Cubbies Hoping for Growth

During the days when the Cubs were losing it created an opportunity for high draft choices, providing them with a roster of quality players with top of the chart tools. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber were a couple first round draft picks they were able to snag because of poor team play through the season. Now that they are winning finding quality players through lower draft picks has proven more difficult. They have also found a need to trade some of their prospects to acquire veteran players to help them through a playoff run.

Last year only one player appeared in Top 100 lists, Adbert Alzolay, a right handed pitcher with average tools. From 2013 to 2017 the Cubs averaged 6-10 players per year appear on top 100 prospect lists. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Wilson Contreras, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards and Ian Happ have contributed to their major league club. Jorge Soler, Arodys Vizcaino, Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario have been traded for playoff pieces. Matt Szcur, Brett Jackson, Pierce Johnson, Mike Olt, Arismendy Alcantara, Dan Vogelbach, Eddy Julio Martinez and Billy McKinney have kind of fizzled. The world is still waiting on Dylan Cease, Duane Underwood and Trevor Clifton.

Because the Cubs had good success drafting hitters, pitching had been a weak point throughout the system. In a still light farm system that may be there strength now, though there is no flame thrower to wow you with his stuff. Duane Underwood Jr and his mid-90s fastball is still around after being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. His secondary pitchers have improved and his command has gotten better, though it can be inconsistent. Expect him to make a contribution to the rotation in 2019.

He is joined in the rotation by Adbert Alzolay, their top prospect last year who stumbled into his 2018 season. An injury shut him down early after only eight starts. A 4.76 ERA and .281 opponent average are cause for concern. Righthanders who stand only 6′0″, despite having mid-90s heat are always suspect with their durability. If he has a future it appears to be at a back end of the rotation or as a mid reliever.

Alex Lange was a first round pick in 2017 out of LSU. He is not overpowering, relying on has secondary pitches and command to retire hitters. In 23 starts he limited the opposition to a .234 average with a 3.74 ERA. He appears to be another righthanded starter destined for the back end of a rotation. There are also issues with his back which forced him to take below slot money after he was drafted.

Brendon Little was another first round pick in 2017 but he has not had a lot of success (5.15 ERA last year). Command appears to be his biggest challenge with a fastball in the low to mid 90s. There are a number of other pitchers working their way up through the Cubs system, none who appear to have top starter stuff, but many who could find themselves in the back end of the rotation.

Until the domestic violence allegations against Addison Russell it appeared the Cubs would not need a shortstop for awhile. Now that is an area of concern. They did draft Nico Hoerner in the first round of the 2018 draft, making him possibly the top prospect in their vanilla farm system. The tools are there for him to play shortstop, but they are not eye opening tools. His bat is geared for the gaps, but could develop some power. In his minor league debut he slugged two homeruns in 49 at bats, hit .327 and slugged .571. Drafted out of college he should rise quickly.

Aramis Ademan is another shortstop possibility but he struggled last year. The Cubs challenged the teenager to a promotion to High A, where he was one of the youngest players in the league. A .563 OPS and .209 batting average is a tale of his troubles. Like Hoerner, his defensive tools are adequate to play shortstop, but he will be far short of being the top of his class. Expect him to repeat at High A with Hoerner surpassing him on the depth chart..

The Cubs thought they were set at catcher too with Wilson Contreras but then he forgot to hit in the second half of the season there is cause for concern. Miguel Amaya is a promising catcher out of Panama that is still a couple years away from contributing. He has some pop in his bat but his defensive tools are not overwhelming. His OPS was .752 last year. He should be a decent catcher who with a good season will make an All Star team, but his career numbers will be average.

Myworld could not find an outfielder we could get excited about. This is a farm system that really lacks a top 100 prospect again. A lot of players with decent to average tools, but it appears to lack superstars. They may have to start losing again if they want to get prospects with the skill sets of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber. For whatever reason their international players are not possessed with tools like Eloy Jimenez. No wonder the other major league teams are reluctant to trade with the Cubs with their current prospect class.

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