, 2016 from Duke (CHC)
Age 25.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/40 60/60 50/55 30/30 40/45 40

A 2020 undrafted free agent, Mervis has been one of the more impressive upper-level statistical performers during the last two seasons, producing more than 40 home runs since the start of the 2022 campaign. Perhaps equally notable is the way his strikeout and walk rates have trended during that span. After spending the first several months of his pro career on the complex in Arizona, he played 2021 and the early portion of 2022 at the Cubs’ lower-level affiliates, where he struck out roughly 24% of the time — a somewhat concerning mark in any case, especially so for a first base-only defender and even more so when the prospect in question is 23–24 years old. As the Cubs promoted Mervis to Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, his strikeout rates came down into the teens, and his walk rates have improved. The data under the hood is a little less encouraging: Mervis’ contact and chase rates are a bit worse than what is typical of the average big league first baseman. That’s arguably daming because, again, we’re talking about a player who spent most of the season during which that data was generated as a 24-year-old at High- and Double-A.

His raw power is real, though. Mervis’ hands are fast and powerful, and he’s capable of hitting titanic pull-side blasts. He once hit a home run that struck the Cubs’ spring training stadium’s upper level… from their primary minor league backfield. Hanging breaking balls and anything that finishes on the inner third of the plate are vulnerable to his pull-heavy style of swinging. Mervis can also slice doubles the other way against pitches low and away, but pitchers who can elevate on the outer third of the plate stand a pretty good chance of sneaking above his bat altogether. His hands work in a way that is very similar to former top-five pick JJ Bleday, albeit with more twitch and explosion. Mervis ends up being pretty long to the outer third of the zone, and big league fastballs up and away from hitters who swing like this tend to present a real problem. Synergy Sports doesn’t have the velocity for every single fastball in their system, so the sample is incomplete, but Mervis is only slugging .405 against 94-plus mph fastballs he’s seen since being promoted to Double-A (just a 128-pitch sample). When you isolate the sample to fastballs on the outer third, he has a .583 OPS.

It’s fair to look to Luke Voit’s output (a three-year peak of big slug during which he’s a 45-grade player) as a comp for Mervis. Like Voit, he is on pace to debut deep into his mid-20s and hit for enough power to bat in the middle third of a lineup. But due to the issues we anticipate he’ll have with vertical plate coverage, he probably won’t hit enough to be an impact player when you compare him to the rest of the first base population in the majors. He’s a prospect fantasy players will probably want to be higher on than this real-world evaluation, especially since he has immediate opportunity and power.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Panama (CHC)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/50 30/40 40/40 40/50 45

The pandemic and an unfortunately-timed Tommy John surgery limited Amaya to just 60 games across the 2020–22 seasons, and during that time he’s gone from a relatively advanced young catching prospect to a 24-year-old who clearly looks rusty and unpolished back there. His arm strength is average coming off the TJ, and his exchange further dilutes his pop times in the 2.05 area. His glove hand is slow to match pitch location, making it tough for him to make borderline pitches look like strikes when the pitcher doesn’t hit his spot. On a knee with the bases empty and in a high crouch with runners on base, Amaya is also not a sticky ball-blocker and gives up lots of long rebounds that allow runners to advance. He hasn’t progressed as predicted when he first broke onto the scene as a quick-moving teenager who looked like a shoe-in to catch, but the time off is a good reason for him to suddenly be behind. Still, important development is going to have to be compressed into Amaya’s next 10 months. The 2023 season is his fourth and final option year, so he needs to progress sufficiently as a defender for the Cubs to feel good about permanently carrying him as their backup (at least) starting in 2024. The good news is that strapping catchers built like Amaya are the sorts who tend to break out in their late 20s, à la Tyler Flowers.

A swing grooved through the bottom portion of the zone will likely prevent him from being an average contact hitter, but his on-base skills and meaningful power (for a catcher) already make him more a more dangerous offensive player than your typical backup. There’s enough of a gap between the typical primary big league catcher’s defense and Amaya’s current glove to forecast him as a bat-first backup early in his career, and some of his career history (so much time missed) suggests the finer points of the defense have a chance to arrive later on.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC)
Age 23.5 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 reached the upper levels of the minors in relatively few games because of the combination of the pandemic and a spate of injuries (some severe) that prevented him from being healthy and accruing plate appearances for meaningfully long stretches. He entered the 2023 season having played in roughly two minor league seasons worth of games since 2018. That makes it tougher to project on his hit tool, a still-raw aspect of his game in the middle of his age-23 season. Since high school, Davis has been an athletic developmental project with huge power and a questionable hit tool. Even with a below-average bat-to-ball ability, there was hope he would get to enough power to profile in an outfield corner, but coming off his most recent injury (he had pain and would lose sensation in the area stretching from his lower back to his hamstrings, which doctors surgically corrected by cauterizing a cluster of blood vessels in his back) he has lost some of the explosiveness that at one point made him a Top 100 prospect.

Davis tends to push most of his high-quality contact to the opposite field, which is another way of saying that he struggles to be on time enough to pull pitches with power. His cut is grooved through a portion of the zone that tends to leave him vulnerable to sliders (even ones that finish in the zone) and high fastballs, a combination that will be tough to overcome unless Davis is generating big power when he does make contact. In the early goings of 2023, he’s made noticeable efforts at shortening up and has been able to cut down significantly on his swing-and-miss issues, though with virtually no slugging to optimize those improvements. Here he projects as the short end of a corner outfield platoon, and even that will require a resurgence of pop as he gets further away from the back surgery.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (SFG)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 60/60 45/55 50/45 45/50 70

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 have him shelved for the early portion of 2023.

A healthy Canario is one of the more explosive rotational athletes in baseball. His max-effort cuts are scintillating, and his swing’s finish — his bat finishes in the dirt behind him — is an indication of how loose and whippy he is in the hips and torso. He is going to swing and miss a bunch, both because of his style of swinging, which causes him to swing inside a bunch of sliders, and because his bat path makes it tough for him to get on top of high fastballs; an overwhelming majority of his contact comes against pitches out away from him. There will probably be too many strikeouts here to justify Canario playing an everyday role, but he has such electric bat speed that he’ll likely get to enough power to play a part-time corner role with some peak years of 20 or so homers.

40 FV Prospects


Drafted: null Round, 2019 from Sanford HS (NC) (CHC)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/45 70/70 30/40 91-94 / 96

Herz has an extreme crossbodied delivery that aids in deception and makes him a nightmare for lefty hitters to pick up. His stride direction looks more like Andy Pettitte’s pickoff move than it does a traditional delivery. Deception and an incredible changeup have helped him strike out well over a batter per inning since Herz showed a little bit of a velo spike coming out of the pandemic, but even though he’s only ever started, his mechanical look and walk totals both point to the bullpen. He began the 2023 season on the shelf with a hamstring strain and has been sitting about 90 mph and touching 92 (a bit down from last year) in a couple of Arizona rehab outings in the leadup to publication. At that velocity, his changeup will be his only plus pitch, making him more of a middle-inning option than a high-leverage one, though if/when he’s indeed shifted to the ‘pen, a velocity spike might occur and enable him to play a more prominent role. He’s more of a post-2023 40-man candidate now that he’s been slow to get underway this season.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Fresno State (CHC)
Age 25.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/40 40/40 40/45 35/40 93-96 / 99

Jensen’s raw athleticism and arm strength have been the crux of his profile since he was an amateur, and they still are, but he hasn’t really developed in a meaningful way. While he now has a five-pitch mix — including two distinct mid-90s fastballs — none of Jensen’s secondaries are especially good, and his command of them is poor. Not one of his trio of secondaries (curveball, slider, changeup) garnered a strike percentage over the 50% mark in 2022, and as the Cubs continue to use him as a starter early on in 2023, his control has again regressed. The lackluster command of his secondaries and a violently effortful delivery that features a long arm action were perhaps always likely to push him to the ‘pen. Even though none of those pitches is very good. it’s possible Jensen’s repertoire depth will enable him to work in a multi-inning relief role. He certainly has the stamina to sustain plus velocity for multiple innings, but most big league relievers have at least two plus pitches, and he has been searching for a second one for a while now.

Drafted: 14th Round, 2016 from Nevada (TBR)
Age 27.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/55 30/30 30/30 50/50 40/40 50

Mastrobuoni had a very eventful six months leading up to the 2023 season. He was part of Tampa Bay’s annual 40-man roster crunch, was traded to the Cubs in mid-November, spent some time with prospect-rich Licey in the Dominican Winter League, then played for Team Italy in the WBC and broke camp with the big league team for the first time in his career in March. He’s a career .287/.371/.397 hitter in the minors and doesn’t have the kind of power typical of an everyday player, but the contact and OBP pieces, when combined with a Ryan Freel-like defensive versatility, make him a high-probability big league utilityman. While he plays all over the place, Mastrobuoni is not a very good defensive player at any of those spots. He seems likely to play all over the place in more ways than one, as Mastrobuoni is poised to hop on and off the fringe of many different rosters for a long time because of his OBP skills and panoply of defensive fits.

35+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 32th Round, 2019 from Old Dominion (CHC)
Age 26.6 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 30/30 20/20 40/40 40/45 55

Windham has emerged as a high-contact sleeper whose throwing has improved recently. He played all over the diamond at Old Dominion but didn’t move behind the plate until 2019, and he didn’t commit fully to the catching position until the 2022 season. A fair receiver and ball-blocker, his exchange was very slow for the first half of 2022, and teams ran on him at will. He began throwing from his knees and, while his throws are still a little inaccurate, his pop times are not only much better than they were before but are also often hovering around the 1.80 mark. He’s improved on defense substantially in a short period of time and might continue to do so despite being an older prospect. Additionally, Windham is tough to whiff. He has an athletic lefty cut and plus raw bat-to-ball ability, but the quality of his contact is so mediocre that his hit tool will likely play down a little bit. He’s a late-blooming backup prospect who would be a cool utilityman if he re-introduces another position to his toolkit in the near future.

Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Palm Desert HS (CA) (CHC)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 50/50 40/45 92-95 / 97

Tommy John surgery, the pandemic, and a 2021 bout with COVID (which hospitalized him) limited Estrada to 33 innings from ’19 through ’21. Back on the mound in 2022 and armed with a newly-minted slider, he began the year with High-A and ended it in the big leagues. Once a changeup artist, he now tries to rip mid-90s velo past hitters at the letters to garner most of his whiffs and used his slider almost twice as often as his change in 2022. His stuff isn’t so nasty that you can comfortably project him in a middle-inning role; instead, he’s forecast here as an optionable depth piece. If he can outpace that projection, it will likely be due to late-arriving improvements to Estrada’s command, which are plausible given all his time off.

Max Bain, SIRP

Age 27.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 30/40 93-96 / 98

Bain is an Indy ball signee who impressed on the backfields in the spring of 2021, holding 96–98 mph fastball velocity late into games before heading into his first year of affiliated ball, during which he struggled to throw strikes. He again struggled with walks in 2022 and was moved to the bullpen halfway through the season amid several changes to his delivery. On the IL to start 2023, Bain has been rehabbing exclusively from the stretch in Arizona. He appears healthy and touched 97 at least once, flashing an occasional plus slider and above-average changeup, the latter appearing to be of developmental focus. His approach has changed, and he’s now apt to throw his secondary stuff early in counts before trying to rush velo past hitters late. It’s plausible that, with more consistent upper-level pro instruction and the help of a big league pitching coach, he’ll eventually polish his command enough to play a more central bullpen role, but for now he projects as an up/down relief option.

Drafted: 11th Round, 2018 from Louisville (CHC)
Age 26.8 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 93-95 / 97

Thompson has shown great stuff since college, but myriad injuries (a TJ and multiple shoulder maladies) have plagued him and limited his reps. He worked about three innings per outing across 19 starts in 2022, and it appears as though he’s been downshifted into a bullpen role early in 2023. His injury history is long enough and his delivery violent enough to anticipate he’ll deal with more issues throughout his career, impacting his evaluation. His stuff is big league quality, however, as he attacks hitters with a riding mid-90s fastball and a variety of breaking ball shapes and velocities. It’s worth noting that Thompson’s breaker has lost several hundred rpm since he was last healthy for a sustained stretch in 2019, but his curveball is still an above-average pitch. He works with little-to-no precision, but his repertoire depth and track record suggest he can work multiple innings out of the bullpen as an up/down option.

Cam Sanders, SIRP

Drafted: 12th Round, 2018 from LSU (CHC)
Age 26.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/60 55/55 50/50 30/30 94-96 / 99

Sanders had a two-tick velo spike after moving to the bullpen part way through 2022, and his fastball has averaged 95 mph and topped out at 99 in the early going of ’23. His long, whippy, low-three-quarters arm slot is tough to repeat but also tough for righty batters to see. The shape of his fastball causes it to play below its velocity, and Sanders’ slider is how he most often misses bats. There’s some other interesting stuff happening here, such as his curveball, which has about 20 mph of velo separation from his fastball, and his occasionally good changeup. It’s enough stuff to project Sanders will likely get a cup of coffee as an up/down reliever, but whether he ends up in a more reliable role depends on him honing his control, which at present is a real issue.

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21 days ago

Good read!
Has Fangraphs moved on from the seasonal ~Top 50 organization prospect articles that used to come out in the winter/spring, and moved that into a rolling, non-seasonal list? I’m interested to read about Cade Horton. Seems that those top-down organization reports are year round now?

Last edited 21 days ago by boredlawyer
21 days ago
Reply to  boredlawyer

FG is attempting to provide timely prospect updates for players who might be relevant in the 2023 season, outside of the usual full organizational roundups.

21 days ago
Reply to  boredlawyer

I think this is a good question and well-asked.

Originally, the plan was to do these “imminent big leaguer reports” as an interim during spring training, but that seems to have fallen behind as well. So the story is either (1) Eric is bad at adjusting his expectations for what can be reasonably done or (2) Eric is not getting enough resources to get these done on time.

I don’t mind the gradual updates, and ultimately I will take them whenever I get them. But it does seem like by the end of Spring Training every team should have prospect writeups of FV45 or higher; a writeup for the imminent big leaguers; and a rough list of who would be in the FV40+, FV40, and FV35+ buckets. And I am not at all convinced that the FV35+ and FV40 players need full writeups at all.

18 days ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

This. I won’t claim to know how hard it is to get these out & I will say Eric’s prospect write ups are WAY more detailed then what you get from other outlets, which is why so many are waiting for them.’s 3 PM on 5/12. & still waiting on 11 teams prospect rankings & probably 20 teams “imminent big leaguers”. We’ve seen 1 teams prospect rankings (ATL) since 3/15 (Toronto dropped on 3/14).

My gut says Eric is out watching games once spring training & the regular season get underway..which is what he should be doing. But, that means these really need to be done by early March or so, right?

18 days ago
Reply to  boredlawyer

May as well just call it the 2024 list by the time it comes out…