Top 23 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Chicago Cubs farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATLMIA, NYMPHI)

Cubs Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Eloy Jimenez 20 A OF 2019 60
2 Ian Happ 22 AA 2B 2018 55
3 Oscar De La Cruz 21 A RHP 2019 50
4 Jeimer Candelario 23 MLB 1B 2017 50
5 Jose Albertos 18 R RHP 2020 45
6 Albert Almora 22 MLB CF 2017 45
7 Dylan Cease 21 A- RHP 2019 45
8 Trevor Clifton 21 A+ RHP 2018 45
9 Mark Zagunis 23 AAA OF 2017 45
10 Jose Rosario 26 AAA RHP 2017 45
11 DJ Wilson 20 A- OF 2020 40
12 Eddie Martinez 21 A OF 2019 40
13 Aramis Ademan 18 R SS 2020 40
14 Victor Caratini 23 AA C/1B 2017 40
15 Felix Pena 26 MLB RHP 2017 40
16 Thomas Hatch 22 R RHP 2018 40
17 Isaac Paredes 17 R INF 2022 40
18 Chesny Young 24 AA INF 2018 40
19 Donnie Dewees 23 A+ LF 2018 40
20 Jose Paulino 21 A LHP 2019 40
21 Bryan Hudson 19 A- LHP 2022 40
22 Duane Underwood 22 AA RHP 2018 40
23 Bailey Clark 22 A- RHP 2019 40

60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 235 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 70/80 50/70 45/40 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded .204 ISO in full-season ball at age 19.

Scouting Report
Jimenez has perhaps the most explosive raw power projection in the minors. When he debuted in the states it was clear his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-4 frame would one day fill out and yield all kinds of crazy power. (He already had at least 55 raw at age 18.) That said, I didn’t expect so much of it to come before Jimenez turned 20. Even when he took batting practice alongside some of the other more prodigious power prospects in the game (Dylan Cozens and Christin Stewart, to name two) at the Futures Game and at Fall Stars, Eloy’s power stood head and shoulders above everyone else’s. Not only does he hit blasts in BP that threaten to enter geocentric orbit but low-lying line drives that, if they don’t clear the wall, seem likely to blast through it.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Jimenez’s raw power is not its quantity but ease. He does all this without much effort, which is not only remarkable but also a significant indicator that he’ll get to his power in games. Scouts are weary of high-effort power hitters. Eloy is not one.

Hitters this size often have gaping holes in their swings but Jimenez, has good feel for the barrel and has shown an ability to move his hands inside and put a good part of the bat on pitches that would otherwise have tied him up. He’s strong enough to do damage like this even though he’s not fully extended. It’s possible that upper-level pitching will deduce an effective way to pitch to Jimenez and force him to make adjustments. He’s an aggressive hitter and will probably need to learn to stay away from the unhittable garbage he’s going to see at Double-A and above as pitchers try to nibble around his power. Some would argue his struggles toward the end of the Arizona Fall League were a result of his inability to do that right now, but to me he simply looked gassed, out of rhythm and was frequently barring his front arm. His stint here didn’t raise any red flags for me, nor did it for scouts who saw him mid-year and in the AFL. I think he hits .280 with 30-plus homers at peak; how much he gets on base, though, will be dictated by the way he adjusts to upper-level pitching.

Defensively, Jimenez has an average arm and is a below-average runner (average underway) who is fringey in right field. He should be average there with reps. He’s a future middle-of-the-order hitter and potential star.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 7.5 WAR

55 FV Prospects

2. Ian Happ, 2B
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Cincinnati
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 205 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 55/55 40/50 55/55 40/45 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Collected 17 homers, 16 stolen bases (76% success rate) in 2016.

Scouting Report
Happ slashed .369/.492/.672 as a junior at Cincinnati despite undergoing double hernia surgery just before the season began. The Cubs drafted him ninth overall in a draft chock full of good college hitters up top despite questions about his ultimate defensive home. Happ spent most of 2015 in the outfield (it was a way to lighten the toll on his body after that hernia surgery) both at Cincinnati and with the Cubs that summer after he signed. In 2016, he was primarily back to second base. Happ is a 40 defender there. He’s an above-average straight-line runner with decent range and an above-average arm, but his actions and athleticism are not optimal for the infield and his footwork around the bag is suspect.

Batted-ball data has come far enough that it’s possible to hide bad defenders through more efficient positioning. That seems most helpful when the player in question has poor range. That’s not really Happ’s problem, though good defensive positioning might render a higher percentage of his defensive chances simple and routine. Unless you consider him a hopeless liability there (I don’t), I think it makes sense to leave him at second. The Cubs have superior defensive middle infielders ahead of Happ, though, so even if a move to left field doesn’t make sense in a vacuum, it might be the most expedient means by which to get Happ’s bat into the big-league lineup — because it profiles wherever he ends up playing.

Happ has plus bat speed and above-average power from both sides of the plate (some put a 60 on the raw from the left side). He has better bat control from the left side, but his discerning eye for the strike zone and patience allow him to get on base and tap into his power from the right side, as well, even though he makes less contact. Happ’s barrel drags from the left side and he doesn’t always pull and demolish pitches that he should, but he’s explosive and strong enough that some of the contact he’s pushing the other way finds its way into the seats. It’s an above-average hit, average game-power profile for me, which, when supplemented by Happ’s ability to reach base via the walk and do some damage on the bases, plays as an above-average regular at either second or left.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.5 WAR

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 22 Height 6’6 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 40/55 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 31% strikeout rate in six Low-A starts.

Scouting Report
De La Cruz has rather significant upside but also comes with a few warts. He’s got a power pitcher’s body, power pitcher’s stuff and seeks to attack hitters up and in, the way power pitchers do. But he missed the first half of the year with forearm soreness and had issues repeating his arm slot and release point throughout the rest of the year.

When De La Cruz was pitching well, he’d flash command of a fastball in the 90-95 mph range that touched as high as 96 with late tail. His mid-70s curveball flashes plus, and he has some feel for back-dooring it to lefties and burying it in front of the plate. He doesn’t consistently maintain his fastball’s arm speed when throwing his changeup, but he has feel for movement and scouts with whom I spoke think the pitch has significant projection in part because he’s only been pitching for four years.

There’s No. 3 starter upside here if the changeup and command both come. De La Cruz turns 22 in March and has yet to pitch above Low-A, which, coupled with the forearm issue he had in 2016, makes him a fairly risky prospect. Independent of that, he’s a prototypical impact pitching prospect who has coveted, unteachable traits in his velo, breaking-ball feel and size.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 210 Bat/Throw B/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 50/50 45/50 40/30 40/45 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced .418 wOBA, 12% walk rate, and 17% strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
The theory cited above (in the Ian Happ profile) regarding the possibility of more advanced batted-ball data allowing clubs to hide bad defenders applies to Candelario, too. He lacks the lateral quickness, soft hands and footwork to play third base for me and instead projects as a first-base-only player despite an above-average arm. Others are more receptive to punting defense at third base if it means getting a bat like Candelario’s in the lineup.

There are all kinds of fantastic hitterish traits here. Candelario is fluid and comfortable in the box, he has a combination of good bat control and hand-eye coordination that allows him to spoil tough two-strike pitches, he makes in-flight adjustments to offspeed pitches, and he hits to all fields (though most of his power comes to his pull side). He’s traditionally been a better hitter from the left side but has more leverage and power as a right-handed hitter. In aggregate, he projects as a plus hitter with average game power, a profile that places him on the fringe of playing every day at first base. That said, most think (and I count myself among those that do) that Candy’s eye for the strike zone and ability to walk tip the scale in his favor. Ultimately, he can probably become an average regular at first. His path to the majors is blocked by Anthony Rizzo, and it may take a trade or injury for him to see significant time in the bigs in 2017, though his bat appears ready.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.9 WAR

45 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Mexico
Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 40/50 55/70 40/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
A lot of scouts/executives with whom I’ve spoken have either seen Albertos or know quite a bit about how he looked this year. In fact, for an arm who threw just four stateside innings this year, the consistency with which I was able to farm opinions on Albertos is somewhat suspicious — and perhaps a sign that clubs were chasing him near the mid-summer trade deadline.

Albertos was sitting 90-94 mph in extended spring training before his fastball ticked up in the summer. He was 93-98 in his only AZL outing, throwing strikes where he wanted to at 95, and still bumping 96-plus in his fourth inning of work. His breaking ball’s (currently a curveball) shape is inconsistent right now, and there’s a chance it one day evolves into more of a slider than a true curve. For now it projects to average. Albertos’ best secondary offering is his changeup, which is already above average and arguably projects to plus-plus; his feel for locating it is already quite good. He pitched off of it a bit too much for scouts’ taste (considering the fastball velo is too much for AZL hitters), but it will probably be his best pitch at maturity.

There isn’t much room for physical projection on Albertos’ modest frame, but he has an immature, somewhat soft body that scouts think will tighten up as he enters his 20s and help him to maintain something close to the velocity they saw last summer over a full season of innings. The fastball, changeup and command all project to plus or better, while the breaking ball is currently underwhelming but at least has the makings of a viable third offering.

He represents extreme risk due to his (lack of) proximity to the majors and because of the “elbow injury” for which he was shut down after making that scintillating AZL start — during which, I’d like to remind you, he was still touching 96 in his final inning. Like De La Cruz, he projects as a No. 3 starter and, considering the advanced pitchability he displayed last year, he might move quite quickly and could appear on midseason top-100 lists this summer.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Mater Academy (FL)
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/50 30/40 55/55 60/60 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted just 2.7% walk rate at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
An above-average runner who will post some jail-breaky, plus run times to first base, Almora doesn’t have the prototypical speed associated with plus or better defensive center fielders, but his instincts and efficient routes make him one. He’s passable going back on balls hit near the wall but spectacular going from gap to gap and coming in on shallow flies. He has a plus arm when he’s set to make a strong, fundamentally sound throw but doesn’t have the kind of howitzer that allows him to make long tosses when he’s off balance. He’s so often in good position that his arm might play as plus in games.

Offensively, Almora is short to the ball with a swing path that remains in the hitting zone for quite a while, allowing for plenty of contact; however, I question the bat speed and aggressive approach, both of which eat away at the quality of Almora’s contact. He has fringe to average raw power that plays down in games, also a symptom of those aforementioned issues, and is more of a gap-to-gap and down-the-lines doubles hitter when he really connects. This is a modest contact/speed profile without much power or on-base ability, and it won’t play every day in a corner if Almora ever slows down too much to stay in center field. He’s such a gifted defender that, even if he does lose a tick in his legs, he still probably plays there. He projects as a fringe-average regular whose value is wrapped up in his glove.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.1 WAR

7. Dylan Cease, RHP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2014 from Milton HS (GA)
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 50/55 30/45 30/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 36% strikeout rate but also 14% walk rate at Northwest League.

Scouting Report
Of all the young arms the Cubs were able to draft and pay by agreeing to an underslot deal with Kyle Schwarber, Cease has been the best — this despite already having a Tommy John surgery under his belt. Cease has done an admirable job at quelling what was once a violent head whack while still retaining the kind of velocity that made him an exciting prep prospect. He sat 93-97 deep into starts this year and was 95-99 for me during instructional league.

He was also flashing a plus curveball in the 79-81 mph range during instructs, but the pitch is more consistently average and, at times, below when it featured an easily identifiable, shapely hump out of his hand. He carved up hitters on a talented Reds advanced instructs club in the fall with that fastball/curveball combo.

There are several concerns about Cease, ranging from his size to his command (a 30 right now) to a lack of a third pitch (he has very little changeup feel right now). Cease actually pitches with a good bit of plane when he’s working down because of his vertical arm slot (which also helps him create depth on the curveball) and his fastball has enough life to miss bats up in the zone when he’s missing his spots.

I’m less concerned about the size than I am the command and lagging changeup feel. I’ve gotten a Yordano Ventura comp on Cease (undersized, hard-throwing righty with good curveball feel), but Ventura was in the bigs at 22 and had more favorable changeup projection than Cease does because of his looseness and fluidity. Cease turned 21 in December and remains a project, though a very exciting one at that. He too projects as a potential mid-rotation arm if the changeup and command improve, but he’s more likely to wind up in relief than the other notable arms in the system.

Drafted: 12th Round, 2013 from Heritage HS (TN)
Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 50/55 45/50 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walk rate has decreased at each new minor-league level, was 8% in 2016.

Scouting Report
Clifton missed a lot of bats in the Carolina League thanks to an unimpeachable desire to pester hitters with a sinking low-90s fastball (anywhere from 88-95 this year) down and to his arm side. Scouts don’t love the effort in Clifton’s delivery, his low arm slot (which might be what forces him to nibble against left-handed hitters, who see the ball well out of his hand), or how little he uses his lower half, but his curveball drew some future plus grades from sources with whom I spoke. It tilts in anywhere from 71-77 mph, sometimes lacking depth due to Clifton’s lower arm slot.

His changeup is fringey and projects to average mostly due to Clifton’s deceptive arm speed, but it’s unlikely to miss many bats. There’s still a chance Clifton ends up in the bullpen due to subpar command ,but the stuff is that of an average No. 4 big-league starter.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.8 WAR

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Virginia Tech
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 212 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 50/50 30/40 50/50 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .274/.360/.486 at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
The question rival scouts seek to answer when they evaluate Zagunis is whether his impressive secondary skills can compensate for game power that falls well short of profiling in an outfield corner. Zagunis has good bat speed and a short, high-contact stroke, but his linear swing path results in far more ground balls and low liners than it does airborne contact. He projects to hit only around 10-12 home runs annually and, as just an average runner, he doesn’t have the speed to play in center field.

Despite a lack of in-game power, Zagunis has been able to sustain an impressive walk rate as he’s entered the upper levels of the minors, where, theoretically, pitchers with better strike-throwing ability should be attacking Zagunis, who can’t do much damage on his own. His .360 OBP in 50 Triple-A games is the only sub-.400 OBP he’s posted in his entire pro career. If he can maintain that on-base ability into the majors, then he profiles as a low-end regular left fielder. The tools are that of a bat-first fourth outfielder and luxurious pinch-hit option. He’ll likely have a lengthy big-league career because of his bat-to-ball ability.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.8 WAR

10. Jose Rosario, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2007 from Dominican Republic
Age 26 Height 6’1 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command
70/70 50/55 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 2.86 FIP between Double- and Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Rosario was added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster in November and is likely to be a significant part of their bullpen by midseason. He throws a 95-99 with a four-seamer that one could argue plays up due to Roasrio’s deceptive arm speed. It’s a full-effort delivery and the command is bad, but Rosario throws enough strikes for relief and, when he’s missing in the zone, his stuff lets him get away with a lot of those mistakes. He also throws a power curveball, 78-85, that’s consistently average, flashes plus. Rosario has been pitching in relief for only one year and missed all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John. It’s possible there’s a more consistently dominant curveball in there, but he’s also 26. It’s setup man stuff, if that’s still allowed to be a thing.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

40 FV Prospects

11. DJ Wilson, OF
Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Canton South HS (OH)
Age 20 Height 5’8 Weight 177 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/50 20/40 60/60 45/60 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .257/.320/.371 at Low-A in first full pro season.

Scouting Report
Don’t be fooled by outlier measureables: DJ Wilson may be small, but he’s physical, twitchy, explosive and plays at full speed all the time. He is a plus runner with high-effort, plus bat speed and sneaky raw power. He’s also erratic and unbalanced at the plate. A priority for the Cubs will be to rein in his game and refine his style of play without obscuring any of his impressive athletic traits. He’s plenty fast and athletic enough to stay in center field long term and could be plus there with reps; his speed will also be an asset on the bases.

Wilson has enough raw power that, if he’s ever a threat to hit for it in games, opposing pitchers will need to approach him with caution, allowing his above-average feel for the strike zone to aid in Wilson’s efforts to get on base. His swing needs a comprehensive overhaul and, considering Wilson is already 20 and was rather old for his draft class, that might need to come sooner than later. There’s obvious risk here because there aren’t many major-league hitters who look like this (both mechanically and physically), but Wilson was a flier worthy of the $1.3 million price tag required to seduce him away from Vanderbilt.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Cuba
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/60 30/45 55/55 45/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 22% strikeout rate at Low-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
The Cubs swooped in late and snatched Martinez out from under the Giants with a $3 million bonus in 2015. The small but well built and twitchy Cuban got his first helping of consistent play since 2013 last year and flashed an intriguing collection of tools in the Midwest League while frustrating scouts with his inconsistency and, especially, an undercooked feel for hitting.

Martinez is an above-average runner with a plus arm. Some think he passes (or could one day pass) in center field, but the general consensus is that he fits best in right. The pressure put on his bat in an outfield corner might cause the overall profile to break, as Martinez has some offensive red flags. He has plus bat speed and raw power. He gets to a good bit of the power in games because of the natural lift in his swing, but he has a tendency to swing through hittable strikes, either because his swing is grooved or because he doesn’t track very well. Either way, scouts have questions about the hit tool. It’s possible EJM’s feel to hit is so raw because he simply hasn’t had many game reps over the last few years and he needed a full-year tune-up to regain his timing. If that’s the case, then we should expect to see significant improvement in 2017. He has the tools of an average everyday player but would do a lot to instill confidence in that kind of projection by making better quality contact in the Carolina League this year.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 5’11 Weight 160 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 35/45 30/40 55/55 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Ademan is not your prototypical, lanky, rangy, physically projectable teenage shortstop prospect. He’s a stocky 5-foot-10, if that, and received a $2 million bonus on the 2015 international market in 2015 because of his polish, instincts and aggressive style of play. Ademan is passable at shortstop right now and projects to solid average there. He has enough arm for the left side of the infield and a punctual internal clock for hosing runners.

His hands and actions are smooth in the field and quick and angry in the batter’s box. Ademan takes aggressive hacks and makes surprisingly loud contact for a player his size. His patient approach and advanced pitch recognition have allowed him to avoid excessive strikeouts so far. He has the bat speed to become an above-average hitter if things get polished up; given that he’s just 18, that’s really all I care about. He likely won’t ever have more than 40 game power, but an above-average hitter with below-average power who plays an average shortstop is a good everyday player. I think there’s a chance for that here.

Ademan doesn’t have much physical projection and could end up being the type of prospect whose polish allows him to reach the upper levels quickly before his modest tools give way to plateaued performance. His entire profile relies upon him staying at short.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Miami-Dade CC
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 205 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 50/50 30/40 30/30 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .291/.375/.405.

Scouting Report
Caratini has improved behind the plate and has become a passable receiver with average raw arm strength, but he has issues blocking balls and his pop times play down due to a slow transfer. He’s a converted infielder and has only been catching full time for three seasons, so there’s still a chance more improvement is coming. The most optimistic of scouts think he’s passable as a backup but strictly as a means to get his bat into the lineup.

Caratini is an excellent hitter from both sides of the plate and has a polished, mature approach, well-balanced swing and good hand-eye coordination. He has average raw power but is a conservative bat-to-ball hitter in games and only projects for 40 game power at peak. A plus-hitting catcher, even a bad defensive one, has decent big-league value. It makes sense for Caratini to begin moonlighting at other positions (he saw more time at 1B in 2016) and perhaps recreate Robert Fick‘s career.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.9 WAR

15. Felix Pena, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2008 from Dominican Republic
Age 27 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Cutter Command
55/55 55/55 40/40 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 31% strikeout rate at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
Pena pitched well at Triple-A as a starter but moved to the bullpen when he debuted in the majors last year; he projects there long term. He has below-average command of a sinking low-90s fastball that will touch 95, a low-80s curveball that flashes above average but is sometimes inconsistent, and a below-average upper-80s slider/cutter that’s a seldom-used tertiary pitch. This is a clear middle-relief profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.7 WAR

16. Thomas Hatch, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Oklahoma St.
Age 22 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/60 55/60 40/40 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Threw 130 innings at Oklahoma State after missing 2015 due to injury.

Scouting Report
A somewhat undersized righty with a low-90s fastball that was creeping into the mid-90s during short instructional-league outings, Hatch didn’t throw a pro inning in affiliated ball after signing because he was ridden pretty hard at Oklahoma State last year. His workload for OSU consisted of 130 innings, 27 of which came in three consecutive complete games straddling April and May. He stuff was clearly down in his final start of the year against Arizona. Before the draft, teams were wary of this, especially considering Hatch missed all of 2015 with an elbow injury.

Most scouts think Hatch winds up in the bullpen, where the uptick in velo he showed during instructs might stick. His delivery is driven by hip rotation rather than any kind of push from his legs and it isn’t the type of delivery often seen in a starting rotation. Additionally, his changeup is below average. There are some who think Hatch has a chance to slot into the back of a rotation, but there are a lot of bright neon signs pointing toward a relief role.

17. Isaac Paredes, INF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Mexico
Age 18 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 40/50 30/50 50/40 40/50 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .305/.360/.443 in Rookie-level AZL as just 17-year-old.

Scouting Report
Paredes has a mature build and is unlikely to play shortstop for very long. His arm fits on the left side of the infield, but he may be a fit at second base, as well. He has average bat speed but a solid, well-timed weight transfer and power-friendly bat path that both allow for some in-game thump without hurting his ability to make contact. He hits to all fields. Like Ademan, his upside is limited due to a lack of physical projection (I don’t anticipate him to grow into 70 raw power or a 70 arm), but there’s definitely a feel to hit here and a chance for a favorable defensive profile. He has a chance to be an everyday third baseman or second baseman, but he’s only 17 and as many as four or five years away from the big leagues.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.3 WAR

18. Chesny Young, INF
Drafted: 14th Round, 2014 from Mercer
Age 24 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/40 30/30 50/50 45/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .290/.346/.423 at High-A, was 31-for-36 on bases.

Scouting Report
Young’s innate ability to hit has him on the path toward the big leagues, but a lack of power and inability to regularly play a premium position cap his likely role as a bat-first utility man. He can play second, third and a passable outfield corner, but he doesn’t have the speed for center field or the arm/athleticism for shortstop. His below-average power doesn’t play at a corner and he’ll have to become an elite contact hitter to profile anywhere he’s actually capable of playing. Young’s bat stays in the hitting zone forever and he tracks pitches very well. It’s possible he hits enough to be a low-end regular at second base, but he’s more likely a high-end bench bat.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.5 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from North Florida
Age 23 Height 5’11 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 50/50 20/30 70/70 40/45 30/30

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate increased by nearly 10 points (12.4% to 21.6%) following promotion from Low- to High-A.

Scouting Report
Dewees raked in college. (Ready? He slashed .422/.483/.749 as a junior at North Florida, with 18 HRs, 16 Ks, 30 BBs, 23 SBs, 3 CS.) Even so, his expressionist approach to hitting may not work at the upper levels. Dewees takes a wide assortment of swings, at times taking very aggressive rips and others deftly slicing at balls down and away from him. It’s weird. For now it has worked, though pitchers have learned to limit the damage Dewees can do on his own. He’s a 70 runner but has a 30 arm and not all scouts think he can play center field despite his speed. There’s not going to be enough power to profile in left field, so unless his speed makes him an elite defender there, he’s a fourth outfielder or Ben Revere type of regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

20. Jose Paulino, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 165 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command
45/45 45/50 45/50 40/45 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Conceded just 13 walks in 75 innings.

Scouting Report
Paulino has advanced control of a fringey repertoire comprised primarily of a fastball in the 88-92 range and a mid-80s vertically breaking slider. Paulino’s ability to locate those pitches to both sides of the plate has allowed his stuff to play at the lower levels. His margin for error at Double-A and up will be slim. Without a swing-and-miss pitch, he profiles as a back-end starter, though his delivery is easy and fluid. Perhaps he can carry a workload significant enough to up his value.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

21. Bryan Hudson, LHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Alton HS (IL)
Age 20 Height 6’8 Weight 220 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
40/50 40/60 30/45 30/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Was a complete mess.

Scouting Report
Scouts weren’t necessarily expecting a huge leap forward from Hudson this year. Given his profile, however — he’s a gigantic 19-year-old lefty from a cold-weather background — he might have had more development in him than others. Instead, he took a decidedly large step back. Often sitting in the mid-80s with his fastball, Hudson’s trademark curveball suffered a loss of depth due to arm-slot variance. There’s still time for reclamation, but Hudson is in boom-or-bust limbo until we start seeing him do the things that made him a prospect. He has No. 4 starter potential if he can.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2012 from Pope HS (GA)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/60 55/60 50/50 40/40 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walked 31 batters in 58 innings at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Underwood’s fastball was 92-94, touching 96, in the Arizona Fall League but playing down due to its true, lifeless nature. I think the only way his fastball plays is in relief, where he can air it out and survive on pure velocity. He does have two viable breaking balls in a mid-70s curve and mid-80s slider, the latter of which flashes plus. His changeup is below average. Considering Underwood’s control and injury issues, I think it’s probably time to move him to the bullpen and see what happens. He could be late-inning reliever if his velo ticks up enough to make up for its lack of movement.

23. Bailey Clark, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Duke
Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Changeup Splitter Command
60/60 55/60 40/40 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Clark will show you 92-97 with an above-average low-80s breaking ball, but his history of command issues — when coupled with his long, violent arm action — have him ticketed for middle relief where his stuff should thrive.

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Jonathan Sierra, OF – A projectable young outfielder who has already added a considerable amount of weight since signing, Sierra has a power hitter’s frame and showed a natural ability to pull the ball, hard, in the air during amateur showcases. He received a lot of individual attention during instructional league (and he should have, he got a $2.5 million bonus), and 2016 is when we should get to see what kind of power output to expect from Sierra.

Jake Stinnett, RHP, 0.9 KATOH+ WAR – I watched Stinnett completely outpitch Carlos Rodon in college, but it was still quite clear to me at the time that he profiled as a reliever. He pitches with a low- to mid-90s fastball and an above0-average slider. His changeup and command have failed to progress since his days at Maryland and, unless an uptick in velo as a pen arm makes him more effective against left-handed hitters, he could be a righty-only relief piece. He is one of numerous potential up-and-down starter or middle-relief arms throughout the rest of the system.

Yeiler Peguero, INF, 0.9 KATOH+ – Peguero is a short but well-built middle-infield prospect who’s very unlikely to remain at shortstop full time and doesn’t have the power to profile anywhere else, nor the physical projection to dream on it. He does have some bat-to-ball ability and could pass as a part-time shortstop at peak. He’s a utility prospect already being groomed for that role.

P.J. Higgins, C, 0.3 KATOH+ – A viable but unspectacular defensive catcher with a solid hit tool and exceptional approach, Higgins had nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the Midwest League last year but was 23 and his complete lack of power has many skeptical about his ability to sustain his walk rate at upper levels.

John Andreoli, CF, 3.7 KATOH+ – A stocky 26-year old outfielder with an awkward swing but terrific feel for the strike zone, Andreoli is also a plus runner. His offensive output is entirely reliant on his ability to walk, which, without game power, he’s theoretically unlikely to do. He has so far, though, and might be a bench outfield candidate simply because of his speed and ability to pass in center field.

Jacob Hannemann, OF, 2.8 KATOH+ – There’s raw power and speed here but potentially fatal swing-and-miss issues. There’s a chance he yields no big-league value despite sexy tools. It’s not a good swing.

Zach Hedges, RHP, 1.5 KATOH+ – Hedges throws a heavy sinker in the low-90s and average sweeping slider that he locates down and away. He’s got a good pitcher’s frame, longer arm action. Potential reliever or fifth starter.

Robert Garcia, OF, 0.0 KATOH+ – A twitchy but overaggressive outfielder with plus bat speed and just plain human running speed. Garcia hit well in the Northwest League this year but was old for the level. A potential bench outfielder.

Wladimir Galindo, 1B, 0.6 KATOH+ – Gallindo has plus raw power right now but is a big, stiff, upper-body power hitter without any bat control and he can’t play third base. He’s also had injury issues. The power is intriguing, though.

As noted above, the remainder of system is crowded with up-and-down starter or middle-relief arms. Pierce Johnson (1.0 KATOH+) and Rob Zastryzny (2.0 KATOH+) each have a starter’s repertoire depth but lack command. Ryan Williams and James Norwood throw hard strikes but neither of their secondaries miss bats. Corey Black (0.5 KATOH+) will reach the upper-90s with his fastball but is now 25 years old and hasn’t develop even 40 control. Freak college performers David Berg (0.3 KATOH+) and Dakota Mekkes are interesting analytical fliers. Berg, a rubber-armed submariner, was pitching in the mid-80s for me last year with a plus slider. Mekkes is gigantic at 6-foot-7, 252 and lives off of deception. College arms like Ryan Kellogg (0.6 KATOH+), Kyle Twomey (0.5 KATOH+) and Preston Morrison (1.1 KATOH+) all have fringe stuff but survive on pitchability and advanced breaking ball usage. Morrison and Twomey could be relief specialists if they aren’t up-and-down starters, which Kellogg likely is.

The players from Chicago’s big 2015 J2 class who have bubbled to the top thus far are mostly mentioned above, though infielder Christopher Morel and catchers Miguel Amaya and Jhonny Pereda been mentioned as low-level sleepers as well.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Jason Vosler, 3B, 0.9 KATOH+
Vosler received the designation of Cistulli’s Guy last year, too, when Dan Farnsworth was the caretaker of these giant prospect lists. At the time, I noted that Vosler had produced similar indicators as a more celebrated prospect in Chicago’s system, Mark Zagunis — and offered the added benefit of having some capacity to play third base.

Now, Vosler has completed his age-22 season. He remains somewhat obscure in comparison to Zagunis. What do the numbers suggest?

Jason Vosler vs. Mark Zagunis at Same Age, Level
Player Season Level Age PA BB% K% ISO
Jason Vosler 2016 High-A 22 378 8.7% 13.8% .105
Mark Zagunis 2015 High-A 22 512 15.6% 16.8% .140

Those are Vosler’s numbers from High-A in 2016 and Zagunis’s from 2015, when he was 22. You’ll notice I’ve included only three metrics, really: walk rate, strikeout rate, and isolated slugging. Slash stats require quite large samples. The numbers here become more reliable representations of something like “true talent” in fewer plate appearances.

It appears as though Zagunis recorded both the superior walk rate and ISO; Vosler, the better strikeout rate. Offensively, the advantage probably goes to Zagunis. But there are also two other points. One: Vosler continued to play third almost exclusively in 2016. And two: Vosler was actually promoted to Double-A towards the end of his age-22 season, meaning he actually surpassed Zagunis’s pace through the Cubs’ system. None of this is to suggest that Vosler’s omission is unforgivable. It does appear, however, that he possesses some legitimately promising traits.

*****

System Overview

Despite having graduated a potentially historic collection of talent over the last few years, this system is still quite strong up top and is flush with Latin American talent at the lower levels. The club’s focus in the draft has largely been college pitching, which should net viable upper-level depth if the big club is hit by a rash of injuries. One or two of those pieces will likely carve out long-term big-league roles, too. The Cubs have clearly shifted scouting resources around in ways that more readily impact the big-league locker room, with focus on the big leagues and upper levels of the minors. It’s a sign, to me, that this team is going to be aggressive about acquiring big leaguers during this competitive window, which means you’ll probably be hearing many of these names in trade rumors over the next six months. The obvious ones are those blocked by superior talents (some of the generational variety) in the majors, but the Cubs can’t hide Jose Albertos in the complex forever and I expect him to be pursued as well.



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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.


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