Top 49 Prospects: Chicago Cubs by Eric Longenhagen July 7, 2021 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher. 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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2021 2020 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Cubs Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Brennen Davis 21.7 AA CF 2023 55 2 Reginald Preciado 18.1 R 3B 2025 50 3 Cristian Hernandez 17.6 R SS 2025 45+ 4 Ed Howard 19.4 A SS 2024 45+ 5 Adbert Alzolay 26.4 MLB SP 2021 45+ 6 Brailyn Márquez 22.4 MLB SIRP 2021 45+ 7 Christopher Morel 22.0 AA 3B 2022 45+ 8 Miguel Amaya 22.3 AA C 2021 45 9 Cole Roederer 21.8 A+ LF 2022 45 10 Owen Caissie 19.0 R LF 2025 45 11 Kevin Made 18.8 A SS 2025 40+ 12 Ryan Jensen 23.6 A+ MIRP 2022 40+ 13 Ismael Mena 18.6 R CF 2025 40+ 14 Yeison Santana 20.6 A SS 2022 40+ 15 Chase Strumpf 23.3 AA 2B 2021 40+ 16 Burl Carraway 22.1 A+ SIRP 2022 40+ 17 Kohl Franklin 21.8 A SP 2023 40+ 18 Riley Thompson 25.0 A MIRP 2022 40+ 19 Ben Leeper 24.1 AAA SIRP 2022 40+ 20 Ethan Hearn 20.9 A C 2024 40 21 Michael McAvene 23.9 A- SIRP 2022 40 22 Hunter Bigge 23.1 A+ SIRP 2022 40 23 Max Bain 25.8 A+ MIRP 2023 40 24 Yohendrick Pinango 19.2 A LF 2024 40 25 Justin Steele 26.0 MLB SIRP 2021 40 26 Yovanny Cruz 21.9 A- SP 2022 40 27 Benjamin Rodriguez 21.9 R SP 2023 40 28 Rafael Morel 19.6 R SS 2024 40 29 Cory Abbott 25.8 MLB SP 2021 40 30 Cayne Ueckert 25.1 AA SIRP 2023 40 31 Josh Burgmann 23.4 A- SP 2023 40 32 Fabian Pertuz 20.9 A 3B 2023 40 33 Manuel Rodríguez 24.9 AAA SIRP 2021 40 34 Tommy Nance 30.3 MLB SIRP 2021 40 35 Michael Rucker 27.2 AAA MIRP 2021 35+ 36 Jordan Nwogu 22.3 A CF 2024 35+ 37 Jeremiah Estrada 22.7 A SIRP 2021 35+ 38 Ethan Roberts 24.0 AA SIRP 2022 35+ 39 Eury Ramos 23.7 A+ SIRP 2022 35+ 40 Ronnier Quintero 18.7 R C 2025 35+ 41 Luis Verdugo 20.7 A SS 2023 35+ 42 Keegan Thompson 26.3 MLB MIRP 2020 35+ 43 Tyler Schlaffer 20.1 R SP 2024 35+ 44 Koen Moreno 19.9 R SP 2025 35+ 45 Richard Gallardo 19.8 A SP 2023 35+ 46 Alfonso Rivas 24.8 AAA 1B 2021 35+ 47 Dakota Mekkes 26.7 AAA SIRP 2020 35+ 48 Luke Little 20.9 R SIRP 2023 35+ 49 Nelson Velazquez 22.5 A+ LF 2023 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 55 FV Prospects 1. Brennen Davis, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Basha HS (AZ) (CHC) Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 55/60 35/60 60/55 45/55 60 Davis made an incredible leap during his first year in pro ball. Some area scouts thought he was so raw as a hitter, and that his stock had fallen enough due to a pre-draft hamstring issue, that he might be better off going to school. The Cubs took him in the second round, tweaked his swing, and skipped him over a level. He responded by hitting .305/.381/.525 at South Bend, and he may just be scratching the surface. 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 of high school. He has a big, projectable frame that he’s already added a lot of muscle to, and amateur scouts raved about Davis’ maturity as a student and a worker (often citing the odd hours he kept 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. He’s had nothing but success in pro ball, amassing a .288/.385/.459 career line while reaching Double-A at age 21. Davis employs a contact-oriented approach and works back through the middle of the diamond and to the gaps, letting his natural strength drive what is currently in-game doubles power. He has more raw juice than he hits for in games because his approach prioritizes contact (I’ve seen him choke up on the bat for entire plate appearances). Despite his lever length, Davis doesn’t have an obvious hole in his swing. He can tuck his hands in and still get a decent part of the bat on inside pitches and use his strength to shoot them over infielders, and he’s a threat to do damage when he’s getting extended on pitches on the outer third. His abbreviated, two-handed finish is similar to Eloy Jiménez’s, but there isn’t quite as much raw power here. I think greater flex in Davis’ lower half is going to be an important piece of him actualizing in-game power by lifting pitches toward the bottom of the zone that he otherwise can’t if he stays upright. Long-term, I’m a little bit skeptical of his ability to do this because he has a pretty tightly-wound lower half, which I associate with the hammy injury from high school, but he’s shown glimpses of doing so this year. There’s room for Davis to let it eat a little more often than he does, and if he develops natural feel for that then he’ll be a superstar instead of merely very good. 50 FV Prospects 2. Reginald Preciado, 3B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Panama (SDP) Age 18.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 189 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 45/60 20/60 40/40 40/50 50 The Padres gave Preciado a $1.3 million bonus in 2019 — a record for a Panamanian prospect — because he had the overt physical traits that teams have traditionally coveted on the international market. He’s a big-framed (about 6-foot-4) switch-hitter who is athletic enough to stay on the infield. Players like this have a wide range of potential outcomes, with one being that their body develops in the Goldilocks Zone where they remain agile enough to stay at shortstop while also becoming big and strong enough to hit for impact power. Though some teams have shown evidence of a philosophical shift in this area, prospects like Preciado are the ones who typically get paid the most money on the international market. When Preciado came to the States for 2019 instructs, he looked like you’d expect a 16-year-old his size to look: raw and uncoordinated. He still had not gained athletic dominion over his frame, and he looked much more like a third base defender than a shortstop. Fast forward a year to the fall of 2020 and Preciado came to instructs with a batting stance and swing that look an awful lot like Corey Seager’s. It allows him to be relatively short to the baseball despite his lever length, and whether it had to do with the swing change or not, he looked much more comfortable in the box in the fall 2020 than he did in ’19. Because of the missing minor league season, most teams in Arizona brought an older contingent of player to instructs than they usually would, and still Preciado (who is just 17) was striking the ball with precision and power from both sides of the plate when he made contact. He had real issues recognizing breaking balls during the fall and his ability to adjust to those will be key moving forward, but I’m willing to bet it was a symptom of him being so young while facing unusually advanced pitching after not having seen any live pitching at all for much of last year. He’s been running close to 4.5 times from home to first for me this year, so while he’s a developmental fit at shortstop because of his actions, I think Preciado probably ends up at third base. The Cubs need to address the stiffness in his lower half, which is impacting his speed, comfort, and the zip on his throws (I didn’t see Preciado really air one out this spring). That makes it more important that his breaking ball recognition improve. His power potential is uncapped because he has such an ideal frame. 45+ FV Prospects 3. Cristian Hernandez, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 17.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 45/55 20/40 55/55 40/50 60 A high-probability shortstop with a long-limbed, projectable frame, Hernandez was 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 has impact power. The components of Hernandez’s swing push and pull against one another, as his cut is pretty long but he also has very advanced barrel control. He’s able to pull his hands in and get the barrel on inside pitches and he also has good vertical plate coverage. The downward sweeping nature of the swing (he loads his hands very high and deep) might dilute Hernandez’s game power relative to his projected raw, but the Cubs have had some recent success in tweaking swings like this. It’s too early to worry about that, though. Hernandez has a great skill and athleticism foundation, and good frame-based power projection. He’s an excellent prospect with a shot to be an above-average everyday player. 4. Ed Howard, SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Mount Carmel HS (IL) (CHC) Age 19.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 40/45 20/45 50/50 55/70 55 A player with mature baseball feel who is exceptionally polished for having been a Midwestern high schooler, Howard is a rare sort of high-floor teenage draftee. While not exceptionally toolsy or athletic, Howard is solid in these areas and is advanced defensively as well as from a bat-to-ball standpoint. He best squares up pitches at the bottom of the strike zone, and although he hasn’t been tested regularly at the letters, he’s shown flashes of being able to either lay off those pitches or pull his hands in and find a way to get the barrel there. Whether Howard is able to do that against big league velocity is tough to predict, but he has promising feel to hit and an advanced approach for a cold weather hitter, as well as perhaps the best defensive footwork from the 2020 draft class. He projects as a solid everyday big league shortstop, and is more likely to reach that outcome than most teenage shortstop prospects. I don’t see a star turn here unless I’m underrating how much room for strength-gains Howard has, or how much his feel for contact will buoy his in-game power output. 5. Adbert Alzolay, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 26.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 208 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 60/60 55/55 40/45 45/50 92-95 / 97 Alzolay had regular health and durability issues while in the minors and it’s the only reason he’s not a Top 100 prospect. He was given extended rest and had his pitch counts limited late in the summer of 2017 before he was shut down in August. Then he had a PRP injection in 2018 after he was diagnosed with a lat strain and had biceps inflammation in ’19. He has this system’s best two-pitch mix, a fastball/slider combo that would pretty cleanly profile in the back of the bullpen if the Cubs eventually need to move him there for health reasons. He threw his changeup much more during his 2019 big league time than I would have guessed, but that pitch and Alzolay’s curveball have been de-emphasized in favor of the relatively new slider, which Alzolay throws nearly as often as his fastball. He has mid-rotation upside assuming good health and a little more changeup refinement. 6. Brailyn Márquez, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/80 45/45 50/55 30/35 93-97 / 100 There’s very little to be gleaned from Marquez’s horrendous 2020 big league debut except to say that the lack of mechanical consistency he displayed in that outing is the sort of thing I’ve seen from him pretty often on the backfields, and is a big part of why I have him projected as a single-inning reliever. Elite velocity carries Marquez’s profile. His heater averaged 95.6 mph in 2019 and was parked at 97.8 in 2020, and there are only a half-dozen lefties on the planet who throw that hard. Marquez walked 13% of Low-A hitters over 17 starts in 2019 but was promoted to Hi-A anyway because he was just bullying hitters with heat and not really refining anything else. The Cubs have tried to get his lower- and upper-halves to synch better in the hopes that it will help him pepper the zone more consistently, and there have been fits and starts where it looks like things have clicked only to regress, similar to the way Phillipe Aumont’s consistency did during his prospect peak. Marquez’s changeup has bat-missing action and his arm slot makes his slider tough on lefties, though it’s not a good pitch in a vacuum and both of his secondary offerings are typically dependent on location. There really aren’t big league starters with this kind of build (especially at this age) and lack of athleticism, but there also aren’t many pitchers who throw this hard. Still just 22, I expect Marquez will eventually find a consistent second pitch and work in a high-leverage relief role. He’s working back from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him from most of 2021. 7. Christopher Morel, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 22.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 140 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/60 45/55 50/50 40/50 60 Morel is a well-made, explosive athlete with plus raw power and a plus-plus arm. His swing-and-miss issues (which stem from middling pitch recognition) are likely a barrier between him and true everyday WAR output, but his power and defensive versatility (3B/SS/CF/RF) make him a likely high-end utility prospect. Morel is also a terrific on-field leader and competitor. He’s shown a more toned-down approach with two strikes this year but I’d like to see a larger sample before rejiggering where I think his K/BB ratios will be at maturity. I like Morel in a role similar to the one Chris Taylor has played for the Dodgers, which could mean some peak years with close to 3 WAR and others (when there are more K’s) closer to 1.5 or so. 45 FV Prospects 8. Miguel Amaya, C Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Panama (CHC) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 50/50 30/40 40/30 50/60 60 Amaya had been a 50 FV prospect for a couple of years but as we shuttled our offseason top 100 list around, scouts and executives consistently told us to move him down, citing a relative lack of raw power compared to other 50 FV hitters. But even still, Amaya’s 2021 SLG is lower than anticipated. He remains a polished defender with leadership qualities befitting an everyday backstop, and his body is built to withstand the rigors of the dog days. Like most catchers, Amaya’s offensive tools play down a bit in games because the position wreaks havoc on the body. His hands work in such a way that he can hook breaking balls with power and drive velo to the opposite-field gap. He walks a lot and has reached base at a career .340 clip. There’s too much offensive ability here to consider Amaya a low-variance backup but definitely not enough power to consider him a 2 WAR lock. A forearm strain that plagued him during the first half of 2021 may be to blame for the suppressed power, but it also means the Cubs may need to cycle through other catchers on the 40-man this year if Amaya’s elbow makes it tough for him to catch until he’s healthy. 9. Cole Roederer, LF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Hart HS (CA) (CHC) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/45 50/55 35/55 50/45 45/60 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, having already begun to trade a little bit of contact for more game power. He skipped a level and didn’t perform in full-season ball in 2019, which felt fine because of his age and the hitting environment in the Midwest League. Then we had no minor league season last year and Roederer’s 2021 was interrupted by an elbow strain that cost him all of June and persisted through list publication. It’s made his statistical output difficult to contextualize. Ultimately, I think Roederer projects as the larger half of a corner outfield platoon à la David Peralta, Seth Smith, Matt Joyce and the like. He sees righty pitching well and pulls it with power. He’s played a lot of center field but most big league clubs have a superior defender on their roster, so I have Roederer projected in left. 10. Owen Caissie, LF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Notre Dame Catholic HS (SDP) Age 19.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 50/60 25/55 40/30 40/50 60 On the first day of Cubs 2021 Extended spring training games, Caissie was late on several mediocre fastballs. He looked like a long-levered, slow-twitch first base type. This was the first Caissie had actually seen live opposing pitchers in a long time, as he was in Canada last fall rather than in Arizona for Padres instructs. His feel for timing improved over the next couple of days and he had a white hot final few weeks of Extended, making consistently-hard contact and hitting a bunch of homers and doubles while generating lots of verbal buzz among scouts covering the backfields. Caissie definitely has a pro athlete’s build and physicality, and his huge, broad-shouldered frame indicates he might still grow into more power. His feel to hit is better than I had evaluated it to be while Caissie was an amateur. While my last look at Caissie ended with him shaking and flexing his wrist in pain throughout most of an ACL (formerly AZL) game, he took a day off and was back in the lineup for the following game. His power output might be impacted by the wrist issue in the short-term, but there’s everyday, 30-homer ceiling here and a real chance to actualize it with a viable hit tool. 40+ FV Prospects 11. Kevin Made, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 18.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 35/50 20/45 55/55 45/55 55 Made is a familiar type, the pure projection shortstop with actions and contact skills that you can dream on. During workouts in Arizona he showed average bat speed and his swing was geared for line drives, and he has a very lean, angular build with underlying musculature that suggests he’s going to get much stronger into his mid-20s. He also showed a very rotational, whippy swing with natural, pull-side loft, so he might hit for power without any sort of swing alteration. An undisclosed injury kept him out for about a month of early 2021 at-bats with Myrtle Beach so the data piece is still largely missing from the profile. For now he remains in the exciting, projectable middle infield bucket. 12. Ryan Jensen, MIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Fresno State (CHC) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 45/50 45/50 40/50 93-96 / 99 Jensen had one of the best arms in the 2019 Draft. Strong and athletic despite being quite small, he holds 94-97 deep into games and has touched 100. He can make his fastball ride or tail, and he uses it very frequently. His secondaries are not as nasty, but they’re workable and flash average right now. There’s a lot pointing to a relief role here because of the size, delivery (Jensen’s arm action is very long), and the reality that two pitches need to develop for him to start, but the fastball gives him a chance to be a high-leverage or multi-inning reliever. 13. Ismael Mena, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (SDP) Age 18.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 40/50 20/40 60/60 40/50 70 Mena appeared to have grown a couple of inches when he arrived in Arizona for 2020 instructs with the Padres. His swing is still kind of awkward. He can be very bent at the waist throughout his swing, which is very bottom-hand heavy, sort of like a lefty version of Todd Frazier’s swing. But like Frazier, Mena tracks pitches with his eyes, puts the bat head on the ball, and can strike with surprising power. The presence of Robert Hassell (San Diego’s 2020 first rounder) and Hudson Head (a 2019 overslot high schooler) pushed Mena to a corner in my autumn looks, but he’s been fine in center field for me in 2021 with the Cubs. Mena is a long-striding outfielder who, based on how big he’s gotten in the last year and how clownish his feet are, might end up in right field eventually, though he runs well enough to continue playing center for now. I could see an eventual Raimel Tapia sort of offensive outcome here, but either with viable center field defense or plus defense in a corner. There may be a more power-centric corner outfield outcome but that feels less likely given Mena’s style of hitting. He’s just a young, athletic, well-rounded baseball player with exciting potential. 14. Yeison Santana, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (SDP) Age 20.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 40/45 30/40 55/55 45/60 60 Santana is a graceful, athletic 20-year-old slam dunk shortstop with late-arriving body projection that could enable him to be a big league regular eventually. He struggled unexpectedly during his initial full-season trial and was sent back to the Complex level shortly before publication. This is surprising on a few levels. First, Santana has shown good feel for contact in the past and looked great during my 2021 in-person spring looks. Second, his 40-man timeline (he’s exposed to the Rule 5 this offseason) puts him behind the developmental eight ball when ideally, Santana would have hit his way to Hi-A at some point this year ahead of a 40-man add. Now he’s back in rookie ball, perhaps in part because Ed Howard and Kevin Made clog the infield at Myrtle Beach. Santana was a skinny teenage shortstop prospect who took a huge leap throughout 2019 when his shoulders broadened and he began rotating more explosively while retaining most of the bat control that made him an interesting, contact-oriented youngster. Santana is only 5-foot-11, so the risk that he outgrows shortstop is remote, and he became the best infield defender in the Padres system once Gabriel Arias was traded to Cleveland as part of the Mike Clevinger deal before last year’s deadline. He’ll remain a 45 FV prospect, commensurate with the grades I typically have on players picked toward the back of a draft’s first round, but he merits re-evaluation in Arizona as he attempts to adjust to this developmental speed bump. 15. Chase Strumpf, 2B Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from UCLA (CHC) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 191 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 50/50 30/40 50/50 45/50 50 Strumpf has pretty average tools but had several years of strong statistical performance at UCLA, plays an up-the-middle position and can slide over to third base, too. He projects as “a piece”: not an everyday, every-inning player but a contact-oriented utility man who plays all over the infield. His early-career statistical mediocrity is surprising considering Strumpf’s track record of hitting all the way back to high school but I’m not going to overreact to a couple weeks of data when about half a decade of performance indicates the contrary. The compact nature of his swing increases the likelihood that he’s going to hit, and he also has sneaky strength in his hands that should help him produce at least doubles power. His median outcome is probably that of a second division regular or utility man. If he’s better than that it’ll be because he hit more than anticipated. 16. Burl Carraway, SIRP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Dallas Baptist (CHC) Age 22.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 173 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 65/70 70/70 30/35 94-97 / 98 Carraway is a prototypical lefty power pitcher with some of the best TrackMan/Hawk-Eye data on the planet. His 94-96 mph fastball has an exceptionally vertical attack with a massively rising fastball and ultra-deep breaking ball. It’s high-leverage stuff. Carraway needs to polish his control a little bit to fully actualize it. 17. Kohl Franklin, SP Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Broken Arrow HS (OK) (CHC) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 50/55 55/60 35/50 90-93 / 95 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 season. He now sits in the low-90s and was up to 95 in 2019 while working with an above-average changeup. His breaking ball has good raw spin but is visually average. He’s a bulldog who goes right at hitters, has good on-mound makeup, and is among the likelier rotation pieces in this system. An oblique injury has kept him out to start 2021. 18. Riley Thompson, MIRP Drafted: 11th Round, 2018 from Louisville (CHC) Age 25.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/60 45/45 40/45 92-94 / 96 Thompson had great stuff while at Louisville but only threw about 50 career innings and struggled to throw strikes during that time. He not only made control/command strides in 2019, but also developed a better changeup. His fastball/curveball combination (both have vertically-oriented shape; it’s a lot of 92-94 with carry and a plus curveball) make him a likely bullpen piece even if there’s a strike-throwing regression next time he toes the rubber. We don’t know how he’s progressed yet because Thompson has missed all of 2021 dealing with a right shoulder strain. It makes it more likely that he’s eventually a reliever. 19. Ben Leeper, SIRP (CHC) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ 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, the most recent of which was in 2016. He was totally healthy and throwing very hard during his last few seasons at Oklahoma State but 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 is at Triple-A blowing upper-90s gas past veteran hitters. He was up to 96 during my spring look but Leeper has been up to 99 during the regular season, sitting 95-99 with big carry at the top of the zone. He also has a slider in the 87-90 mph range that is of variable quality. The best ones are plus, the worst ones are below-average but still tilt in with so much velocity that they’re tough for hitters to square. Leeper could be up this year but the Cubs have a ton of roster flexibility here because he only just signed. He’s fantastic upper-level depth right now and has a chance to pitch in high-leverage innings soon. 40 FV Prospects 20. Ethan Hearn, C Drafted: 6th Round, 2019 from Mobile Christian HS (AL) (CHC) Age 20.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 50/50 30/40 40/30 45/55 60 Hearn is a squat but very strong, athletic catcher who has a chance to be an above-average defender with a plus arm (he needs to be more accurate, though) and above average raw power. He needs a reworked swing and may never be more than a 30 bat, which puts him in a likely backup catching bucket. There’s definitely more ceiling than that here, it’s just dependent on Hearn finding a way to make more consistent contact. 21. Michael McAvene, SIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Louisville (CHC) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 65/70 50/55 35/40 94-98 / 100 McAvene’s velo popped late during his draft year and was up to 100 during Louisville’s regionals, and he flashed a tight, mid-80s slider. If that holds, he could be a setup type. If not, it’s more middle relief. He hasn’t pitched in 2021 due to an elbow strain. 22. Hunter Bigge, SIRP Drafted: 12th Round, 2019 from Harvard (CHC) Age 23.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/55 40/50 92-96 / 99 Bigge looks like a 2019 12th round steal. He was sitting in the upper-80s and low-90s at Harvard, then spiked into the 92-95 range out of the bullpen after the draft. By the fall, he was touching at least 97 and I have one source who had him up to 99. I’m not sure what kept him from breaking camp to start the 2021 minor league season (the Cubs have had lots of velo spike guys and lots of injuries), but he has been 94-97 since returning to South Bend. He now looks like a quick-moving bullpen weapon, but obviously it’d be better to see him do it for a whole season. 23. Max Bain, MIRP Independent Ball Signee (CHC) Age 25.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/50 55/60 30/40 93-96 / 98 A 23-year-old Indy Ball signee who lost 50 pounds and found 10 mph during four months of intense training at Cressey Sports Performance, Bain was a backfield revelation during the spring. His fastball ranged from 94-98 during my look, mostly 96-98, and Bain held that deep into his start, likely the last bit of his minor league spring training run before heading to an affiliate. He’s not especially good at spinning the fastball but it does have angle that works at the top of the strike zone, and pairs well with Bain’s above-average, low-80s power curveball. I also saw some plus, upper-80s slider/cutters that had versatile utility, either as a chase pitch off the plate or as a back-door offering. I think he’ll have to throw his breaking stuff for strikes to continue developing as a starter since the fastball command isn’t especially good, but there’s a starter’s build, repertoire depth, and in-game stamina here. Bain doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man until 2023, so there’s time to develop him as a starter if the Cubs want to. Ultimately, I think he’ll be used in relief sooner than that. 24. Yohendrick Pinango, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 19.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 50/55 20/40 60/50 40/50 55 Pinango is a teenage bowling ball who takes huge, entertaining hacks. He made a high-end rate of contact and walked more than he struck out in the 2019 DSL, but hit for almost no power despite his bat speed. Looks from 2020 instructs and this spring were illuminating as to why. Pinango is a free-swinger with a bottom-hand dominant swing that drives and slices the ball into the ground a lot. He takes some pretty erratic swings and often loses his balance through contact because of how hard he’s rotating, but his on-paper contact rates are still very strong. Sometimes players like this, Cody Bellinger most notably, successfully dial down their swings without compromising their power output. Pinango isn’t that kind of athlete (who is?) nor is his frame all that projectable. He’s pretty curvaceous for an 18-year-old, so I’m a little bearish on his ultimate power projection. The combination of a reckless approach and groundball tendencies put his likely corner profile on thin ice, but you can’t teach this kind of bat speed and rotational ferocity. I think there’s enough talent here to project eventual big league utility despite obvious holes suppressing the ceiling. 25. Justin Steele, SIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from George County HS (MS) (CHC) Age 26.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 45/45 40/40 40/40 93-96 / 97 Once a 45 FV lefty starting pitching prospect, Steele is now a grip-and-rip fastball/slider reliever who lives in the mid-90s. He has a stiff, upright delivery but it helps enable him to create big depth on his breaking stuff. Steele will still show you an occasional curveball and changeup. It’s a middle relief look. 26. Yovanny Cruz, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 65/70 45/50 50/60 30/45 97-99 / 100 I had seen Cruz sit 92-96 with heavy sink and a good changeup in the past, but I didn’t expect him to add any velo (despite his age) because he was already a physically mature prospect. Well he showed up to spring training sitting 97-99. Cruz held that velo for about four innings and paired it with a hard 88-90 mph slider. He looked like a potential breakout candidate but then succumbed to an injury. A source with another club has it logged in their system as an elbow strain, while fastidious Cubs blogger Arizona Phil told me he saw Cruz wearing “one of those Tommy John contraptions” recently. Injury specifics aside, Cruz has more upside than previously assumed. This isn’t his first injury, which is counterbalancing the FV here. 27. Benjamin Rodriguez, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/55 40/50 30/50 90-92 / 94 Still a very young, lanky, good-framed prospect whose velocity has slowly climbed as he’s physically matured, Rodriguez has gone from sitting 88-92 to living in the 90-94 range over the last couple of seasons. A shoulder injury has him out to start 2021. His breaking ball, which had promising shape early on, has added more power and become more slider-y during that time. He’s athletic enough to project on his command and changeup, to the point that he has a realistic chance of fitting in a rotation eventually. 28. Rafael Morel, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 19.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 40/45 20/45 50/50 40/50 55 Morel is a well-rounded player with a collection of average tools. He has a compact swing with present doubles power and medium frame projection. It’s possible that as Morel matures, all of his tools will improve a little bit and he’ll suddenly be a well-rounded regular, but I think it’s more likely he settles in as a utility infield piece. 29. Cory Abbott, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Loyola Marymount (CHC) Age 25.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 50/50 45/45 45/45 55/55 88-93 / 95 Abbott was a draft spring popup guy. He struck out 100 more hitters as a junior than he did as a sophomore in just 28 more innings. His scouting reports still lead with affection for his command rather than his improved stuff, but there was some thought that the stuff might continue to blossom in pro ball. Instead it has plateaued and Abbott now projects as a low-variance fifth starter. His 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 heater, which also makes it harder for him to set up his breaking balls, the best of which is an upper-80s cutter/slider. I have him in as a fifth starter. 30. Cayne Ueckert, SIRP Drafted: 27th Round, 2019 from McNeese State (CHC) Age 25.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 40/45 95-98 / 99 Uekert sat 92-95 in 2019 and now sits 95-97. He is long-levered and loose and throws with a ton of effort, but lives around the zone enough that it isn’t a problem. Uekert also has a darting, low-90s slider that has enough movement to miss bats. He’s a high-probability relief piece who we may not see for a year or two because Uekert was a 2019 draft pick who doesn’t need to be on the 40-man until after next season. 31. Josh Burgmann, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Washington (CHC) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 40/50 55/60 40/45 35/50 91-93 / 97 Burgmann sits in the low-90s but has been up to 97. He has a diverse, four-pitch mix and a vertical arm slot. After two years in the bullpen, he had a strong junior year in Washington’s rotation. He has No. 5/6 starter stuff but has fewer developmental reps than is typical of a college arm because of the time he spent in the bullpen. Pitch data sourcing from 2021 indicates he’s spinning his breaker in excess of 3000 rpm and Burgmann is also good at killing spin on his changeup, which rests in the 1700 rpm area. He’s an older starting pitching prospect who could use the velo magic that’s been distributed to the rest of the system. 32. Fabian Pertuz, 3B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Colombia (CHC) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 156 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 45/45 30/45 50/50 40/50 50 A small-ish infielder with above-average bat speed, Pertuz has good pull-side pop for his age. His swing is geared for contact at the top of the strike zone, which is where more and more pitchers are starting to work. He’s a bit over-aggressive and needs to get stronger as he ages, but there are power-hitting components here if he can, as well as a good shot to stay on the infield at either second or third base. I like him as a well-rounded utility type. 33. Manuel Rodríguez, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Mexico (CHC) Age 24.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 65/65 55/55 35/35 94-97 / 99 Rodriguez will be one of the Cubs’ Futures Game reps. He sits 96-98 and will touch 99 while mixing in a power curveball in the mid-80s. He’s a 30-grade athlete with relief-only control and projects in middle relief. 34. Tommy Nance, SIRP Independent Ball Signee (CHC) Age 30.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/55 45/50 93-96 / 98 Like Max Bain, Nance is another Indy Ball signee who had a velo spike during the off year, but unlike Bain, whose affiliated career just began this year, Nance has had a longer runway. He signed out of the independent Frontier League early in 2016 and pitched in the middle levels of the Cubs’ system for nearly half a decade before showing way bigger velocity this year. He was 91–94 in 2019 but got up to 97–98 during his single-inning big league debut. Nance had three strong relief outings at Triple-A Iowa (combined: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 10 K) before the call-up. There he was more 94–96 and topping out at 97, really only throwing his mid-80s power slurve apart from the fastball. His heater has big tailing action and is capable of running off the hips of lefty batters and back over the plate. As I wrote regarding Julian Merryweather on the Blue Jays list, just because this guy is 30 doesn’t mean he’s not a prospect. He’s rookie-eligible, has roster flexibility, and is under team control the same as any young player. He’s also a pitcher who clearly has immediate big league bullpen utility. The likelihood of age-related decline during his years of team control does complicate where he falls on the FV scale since I care about all six or seven of those years, but teams need to decide how they value a guy like this versus a more traditional prospect, so I will, too. Would you rather have Nance or Anderson Espinoza right now? How about Jay Groome? If either of those younger arms were to end up sitting 97-plus with an upper-80s hammer breaking ball out of the bullpen, we’d think it was a great outcome given what they have dealt with on the way there. Well, Nance is that right now. 35+ FV Prospects 35. Michael Rucker, MIRP Drafted: 11th Round, 2016 from BYU (CHC) Age 27.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 50/50 45/50 45/50 94-97 / 99 Rucker is perhaps the most unlikely pitcher in this system to enjoy a velocity spike. He was an Orioles Rule 5 pick in 2019 and couldn’t make the club. Now he’s sitting 95-97, has been up to 99, and is bending in a bevy of hard secondary pitches, most often an upper-80s slider. This is Rucker’s second sizable velo spike, with both coming deep into his 20s. He commands the slider and a fringe curveball pretty consistently and his delivery is a little funky, which makes him tough for hitters to time initially. This guy’s carving Triple-A and isn’t even on the 40-man, but I have to imagine he’ll find his way onto a big league staff in the next year. I think many pitchers stuck at Triple-A will just look like Rucker very soon. 36. Jordan Nwogu, CF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Michigan (CHC) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/60 30/50 55/55 40/50 45 Nwogu has big raw power and if you saw him during the first couple weeks of 2020, you were probably surprised by how good his feel for center field was even though he hadn’t played it much the year before due to the presence of former Wolverine and current Astros prospect Jordan Brewer. Nwogu’s swing works toward the opposite field gap and he struggles to turn on pitches, but the Cubs have recently been able to adjust some swings (Nico Hoerner is a great example) with similar issues to create more in-game power, which would be a big deal for Nwogu since he has so much of it. His early-career results haven’t been very good but Nwogu was always going to be more of a developmental project, so this is fine. His FV remains the same as it was pre-draft. 37. Jeremiah Estrada, SIRP Video Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Palm Desert HS (CA) (CHC) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/45 60/60 30/40 92-95 / 96 Estrada entered 2021 having only thrown 16 pro innings due to injury, culminating in Tommy John late in 2019. His velo is all the way back and he’s once again sitting 93-95 in relief. Pre-TJ Estrada had a plus changeup but he’s actually throwing more breaking balls so far in 2021, and that pitch has seen a spin rate increase from 2200 to 2400 rpm. It’s possible this is a last-ditch effort to develop the repertoire depth sufficient for Estrada to start, but he likely winds up in relief. 38. Ethan Roberts, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Tennessee Tech (CHC) Age 24.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 45/45 70/70 35/40 90-94 / 95 Roberts is an athletic little righty with some of the spinniest stuff in pro baseball. His primary fastball is a low-90s cutter that spins at a whopping 2900 rpm, while his curveball (plus) spins at 3400 rpm, the highest average spin rate I’ve ever recorded on a pitch. Roberts has pitched well for the past two minor league seasons and is very likely to be an up/down reliever who debuts in 2022. 39. Eury Ramos, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (CHC) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 65/65 45/50 40/45 95-99 / 100 Another pitcher who has enjoyed a monster velo spike, Ramos was 90-93 in 2019 and showed up to camp this year sitting 95-99. His fastball doesn’t have big life but it is super hard. He complements it with an upper-80s changeup and cutter. Neither of those is an especially dynamic offering and I have Ramos behind other pitchers who don’t throw as hard, or don’t have as good a frame but have a plus secondary. There’s still middle-relief upside here because of the arm strength. 40. Ronnier Quintero, C Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 18.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 45/50 20/35 20/20 30/45 60 Quintero, who signed for nearly $3 million in 2019, has not looked good during my in-person looks at the Cubs complex-level group. He’s late on middling velocity and really only able to contact pitches on the outer third, which he pokes to the opposite field. He’s also already physically maxed out and lacks mobility on defense. Because he’s so young, Quintero is an obvious “reverse projection” candidate. It’s easier for athletes this age to remake their bodies quickly, but that absolutely needs to happen for Quintero to progress. He’s a pedigree-only prospect at this point, as he’s had an NP look in real time. 41. Luis Verdugo, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (CHC) Age 20.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 172 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/50 20/45 45/50 55/60 60 Verdugo signed for $1 million out of Mexico in 2017. He can really pick it at shortstop and projects as plus there at maturity, though he’s mostly played third base in 2021 in deference to the many young shortstops on that roster. His hands, range, actions, footwork, and athleticism are all superlative, especially considering his age. He added a lot of muscle during his first two years in pro ball and now has average pull power, but I think his swing’s length will make him whiff-prone at the upper levels. The glove and suddenly relevant power are real carrying tools, and even if Verdugo maxes out as a 4 bat, he probably plays some kind of big league role. 42. Keegan Thompson, MIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Auburn (CHC) Age 26.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 193 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 45/50 45/45 50/50 93-96 / 98 Thompson moved to the bullpen in 2021 and is throwing harder. Once 88-92 and topping out at 94, he now sits 93-96 and has topped out at 98, but the heater isn’t missing bats despite the increased velocity. For that, Thompson leans on his mid-80s power curveball. He also incorporates a low-90s cutter, which is the pitch he commands most consistently. Without a huge, bat-missing pitch or two, Thompson will likely be relegated to low-leverage relief, but his repertoire depth makes him a realistic multi-inning fit. 43. Tyler Schlaffer, SP Drafted: 9th Round, 2019 from Homewood Flossmoor HS (IL) (CHC) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 45/55 20/45 91-93 / 95 I’ve run into Schlaffer three times in the last three weeks and each time he sat about 91-93 and touched 94 or 95. He’s improved his ability to create action on a low-80s changeup but his meal ticket secondary is still an upper-70s curveball with solid average big league depth. He’s tracking like a fifth starter. 44. Koen Moreno, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from Panther Creek HS (NC) (CHC) Age 19.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/50 45/50 35/50 35/55 88-92 / 94 Moreno is a good-framed, athletic righty who throws quality strikes with the fastball and has glove-side breaking ball command. His velocity climbed from the mid-80s to the low-90s throughout the summer and fall of 2019, touching 94 late in the year. He hasn’t thrown yet in 2021 due to injury but is a developmental starter prospect. 45. Richard Gallardo, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CHC) Age 19.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 187 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/45 50/55 35/55 89-93 / 94 Gallardo is short and already maxed out physically, but he’s an above-average athlete with advanced command. He’s had a velo spike despite lacking overt physical projection and has gone from the 89-93 range to sitting 93-95 with sink. His secondary stuff — a power changeup in the 85-87 range and a mediocre low-80s curveball – is befitting a fifth or sixth starter. 46. Alfonso Rivas, 1B Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Arizona (OAK) Age 24.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 50/50 40/40 40/40 45/50 40 At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Rivas would look out of place in a team photo of major league first basemen, full of big-bodied mashers and explosive rotational athletes. He lacks prototypical first base pop but there’s a non-zero chance he makes enough contact to sufficiently balance the offensive scales to profile as a platoon 1B/LF or low-end regular. 47. Dakota Mekkes, SIRP Drafted: 10th Round, 2016 from Michigan State (CHC) Age 26.7 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 55/55 35/35 91-93 / 96 I saw Mekkes sit his usual 92-96 this spring but he was down in the 86-90 range just before he was shut down with a shoulder issue in mid-June. Mekkes will also show you an above-average slider and changeup, and his mound presence can be felt from the scouting section. But his control likely limits him to up/down relief rather than a foundational middle relief role. 48. Luke Little, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from San Jacinto JC (CHC) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 65/70 50/55 30/35 94-97 / 99 Yes, Little touched 105 in a quarantine bullpen with shorts and a t-shirt on. In actual games, he sits 93-97 and hits 99 while his slider flashes above-average. As you might expect from a 6-foot-8 junior college lefty, Little’s command lags well behind in part due to his size, long arms and long arm action. He’s a potential reliever. Little is currently listed on the ACL roster but hasn’t thrown, presumably due to some undisclosed ailment. 49. Nelson Velazquez, LF Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2017 from P.J. Education HS (PR) (CHC) Age 22.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 60/60 40/50 50/40 30/45 50 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 and I’m skeptical he will be. He’ll also have to develop on defense. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Younger High-Variance Types Angel Gonzalez, RHP Danis Correa, RHP Alberto Sojo, RHP Francisco Fermin, RHP DJ Herz, LHP Felix Stevens, 1B Gonzalez, 18, has been up to 97 with the ACL group and has a low-90s cutter. He’s relievery. I’ve seen Correa up to 97 but he has been hurt a lot. Sojo, 20, is really athletic and goes right at hitters with a low-90s cut-action fastball. Fermin sits 88-91 but has a prototypical frame and his curveball has good shape. He’s a 45 athlete. Herz is a slinging lefty who looked relief-only last summer and is missing bats at an affiliate in 2021. Stevens is a slightly older Cuban signee with big pop. Big Stuff Depth Arms Trevor Megill, RHP Dakota Chalmers, RHP Bryan Hudson, LHP Darius Valdez, RHP Craig Brooks, RHP Megill is a mid-90s/slider depth reliever. Chalmers has three plus pitches and 20 control. Valdez, acquired before the season from San Diego, will touch 102, but he’s in Mauricio Cabrera land. Hudson gained nearly 10 mph of fastball velo and went from sitting 87-90 to 95-97. He’s a 3 athlete without an impact secondary. Brooks’ fastball — 92-96 with plus spin — garnered an 18% swinging strike rate in 2019. Recent College Draftees Chris Clarke, RHP Adam Laskey, LHP Bradford Deppermann, RHP Clarke has a plus curveball and was up to 95 in 2019 but he’s been hurt to start 2021. Laskey is a four-pitch lefty with average stuff who was hurt all of 2019. Deppermann was up to 97 in 2019. Last season was going to be a big developmental year for him. He’s now 25. Bench Ceilings Trent Giambrone, 2B Sergio Alcántara, SS Michael Hermosillo, OF Yonathan Perlaza, OF Andy Weber, 2B Edmond Americaan, CF Giambrone has been a 40 FV in the past as a second baseman with some pop. He’s regressed a little bit athletically. Alcantara can play a viable shortstop and he has a 70 arm, but he never developed viable strength to even be a regular bench piece. Hermosillo had many late-bloomer traits (two sports in high school, Midwest background, blocked by Angels outfield group) and is now with the home town team. He might turn into a regular bench outfielder. Perlaza is a gamer with some feel for contact but no power. He has moved entirely out of the infield to the outfield corners, making it tough for him to claim a job in the bigs. Weber is a viable defensive middle infielder with a 45 bat and power. Americaan is behind the developmental curve, but he has plus speed and is really physical. System Overview Recent trades and international signings have helped build perhaps the most exciting collection of middle infield talent in the minors. Lots of those players need to get stronger and develop more effective swings, both of which the Cubs have shown an ability to develop. This is a very deep and exciting system that gives the big club ammunition to buy at the deadline without compromising the long-term depth on the farm. It’s exciting and encouraging that the Cubs have finally begun to coax more velocity out of their minor league pitchers, though it’s frustrating that their big league core of hitters from the World Series club has mostly moved on or is about to right as the pitcher dev light switched on here. Coinciding with the velo increases across this system have been injuries, the specifics of which were harder for me and my sources to ascertain than usual. Clerical and administrative issues have become common with the Cubs, mostly in the form of minor annoyances that interact with the minutiae of my job. For instance, this club is pretty bad at updating their players’ heights and weights online; Eury Ramos doesn’t weigh 159 pounds anymore. But May’s hotel snafu was more severe. It likely began as one person’s scheduling goof, a mistake that could have been solved with a nicer-than-usual hotel, a treat for the players on par with a snow day or lax substitute teacher. Instead the situation was mishandled and came to exemplify the issues surrounding minor leaguers’ wages and living conditions. In addition to it just being the right thing to do, putting the players up somewhere more expensive would have been worth it to avoid the PR hit.