Top 31 Prospects: Chicago Cubs by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel December 7, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2019 2018 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Cubs Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Miguel Amaya 19.7 A C 2022 50 2 Nico Hoerner 21.6 A 2B 2020 50 3 Aramis Ademan 20.2 A+ SS 2020 50 4 Adbert Alzolay 23.8 AAA RHP 2019 45+ 5 Justin Steele 23.4 AA LHP 2019 45 6 Cole Roederer 19.2 R CF 2022 45 7 Brailyn Marquez 19.9 A LHP 2021 45 8 Alex Lange 23.2 A+ RHP 2020 45 9 Zack Short 23.5 AA SS 2019 40+ 10 Richard Gallardo 17.3 None RHP 2023 40+ 11 Reivaj Garcia 17.3 R 2B 2024 40 12 Brennen Davis 19.1 R CF 2023 40 13 Brendon Little 22.3 A LHP 2020 40 14 Jeremiah Estrada 20.1 R RHP 2021 40 15 Oscar De La Cruz 23.8 AA RHP 2020 40 16 Jose Albertos 20.1 A RHP 2022 40 17 Alec Mills 27.0 MLB RHP 2018 40 18 Luis Verdugo 18.2 R SS 2023 40 19 Cory Abbott 23.2 A+ RHP 2020 40 20 Keegan Thompson 23.7 AA RHP 2019 40 21 Tyson Miller 23.4 A+ RHP 2020 40 22 Trent Giambrone 25.0 AA 2B 2019 40 23 Christopher Morel 19.5 A- 3B 2023 40 24 Yovanny Cruz 19.3 A- RHP 2022 40 25 Dakota Mekkes 24.1 AAA RHP 2019 40 26 Thomas Hatch 24.2 AA RHP 2019 40 27 Jonathan Sierra 20.1 A- RF 2022 40 28 Nelson Velazquez 19.9 A LF 2023 40 29 Danis Correa 19.3 R RHP 2022 40 30 Benjamin Rodriguez 19.4 R RHP 2023 40 31 Kohl Franklin 19.2 R RHP 2023 40 50 FV Prospects 1. Miguel Amaya, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Panama (CHC) Age 19.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 50/55 30/45 40/30 45/60 55/60 Even as he struggled early as a pro to perform on paper, Amaya drew trade interest from clubs hoping to leverage the Cubs’ championship aspirations to convince the club to part with him. The Cubs refused and have been rewarded, as the offensive potential promised by Amaya’s graceful swing and burgeoning physicality began to actualize in 2018. Amaya’s hands have life, and work in a tight little loop as he accelerates them to swing. He can pull and lift balls in various parts of the zone with regularity, and the impact of his contact is only limited by his average bat speed. The physical grind of catching is likely to dilute his in-game offensive production a little bit, but unless the beating he takes back there starts to take away from his defensive abilities (which sometimes happens to young catchers), Amaya is a pretty good bet to have some kind of big league career, and, if the bat maxes out, he’ll be an above-average regular. He turns 20 in March and will likely head to Hi-A next year. How his advanced defensive ability and less-advanced bat develop could affect how quickly the Cubs push him: slowly if they want to wait for the latter or, depending on how much he hits early as a big leaguer, quickly if they don’t. 2. Nico Hoerner, 2B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Stanford (CHC) Age 21.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 50/50 35/45 55/55 45/50 50/50 Already, Hoerner’s swing has changed. He was making lots of hard, low-lying contact at Stanford, but since signing he has added a subtle little bat wrap that has made a substantial difference in how he impacts the ball. He hit for much more power than was anticipated in the summer and fall, and the identifiable mechanical tweak is evidence that the change is real and not small-sample noise. Hoerner makes routine plays at short and so long as scouts are okay with his funky throwing motion, he has a chance to stay there. There are scouts who have him projected to second base or to center field. Hoerner’s previous swing enabled a bit of a jailbreak out of the batter’s box, exaggerating his home-to-first speed. With the new swing, he’s a 55 runner. Hoener’s bat and probable up the middle defensive profile mean he’s likely to be at least an average regular, and he could move quickly. 3. Aramis Ademan, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 20.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/55 45/45 30/45 45/50 45/50 55/55 We’re chalking up Ademan’s terrible 2018 statline to an overzealous assignment. At age 19, the Cubs sent him to Hi-A Myrtle Beach, where he barely hit above the Mendoza Line. He did look a little bit heavier than he had the year before, and his swing was more upright and less athletic than it has been, but all the physical tools to stay at short are still here (quick actions, sound footwork, plenty of arm) for now. Much of Ademan’s offensive woes can be explained away by his age relative to the level. He doesn’t project to be an impact bat, just one that is better than is usual at shortstop. Ideally he shows up to Mesa in the spring looking a little leaner and twitchier. He’ll likely repeat Myrtle Beach (at least for the season’s first half) and projects as an average everyday player. 45+ FV Prospects 4. Adbert Alzolay, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 60/60 40/45 45/50 92-95 / 97 Alzolay felt a weird sensation in his throwing arm in the fourth innings of a late-May start at Triple-A. It was a lat strain, for which he’d need a PRP injection and the rest of the summer to rehab. He was throwing again in the fall and is expected to be ready for 2019. Alzolay may have also had some health issues during his breakout 2017. He was given extended rest throughout July and August, his starts often spaced out by six days. He didn’t throw more than 80 pitches in any August start and was shut down late in that month, then asked to pick up innings in the Arizona Fall League. He has this system’s best two-pitch mix, a fastball/power curveball combo that is ready for a major league bullpen as soon as Alzolay is healthy. To profile in a rotation, he will need a better changeup than the one he has shown in the past; missing several months of action with his lat issue likely slowed that process. The combination of injury and the changeup reps lost to it make it more likely that Alzolay ends up in the bullpen, but he could be a dominant high-leverage option there. 45 FV Prospects 5. Justin Steele, LHP Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from George County HS (MS) (CHC) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/50 50/55 45/50 45/45 40/50 89-93 / 95 Steele signed for $1 million as one of several over-slot players in Chicago’s terrific 2014 draft class and was tracking through the minors at an even pace before he blew out his elbow in August of 2017. He returned from Tommy John just eleven months after his injury and by the end of his six-week Arizona Fall League run, looked as though he might contribute to the Cubs in 2019. He was touching 95 in the fall and living in the low-90s with less life than his spin rate would indicate. He has an above-average curveball and will flash an average change and a pitch that looks like a cutter, but it may just be a variation of his changeup. He projects as a no. 4 or 5 starter. 6. Cole Roederer, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Hart HS (CA) (CHC) Age 19.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 50/55 30/55 55/50 40/50 45/45 As a high school underclassman, Roederer looked like a hit-first tweener outfielder. He added a bunch of good weight and strength and had significantly more raw power when he arrived in the AZL after signing. He has already begun trading a little bit of contact for significantly more game power. With added mass and strength typically comes a reduction in straight line speed, but Roederer hasn’t slowed down just yet and still looks like a possibility to stay in center, though most scouts who saw him in pro ball think he’ll eventually move to left field. Regardless, there’s a whole lot more bat here than there was on our pre-draft evaluation of Roederer, who has risen to the top of the promising teenage hitter group in this system because he has a chance to hit for average and power while the rest are likely to do just one of those. 7. Brailyn Marquez, LHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 19.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/50 30/45 40/50 93-96 / 99 Name another teenage lefty who touches 99. As far as we know, this is the only one, meaning Marquez is perhaps the hardest-throwing teenage southpaw on the planet right now. He also has pretty advanced fastball command for someone with that kind of heat to go along with a 6.5% walk rate over his last 100 innings of work. His secondary stuff is pretty pedestrian, but everything of his plays up against left-handed hitters because Marquez has a weird, sawed off, low-slot arm action. He’ll need to develop better ways to deal with right-handed hitters, either via command or better secondary stuff, and ultimately Marquez projects as a no. 4 starter because one cannot live on velo alone, but the elite arm strength means his ceiling is higher than that if the Cubs can work some magic with his stuff. 8. Alex Lange, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from LSU (CHC) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 55/55 50/55 40/45 89-90 / 92 Lange had a legendary college career at LSU, where he always performed despite some year-to-year fluctuations in his velocity. He carved up the SEC with just two pitches, and repertoire depth, the velo issues, and the violence in Lange’s delivery all contributed to the amateur scouting world’s opinion that he would be a reliever in pro ball. Lange’s changeup usage increased dramatically in 2018 and the pitch improved. His curveball doesn’t have big raw spin but it’s still really effective and remains his best pitch. His delivery is deceptive and enables his fastball to play despite below-average velocity. It appears there’s a starter’s arsenal here and Lange threw plenty of strikes in 2018. If he’s living off of deception, perhaps his future role will be limited to a one time through the order type of guy, but that’s still more than a generic 40 FV reliever. 40+ FV Prospects 9. Zack Short, SS Drafted: 17th Round, 2016 from Sacred Heart (CHC) Age 23.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 45/45 45/45 50/50 50/50 50/50 Arguing in Short’s favor is best done using the same statistics that have made him a Fringe Five mainstay for the last two years. He owns a 17% career walk rate and gets to every bit of his fringy raw power in games because he hits flyballs at a 54% clip, which would be the highest rate in the majors among qualified hitters. Short exists at the far right tail of the player population where both of these skills are concerned. He’s very similar, statistically, to one-year wonder Ryan Schimpf, except Short has better feel for contact and can actually play shortstop. He may wind up in a utility role, but Short is freaky enough in these ways to be more intriguing than your average bench guy, and the Addison Russell situation complicates the Cubs’ shortstop situation enough that Short might be relevant pretty quickly. 10. Richard Gallardo, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 17.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 187 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/70 40/50 35/55 89-93 / 94 Gallardo signed for an even $1 million in July and was, in our opinion, the most well-rounded pitcher in his IFA class. He’s really loose, flexible, and athletic, and has some physical projection. He sits 89-93 right now and it plays at the top of the strike zone. He’ll likely throw harder as he matures. Gallardo also has a proclivity for spin and his curveball already flashes plus. He checks all the traditional boxes for a teenage pitching prospect, has advanced pitchability, and his stuff works in a specific way (four-seamers up, curveballs down) that fits with contemporary pitch usage. Teenage pitching is risky, but every aspect of Gallardo’s profile is indicative of improvement. He has a chance to be really good. 40 FV Prospects 11. Reivaj Garcia, 2B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (CHC) Age 17.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 40/45 20/45 50/45 45/55 50/50 Garcia, who signed for $500,000, just turned 17 in August and hit .300 in the AZL despite being a whopping 3.5 years younger than the average player there. He has really great feel to hit, and not just for his age. It’s punchy, all-fields contact right now. Garcia’s swing has an abbreviated finish and he’s already a pretty stocky kid without much room for mass, so it’s unlikely he develops big home run power as he matures; he might never hit more than 12-15 bombs. But he’s going to hit a ton and he’s athletic enough to have tried shortstop, though he probably fits best at second base, where he might be above-average. Depending on how his bat develops, he could be a Cesar Hernandez type of regular who makes a ton of contact and plays a premium position, which would generate a significant amount of value even if there’s not much pop here. The Cubs have pushed advanced hitters like this pretty aggressively of late, but Garcia is just so young that we anticipate he’ll be in extended next year, then head to Eugene for the start of his summer. If he hits there, he may get a cup of coffee at South Bend late in the summer. 12. Brennen Davis, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC) Age 19.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 50/60 20/55 60/60 40/55 55/60 If you’re looking for the Platonic Ideal of upside, it exists in Davis, who is raw as a hitter but still enthralling in every other possible way. Davis was his conference’s Defensive POY on a 2016 state championship basketball team and didn’t fully commit to baseball until his senior year. His mother was a track and field athlete at the University of Washington and his father is former NBA All-Star, Reggie Theus. In addition to his athletic gifts, scouts rave about Davis’ maturity as a student and a worker (often citing the odd hours he keeps taking care of a goat and llamas at his family home), and all thought he’d be able to cope with likely early-career contact struggles and would work to improve his ability to hit. If Davis grows into a 40 bat, he could be a star because of his power and ability to play center field. There’s some risk he never gets there. 13. Brendon Little, LHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from State College JC (FL) (CHC) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/55 40/50 40/45 89-91 / 93 Little’s stuff was down in 2018. He was 92-94 and touching 95 or 96 last year, had a plus curveball, and only lasted until late in the first round because of concerns surrounding his command. This year, he was mostly 89-92 with just an average curveball and no improvement in his ability to locate. There’s a chance he bounces back, but college starters often just never throw as hard as they did in school due to increased usage and a longer season, and that’s possible in this case, too. A left-handed breaking ball like this probably means Little will at least have a future in the bullpen or as a backend starter, but his stuff needs to rebound if he’s going to be more. 14. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP Video Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Palm Desert HS (CA) (CHC) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/50 55/60 30/45 91-93 / 96 Estrada, who signed for $1 million as a sixth rounder in 2017, had a very strong spring and extended spring in Mesa and looked like he might be pushed to short season ball as a 19-year-old. Then, just before short season leagues began, he was placed on the reserve list and didn’t throw again all summer. He is already much thicker and heavier than he was in high school. He was touching 96 before he was shut down and had one of the nastier changeups among teenage arms in Arizona. He struck out a rehabbing Andrew Toles with that changeup twice in extended, though his curveball remains pretty fringy. If his command improves and he finds a third pitch, the curveball or otherwise, he’ll be a mid-rotation option. If not, he projects as a late-inning fastball/changeup reliever. 15. Oscar De La Cruz, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 55/60 40/45 40/40 88-92 / 96 De la Cruz spent much of 2017 injured, and was sitting 88-92 while rehabbing in preparation for a Fall League stint that was nixed due to a setback. After showing similar velocity in March of 2018, he was suspended for PEDs in the second half of the season. He’s currently throwing about an inning per week for Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League. Peak prospect De la Cruz would show you a plus fastball and breaking ball consistently, as well as some feel for a changeup. Because of all the lost reps due to various injuries over the last several years, his development has been slow. Assuming his stuff comes back, it makes sense to move him quickly as a reliever before something else happens to him, which would make his lack of a strong changeup and command less relevant. In that case, he could be a high-leverage arm. 16. Jose Albertos, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Mexico (CHC) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/60 55/60 20/40 91-94 / 97 Jose Albertos’ final spring training start was unremarkable. As usual, he looked like he was in control of two excellent secondary pitches much more than his mid-90s fastball. When the Low-A South Bend’s season began a few days later, Albertos had issues finding the strike zone and lasted just a single inning. The problem snowballed, and his’ control unravelled throughout the course of the year. He walked 32 hitters in 13.2 innings at South Bend, then was sent back to extended spring training for a month before he was reassigned to short-season Eugene, where he walked 33 in 17.2 innings, at times throwing fastballs in the mid-80s just to try to throw a strike. This happens to athletes in various sports from time to time, but not often enough for us to have developed refined ways of helping athletes deal with it, so we just don’t know if Albertos will bounce back. We do know he is very talented. He had three plus pitches at age 19. There was concern about his physical composition and release variability, though remedying one of those things might aid the other. If that were to happen, he could move quickly because his stuff is already in place. Hopefully, Albertos can flush 2018. He’s only 20 and has above-average starter stuff if he can compose his body and mind. 17. Alec Mills, RHP Video Drafted: 22th Round, 2012 from Tennessee-Martin (KCR) Age 27.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/50 40/40 55/55 55/60 88-92 / 94 Mills epitomizes the pitchability righty. He has a below-average fastball but locates it well and can add and subtract from its sink and tail in ways that enable him to work like a power pitcher does. He works his sinker and changeup down and to his arm side or runs either of them back onto his glove side corner to set up a slider. Mills struggles to finish his curveball consistently, but the rest of his fairly generic repertoire plays just fine because his command is so good. He’s a big league ready backend starter. 18. Luis Verdugo, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (CHC) Age 18.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 172 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/50 20/45 45/50 50/60 55/60 Verdugo signed for $1 million out of Mexico in 2017. He can really pick it at shortstop and could be plus there at maturity. His hands, range, actions, footwork, and athleticism are all superlative, especially considering his age, and while he is physically projectable, he’s not so big-framed that he’s a threat to move off shortstop. Verdugo’s defensive ability was in place when he arrived for camp in the spring. By the start of the summer, he had already filled out a bit and started putting a serious charge into the baseball during BP and, occasionally, in games. That thump tapered off later in the year and Verdugo has some swing length issues that will likely make him strikeout prone, but it’s possible he was just tired in August and that there’s some pop here, too. It’s unlikely that he has a well-rounded, impact profile on offense, but he could be a plus glove at short who also runs into 15-plus bombs if that power develops. 19. Cory Abbott, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Loyola Marymount (CHC) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/50 50/55 45/50 50/55 90-92 / 93 Abbott was a draft spring popup guy as a junior and went in the second round. He struck out 100 more hitters as a junior than he did as a sophomore in just 28 more innings. His scouting report still lead with affection for his command rather than his improved stuff, but there was thought that the stuff might continue to blossom in pro ball. But it has plateaued and Abbott now projects as a low-variance fifth starter. Abbott’s fastball plays best when it’s moving most, which for him is when he’s locating it just off the plate to his arm side; it is hittable everywhere else, including up above the zone. He can locate there, but Abbott is limited in where he can attack with the fastball, which also makes it harder for him to set up his breaking balls. Those are either two separate pitches or one curveball that has pretty variable shape. The best of Abbott’s breakers are vertical curveballs that bite hard and have enough depth to miss bats beneath the zone; his changeup is okay, used often for first pitch strikes later in game. 20. Keegan Thompson, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Auburn (CHC) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 193 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/50 50/50 45/50 50/55 89-92 / 94 Thompson split his first full pro season between Hi and Double-A and looks exactly as he did at Auburn. He throws a lot of strikes with an average four-pitch mix, and misses in places where he can’t get hurt when he’s not locating exactly. He’s going to have to pitch off of his two breaking balls very heavily because of his lack of velocity, but Thompson makes diverse use of his slider and curveball, both of which he can spot for strikes early in counts or use at a chase pitch. His ceiling is limited, but he is arguably ready to take a big league mound right now if the Cubs need a competent start. 21. Tyson Miller, RHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Cal Baptist (CHC) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 50/55 45/50 45/50 90-93 / 95 Miller’s crafty application of pretty average stuff enabled him to strike out a batter per inning at Hi-A Myrtle Beach last season, albeit as a prospect of relatively advanced age. He can manipulate the shape of his fastball — which can cut, sink or ride — which, in Miller’s best starts, he had pinpoint control of. Both of his secondaries are viable big league offerings when they’re located, but Miller gets in trouble, especially with his changeup, when he misses within the strike zone. He has fifth starter traits. Double-A will be an excellent stress test for Miller’s command, which needs to max out if he’s to fit on a big league staff. 22. Trent Giambrone, 2B Drafted: 25th Round, 2016 from Delta State (CHC) Age 25.0 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/45 50/50 45/50 50/50 45/45 50/50 Giambrone’s athletic, contemporary, full-body swing makes efficient use of his little frame, and he’s able to tap into in-game pull power because of it. He can also play several different positions (2B, 3B, OF) at varying levels of skill, and he’s a solid-average runner. Fall League discussion surrounding Giambrone often focused on comparing him to David Bote, both because Bote crushed Fall League the year before and because Giambrone will literally be competing with Bote for a roster spot as an infield bench contributor. Giambrone is a better, more versatile defender, but Bote has more power. 23. Christopher Morel, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 19.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 140 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/55 20/50 40/40 40/50 55/60 Morel has visible on-field leadership qualities and was the vocal protagonist of an AZL club team that lost the league championship series to the Dodgers. He’s wiry and projectable but already strong, and he has present pull power that projects to plus. He also has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield and has seen time at short, but he almost certainly will move to third at some point, and there’s a non-zero chance he ends up in right field. Morel has some pitch recognition issues that lead to strikeouts. Those create uncertainty about his profile, but they’ll be more acceptable if he can stay on the dirt. He could be an athletic, power-hitting corner bat in the big leagues so long as he hits a little bit. 24. Yovanny Cruz, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 19.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/50 50/60 40/50 90-93 / 95 Cruz is a sinker/changeup prospect in a world where four seam/breaking ball prospects are increasingly desired, but it’s a good sinker and changeup to go along with advanced control. He’s not as physically projectable as most 19-year-olds, but Cruz should add a little bit of velocity simply through physical maturity, and his fastball’s movement profile pairs nicely with the change, which should allow both to thrive as he moves up. He profiles as a no. 4 or 5 starter. 25. Dakota Mekkes, RHP Drafted: 10th Round, 2016 from Michigan State (CHC) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 55/55 40/40 91-93 / 95 Looking at his stuff without all the context that encompasses ‘mound presence,’ Mekkes is a three-pitch middle-relief prospect. His fastball typically sits in the low 90s and his slider is solid average, perhaps a tick above. But Mekkes is a gargantuan 6-foot-7, takes a large stride toward the plate, and releases the ball much closer to home than the average pitcher, creating a Doug Fister-like effect that allows his stuff to play up. He has a 1.16 career ERA in pro ball and has K’d more than a batter per inning. Like most XXL pitchers in their early 20s, Mekkes struggles with control, but hitters’ inability to adjust to his delivery in short stints has limited their overall ability to reach base. As a result, he has a 1.05 career WHIP despite an 12% career walk rate. It’s hard to say how this rare type of deception will play in the big leagues, assuming upper-level hitters are still flummoxed by it as Mekkes moves on. Jordan Walden was dominant for a half decade with a similar type of deception but he had much better stuff. 26. Thomas Hatch, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Oklahoma State (CHC) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 50/50 40/40 92-93 / 95 Hatch hasn’t developed the control typical of a starter, so while he does have a fairly deep repertoire, he projects in middle relief, where his fastball might tick up beyond where we have it projected. 27. Jonathan Sierra, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 60/70 30/50 45/40 40/45 55/55 Sierra has moved one level at a time since signing in 2015 for $2.5 million and finally left the womb of the complex and spent his summer in Eugene. He has plus power right now at age 20 but he struggles to get to it in games. This is a long-levered hitter whose necessary hitting development will likely take a while. He has the power to profile as an everyday right fielder if it does. 28. Nelson Velazquez, LF Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2017 from P.J. Education HS (PR) (CHC) Age 19.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/60 30/50 50/40 30/45 50/50 Like several Cubs prospects who were handed aggressive assignments for their age, Velazquez struggled at Low-A and was eventually demoted. He performed after being sent back down to Eugene (.250/.322/.458) but was still plagued by the plate discipline issues that were his undoing in the spring at South Bend. Velazquez has big power, and there’s ceiling here if he can hit, though he’ll need to be more selective if he’s going to. He’ll also have to develop on defense. 29. Danis Correa, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (CHC) Age 19.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 We assume Correa was hurt for much of 2018 (he threw just two AZL innings) but it’s unclear what ailed him. In 2017, he had some wild fluctuations in velocity (he was seen throwing anywhere between 93 and 100, but mostly sitting 94-98), which continued when he threw in 2018. Correa was 94-96 in the spring and then didn’t pitch until late in the summer when he was 92-93. If his arm strength bounces back, he’ll move up this list. 30. Benjamin Rodriguez, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 19.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 35/50 45/55 40/50 30/50 86-90 / 92 The Cubs didn’t sign Rodriguez until very late in the amateur signing calendar. He signed in early May of 2017 and barely pitched that year, only seeing consistent reps for the first time in 2018. Rodriguez is a wispy 6-foot-2. He was up to 92 in extended spring training but sat in the upper-80s in the DSL. He can spin a good breaking ball and his fastballs spins well relative to its velocity. 31. Kohl Franklin, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Broken Arrow HS (OK) (CHC) Age 19.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Franklin was only throwing in the low-80s as a high school junior, but his velocity spiked later in the year and he threw much harder the following year. He now sits in the low-90s. Franklin also has a sizable frame and can spin it. He signed for a well-over slot $540,000 as a 6th rounder. He’s a really high variance prospect because the velocity is fairly new and might keep coming. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.All This Pitching Depth Erich Uelmen, RHP Paul Richan, RHP Matt Swarmer, RHP Javier Assad, RHP Michael Rucker, RHP Bryan Hudson, LHP Ryan Lawlor, LHP Uelmen has the best velo of this group (a low-90s sinker) and his changeup might be enough to offset potential platoon issues caused by his low arm slot. He could be a 40 on this list at some point during the year. Richan throws a ton of strikes with five fringy pitches. Swarmer has a trick pitch changeup and might end up like Trevor Richards. Assad is a maxed-out righty with advanced pitchability for his age. His stuff is average. Rucker can really spin a curveball and has a weird delivery that helps him fool hitters; it might work in short bursts in the bigs. Hudson was a 6-foot-8 midwest projection arm who hasn’t really developed much, but he’s a ground ball machine. Lawlor was signed after a few Independent ball outings. He sits 90 mph but has a plus curveball. Latin Americans with Upside Rafael Morel, SS Yonathan Perlaza, SS Jose Lopez, CF Joel Machado, LHP Fabian Pertuz, SS Luis Vazquez, SS Fernando Kelli, CF Morel signed for $800,000 in July. He has a plus arm, quick actions, a good frame, and his swing has good foundation. Perlaza is a stocky, try-hard spark plug who ignited the AZL Cubs lineup during the summer. His ceiling is probably that of a max-effort utility guy. Lopez signed for $1.5 million in July. He’s a 55 runner with a 55 arm, and he has bat speed but his swing needs an overhaul. Machado is athletic and has a great arm action. He was only sitting in the mid-80s the last time we got an update on him, but we think he’s going to throw pretty hard in the future, and he really gets off the mound well. Pertuz is a somewhat mature Colombian shortstop with some present pull pop and feel for the zone. Vazquez projects as a glove-only utility man. Kelli is a 70 runner with bat speed but everything else about him is fringy right now. Bench Bats Wladimir Galindo, 3B Mark Zagunis, OF Jhonny Pereda, C D.J. Wilson, OF Galindo has 6 power. He has below average contact skills and a below average glove. Zagunis is on the 40-man and projects as a perfectly fine fifth outfielder who can take a walk and pinch run. Pereda might get popped in the Rule 5 draft because he’s an okay catcher with an approach. Long term, he projects as a third catcher. Wilson’s speed has gone backwards and his bat hasn’t really developed, due at least in part to bad injury luck. System Overview Several positions players in this system had rough years due to assignments beyond their capabilities. Aramis Ademan, Jose Albertos, Chris Morel and Nelson Velazquez are all examples of this. Most of the college pitching the Cubs have drafted lately is developing as expected, which is to say that several of those players are already viable depth options if the big league staff has several injuries, but none of them have much upside. Overall, this system still appears to be below average due to recent trades that siphoned star power from the very top of the farm, but there’s enough here that the Cubs have the ammo to make some trades without totally gutting the system, so long as some of the younger guys on this list take a step forward next year.