Chicago Cubs 2021 Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Cubs Top 50 design by @designsbypack on Twitter

It has been a rough start for the Cubs minor league system this season. A number of high profile prospects are out with injuries. The prospects that are on the field are for the most part underperforming. The Cubs had very few players join in competitive activities last off-season, and it shows. While some of the active prospects are beginning to emerge, most remain in a season-long funk. This has given opportunity for others, which is why this midseason Top 50 is dominated on top with younger players. The preseason ranks listed next to each player’s name refer to my Cubs Top 50 from this past January.


Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster

Editor note: Updated 8/9 to reflect changes since MLB Trade Deadline and MLB Draft signing deadline, the following 7 players are no longer included in this column:
Manuel Rodriguez, RHP was ranked 14th – promoted to MLB
Others previously ranked 45-50 are now listed at the end of the list, following #50.

Tier 1:

At this time, the Cubs do not have a prospect that can be considered for this level. The Cubs do have some players with Tier 1 potential, but they do not rate that way presently.

Tier 2:

1. Brennen Davis, OF (Preseason rank #2)
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Age:21
Current Level: AA

After being hit by a pitch this spring, Davis has not looked back. In 136 AB’s hitting .279 with 8 HR and 21 RBI. Close to being a Tier 1 player.

2. Brailyn Marquez, LHP (Preseason rank #1)
Age: 22
Current Level: AAA

Marquez has not pitched all year due to COVID protocol and a shoulder injury. He still has the ability to maintain this rank.

3. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF (Mets’ Preseason rank #2)
Age: 19
Current Level: Low-A

Currently on the IL with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, Crow-Armstrong, acquired at the trade deadline for Javier Baez, is considered a plus-plus defender; a pure left-handed hitter with a flat swing that still generates a lot of hard contact.

4. Reginald Preciado, INF (Preseason rank #12)
Age: 18
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

The switch-hitter has hit the ground running; with a .382 average, 2 HR, 10 RBI in 14 games while splitting time between short and third base.

5. Alexander Canario, OF (Giants’ Preseason #6)
Age: 21
Current Level: High-A

Formerly ranked sixth in the San Francisco system and acquired for Kris Bryant, Canario is known to have a quick bat and above-average power to go along with a plus arm in the outfield.

6. Ed Howard, SS (Preseason rank #3)

Ed Howard by Stephanie Lynn

Age: 19
Current Level: Low-A

After a slow start, Howard is batting .263 in July while dealing with some minor injuries.

Tier 3

7. Kevin Alcantara, OF (Yankees’ midseason rank #12)
Age: 19
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

Acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade deadline deal, Alcantara, 6’6, has well above-average power, is a plus runner, and is said to have a high baseball IQ.

8. Christopher Morel, INF/OF (Preseason rank #11)
Age: 22
Current Level: AA

Morel has bopped 12 home runs while shuttling between five positions (2B,SS, 3B, CF, RF), however, he needs to improve his contact rate.

9. Yohendrick Pinango, OF (Preseason rank #24)

Yohendrick Pinango by Stephanie Lynn

Age: 19
Current Level: Low-A

While there is plenty of room for improvement with the 19-year old Pinango, only 38 strikeouts in 233 at bats (16%) is a good sign.

10. Cristian Hernandez, SS (Preseason rank #7)
Age:17
Current Level: Rookie (DOSL)

An international free agent prize, Hernandez has had a good start to his professional career; hitting .300 in his first action.

11. Owen Caissie, OF (Preseason rank #15)
Age: 18
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

Caissie has also had a great start to the season, posting a .574 OBP and 1.199 OPS in the early going.

12. Miguel Amaya, C (Preseason rank #4)
Age: 22
Current Level: AA

Currently injured, Amaya has had a rough start at the plate but remains solid behind it.

13. Alexander Vizcaino, RHP (Yankees’ midseason rank #10)
Age: 24
Current Level: High-A

Vizcaino has yet to put things all together as his high-90’s fastball tops out at 100 MPH. Vizcaino’s curve and change-up still need a lot of work, while his control is almost non-existent.

14. Caleb Kilian, RHP (Giants’ Preseason rank #30)
Age: 24
Current Level: AA

Also in the Bryant, trade, the 6’4” Kilian has really blossomed in his third professional season, featuring a 95 MPH four-seam fastball to go along with a cut fastball and power curve.

15. Moises Ballesteros, C (Preseason rank #36)
Age: 17
Current Level: Rookie (DOSL)

One of the hottest hitting Cubs prospects with a .389 average and 1.116 OPS. Ballesteros has also been good defensively.

16. Cole Roederer, OF (Preseason rank #6)

Age: 21
Current Level: High-A

Roederer was off to a decent start before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the season. He still displays great potential for power and speed.

17.Ryan Jensen, RHP (Preseason rank #8)

Ryan Jensen by Rebecca Snyder

Age: 23
Current Level: Low-A

Somewhat of a disappointment as Jensen has a 1.067 WHIP but 4.97 ERA in a level he should be dominating.

18. Kohl Franklin, RHP (Preseason rank #9)
Age: 21
Current Level: Low-A

Presently on the 60-day injured list. Franklin has top-half of the rotation potential when injury-free.

19. Chase Strumpf, 3B (Preseason rank #10)

Chase Strumpf by Rebecca Snyder

Age: 23
Current level: AA

The 2019 second round pick has struggled mightily both at the plate and in the field. Looks to have made the permanent switch to third base.

20. Bryce Ball, 1B (Braves’ Preseason rank #15)
Age: 23
Current level: High-A

Acquired from Atlanta for OF Joc Pederson, Ball has struggled this season but is potentially another big, left-handed hitting bat.

Tier 4

21. DJ Herz, LHP (Preseason rank #49)
Opening Day Age: 20
Current Level: Low-A

Lefty Herz has had his ups and downs in his first full season but has 60 strikeouts in 38.2 innings.

22. Ezequiel Pagan, OF (Preseason rank #46)

Ezequiel Pagan by Larry Kave

Age: 20
Current Level: High-A

Pagan has bounced around a little this season and is currently with Low-A Myrtle Beach. On a team that has struggled on offense, Pagan has taken over as the lead-off hitter, batting .259.

23. Richard Gallardo, RHP (Preseason rank #19)

Age: 19
Current Level: Low-A

With only 13 games of experience before 2021, Gallardo has yet to develop consistency in his first full season.

24. Burl Carraway, LHP (Preseason rank #14)

Burl Carraway by Rikk Carlson

Age: 21
Current Level: High-A

Carraway has a 100 MPH fastball but has been a huge disappointment. With a 9.00 ERA and 2.167 WHIP, there are some questions about Carraway’s maturity.

25. Anderson Espinoza, RHP (Padres’ preseason rank #15)
Age: 22
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)
Pitching for the first time since 2016 after two TJ surgeries, Espinoza has bounced back well with his 94-97 MPH fastball, plus change, and curve.

26. Riley Thompson, RHP (Preseason rank #16)

Opening Day Age: 24
Current Level: Low-A

Another pitching prospect with mysterious conditions placing him on the 60-day injured list. Thompson has a middle to back of the rotation make-up.

27. Jack Patterson, LHP (Preseason rank #20)
Opening Day Age: 25
Current Level: AA (60-day IL)

Out for the season with arm surgery, Patterson is a cerebral pitcher that maximizes his ability.

28. Nelson Velazquez, OF (Preseason – unranked)

Nelson Velazquez by Rikk Carlson

Age: 22
Current Level: High-A

A somewhat forgotten prospect, Velazquez is second among Cubs prospects with 11 HR and has the ability to play anywhere in the outfield.

29. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 22
Current Level: Low-A

Battling through injuries since 2017, Estrada is finally showing the potential that made him a sixth round pick as a high school player.

30. Pablo Aliendo, C (Preseason – unranked)

Pablo Aliendo by Larry Kave

Age: 20
Current Level: Low-A

Overlooked due to an abundance of catching prospects, Aliendo has outshined practically all of them. The most consistent performer for Myrtle Beach with a .281 average, 5 HR, and 19 RBI.

31.  Ben Leeper, RHP (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 24
Current Level: AAA

A bit of an outlier, as Leeper has never had similar success in his baseball career as he has had this season. A combined 1.24 ERA and 0.724 WHIP in 22 appearances between Tennessee and Iowa.

32. Ethan Roberts, RHP (Preseason – unranked)

Ethan Roberts by Rikk Carlson

Age: 24
Current Level: AA

Another overlooked player because he doesn’t have the “measurables”, Roberts has been the Cubs’ most effective pitching prospect. Has become the “go-to” closer for Tennessee with 40 K’s in 28.2 innings.

33. Cayne Ueckert, RHP (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 25
Current Level: AA

A deep-sleeper prospect, Ueckert was the Smokies’ closer before ceding that to Roberts. Makes for a good one-two punch with a 1.93 ERA, 5 saves, and 28 strikeouts in 23.1 innings.

34. Yeison Santana, SS (Preseason rank #23)
Age: 20
Current Level: Low-A

May have been overmatched at Myrtle Beach to start the season, Santana is now starting to get his feet under him in the ACL. Still more of a defensive player with an unproven bat.

35. Darius Hill, OF (Preseason – unranked)

Darius Hill by Rikk Carlson

Age: 23
Current Level: AA

Another unheralded prospect at the beginning of the year, Hill has been a contact-hitting machine, batting a combined .287 between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee.

Tier 5

36. Kevin Made, INF (Preseason rank #29)
Age: 18
Current Level: Low-A

Another young infielder that has had a hard time adjusting at the plate, Made has at least shown some promise defensively. Made will have to do better than his 23 strikeouts in 20 games.

37. Reivaj Garcia, 2B (Preseason rank #43)
Age: 19
Current Level: AA

Garcia has bounced around both among the levels (playing from the ACL all the way up to AA) and in the field, with starts at 2B, SS, and 3B. Would probably be more consistent if he remained at Low-A.

38. Greg Deichmann, OF (A’s Preseason rank #9)
Age: 26
Current Level: AAA

Acquired for LHP Andrew Chafin, Deichmann is reported to have plus power but that has yet to translate in the pro game. Deichmann has only a career minor league average of .218 prior to this season.

39. Ismael Mena, OF (Preseason rank #22)
Age: 18
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

Acquired from the Padres in the Yu Darvish deal, Mena shows great range in CF but has yet to start hitting.

40. Ethan Hearn, C (Preseason rank #18)

Ethan Hearn by Larry Kave

Age: 19
Current Level: Low-A

Once considered a high-profile catching prospect, Hearn’s struggles at the plate have allowed others to pass him.

41.  Andy Weber, SS (Preseason rank #26)
Age: 23
Current Level: AA

A high-level utility infielder type, Weber has had to cope with injuries and ineffective hitting this season.

42. Bailey Horn, LHP (White Sox’s Preseason – unranked)
Age: 23
Current Level: High-A
A sturdy left-hander that has struggled in High-A, Horn has a starter’s arsenal of a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, change-up, curve, and slider.

43. Alfonso Rivas, 1B (Preseason rank #40)
Age: 24
Current Level: AAA

A legitimate major-league glove at first base, Rivas is just hoping for an opportunity with the big league club.

44.  Matt Mervis, 1B (Preseason rank #50)

Matt Mervis by Larry Kave

Age: 23
Current Level: Low-A

More of a default selection at this point. Mervis has power but hasn’t consistently produced at a low level of competition.

45. Joe Nahas, RHP (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 21
Current Level: High-A

An undrafted free agent that has put up some decent numbers out of the pen this season.

46. Fabian Pertuz, INF (Preseason rank #45)

Fabian Pertuz by Larry Kave

Age: 20
Current Level: Low-A

Pertuz is heating up, hitting .304 in July. He needs to find a defensive home.

47. Ronnier Quintero, C (Preseason rank #21)
Age: 18
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

Once considered a top prospect, Quintero is losing ground with a sluggish start in his first season.

48. Pedro Ramirez, INF (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 17
Current Level: Rookie (DOSL)

A name to remember. This switch-hitting middle infield prospect is actually playing better at short than 2B while lighting it up at the plate.

49. Rafael Morel, INF (Preseason rank #33)
Age: 19
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

The athletic brother of Christopher Morel is currently on the suspended list.

50. Chris Clarke, RHP (Preseason rank #28)
Age: 23
Current Level: High-A

Part of the plethora of injured pitchers for the Cubs, Clarke has just been activated and assigned to South Bend.

 

These prospects dropped out of the Top 50 based on other players acquired at the trade deadline:
Luke Little, LHP (Preseason rank #35)
Age: 20
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

A 2020 draft pick. Little has yet to see any competitive action.

Koen Moreno, RHP (Preseason rank #38)
Age: 19
Current Level: Rookie (ACL)

See Luke Little…

Yovanny Cruz, RHP (Preseason rank #26)

Yovanny Cruz by CubsDen

Age: 21
Current Level: High-A (60-day IL)

Yet another pitcher on the injured list.

Brayan Altuve, C/INF (Preseason – unranked)
Age: 18
Current Level: Rookie (DOSL)

Signed as a catcher, Altuve has been playing mainly third base while trying to catch up at the plate.

Carlos Sepulveda, INF (Preseason – unranked)

Carlos Sepulveda by Stephanie Lynn

Age: 24
Current Level: AA

Back in the organization after being selected by the Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft, Sepulveda is a gold glove infielder that was a contact-hitting machine before a shoulder injury.

Dakota Mekkes, RHP (Preseason rank #47)
Age: 26
Current Level: AAA

One of those players that has done everything humanly possible to deserve a shot at playing in the major leagues, but hasn’t been given the opportunity by the front office. Mekkes has the potential of a good long-inning reliever.




About Tom Usiak 26 Articles
Born and raised on Chicago's Northwest side, Tom is entering his tenth year covering the Cubs minor league system, writing for prestigious sites such as Chicago Cubs Online, Locked On Cubs, and Cubs Den. Over that period, Tom has published interviews with top prospects such as Aramis Ademan, Miguel Amaya, Willson Contreras, Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, Cole Roederer, and Gleyber Torres. Known as "Tom U" across the internet, Tom also has a close working relationship with the front offices of all four of the Cubs' full season minor league teams. A frequent guest of the South Bend Cubs on WSBT radio, Tom has also written monthly articles for the South Bend Cubs' stadium program.

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