The Chicago Cubs currently have what is certainly a top 10 minor league system and perhaps one that is top 5. Not only do they have a growing number of top 100 prospects, possibly as high as 5 by season’s end, but they also have tremendous depth as well.
In a previous article, I covered the wealth of prospects they have in the outfield. They also have a growing number of high-ceiling prospects that are age 20 or younger, so many in fact that you can make an entire 26-man roster filled with them.
Catcher – Moisés Ballesteros (18)
The Cubs signed Ballesteros for $1.2 million in January of 2020, and he’s already producing better than expected at the plate in the ACL. So far, he’s slashed .268/.355/.536 with 7 HR, 17% K, and 12% BB and has just been promoted to Single-A Myrtle Beach. It’s behind the plate where he most needs work. Scouts report he’s got a strong arm, but he needs to improve his pop times and ability to block wayward pitches. Moisés is currently pretty chunky. When he adds some muscle and loses some baby fat, it should get easier for him to do both.
1B – Owen Caissie (20)
The big red head was challenged with an assignment in High-A South Bend to start this season after receiving just 73 ABs the year prior in Single-A Myrtle Beach. After understandably struggling in April (.122/.173/.163), Caissie has made Midwest League pitchers look silly hitting .290/.380/.468 with 10 HR, 25% K, 12% BB in 284 PA. And he did so mostly as a 19-year-old, having just turned 20 on July 8th. Caissie is playing corner OF now but moves to 1B on this squad due to the ridiculous 20U OF depth currently in the Cubs system.
Forgot to put this one in earlier so how about a walk-off granny from Cubs top-10 prospect Owen Caissie pic.twitter.com/fVHs5BFg4v
— Max Thoma (@MaxThoma) July 25, 2022
2B – James Triantos (19)
After dominating the ACL last year, Triantos has struggled a bit this season but mostly just with his power production. Slashing .267/.334/.386 with 5 HR, 18% K, and 8% BB, the AVG and OBP are respectable, especially for a 19-year-old in the Carolina League, and even with the lackluster SLG, he’s still carrying a 106 wRC+ on the year. Triantos has excellent bat control, and Fangraphs has him with a 70 FV hit tool and 55 FV game power. It may just be that the 2021 2nd rounder simply needs a bit more time, and he’s got plenty of it as he doesn’t turn 20 until next January.
SS – Cristian Hernández (18)
Another prospect that may need a bit more time, Hernández has struggled at the plate in the ACL slashing .267/.331/.371 with 3 HR, 29% K, and 8.5% BB. His tools remain loud, however, and his movements and glove at SS get high marks. My sense is Cristian’s youthful enthusiasm causes him to swing for the fences a bit more than he needs to. At 6’2″ and 175 lbs., his frame can handle some more muscle and, as he fills out, he’ll learn to trust his natural power, focus on getting pitches he can drive, and be pleasantly surprised with the amount of HR that will result from an improved approach his effortless power.
3B – Kevin Made (19)
You could easily have Made playing SS and Hernández at 3B as the former can defend the position just as well as the latter. Made’s swing and pitch selection have improved immensely from last year. You can tell just from watching him, but his production is showing it too. He hit just 1 HR with a 2.5% BB and a 23.5% K in 2021. So far in ’22, he’s hit 9 HR with an 11% BB and 19% K. After slashing .266/.354/.450 in Single-A, Made earned a promotion making him the 3rd Cubs prospect to play for High-A South Bend as a teenager this season.
LF – Yohendrick Pinango (20)
Another prospect who played in High-A as a teenager, Pinango’s profile has taken a big leap this season. Widely seen as one of the best pure hitters in the Cubs system last year, Pinango lacked power. And with a frame that was mostly filled out, I didn’t think he would add much down the road. Yohendrick has proved me wrong, and rapidly. His previous high in HR was 5 in 456 PA last season. This year he’s already amassed 12 in 381 PA while also leading his team in doubles with 22. Surprisingly, he seems to have a knack for stealing bases having swiped 12 already without being caught. As his power has risen, his OBP has fallen, but his K% has stayed low at 17%. His .280/.318/.452 slash line is good enough for a 111 wRC+, and his defense should allow him to play an above-average LF going forward.
🔥Pinango is the MWL Player of the Week🔥
Yohendrick batted .423 with 6 RBIs, 6 runs, and 5 multi-hit games vs Peoria last week. He's amassed 10 multi-hit games the last 2 weeks for the 1ST PLACE #SBCubs!
— South Bend Cubs (@SBCubs) July 19, 2022
CF – Pete Crow-Armstrong (20)
No player in the Cubs system has taken a bigger leap forward than Crow-Armstrong this season. PCA obliterated Single-A pitching to the tune of .354/.443/.557 with 7 HR, 18% K, 12% BB in 183 PA earning him a 177 wRC+. But what makes him special is his glove. He combines blazing speed with excellent instincts to play elite defense in CF. PCA was deservedly promoted to High-A on June 1st, and after struggling for the first 10 games, he’s picked up where he left off hitting .299/.333/.586 in the 93 PA since. Of all the high-ceiling prospects on this list, Crow-Armstrong’s may be the highest.
RF – Kevin Alcántara (20)
The 2nd highest ceiling could very well belong to this guy. Alcántara’s production hasn’t matched the 1.012 OPS he put up last year as an 18-year-old in the ACL, but his slash of .270/.358/.464 gives him a wRC+ of 127 in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. Having just turned 20 on July 12th, scouts think that Alcántara’s lanky 6’6″ frame and long arms will cause his development path to take a bit longer than some of his fellow prospects, but if/when he fills out and can synchronize his body, he has a chance to be the rare player who can hit for average with near elite power and the speed/athleticism to play average to above average defense in CF and RF.
RHP Cade Horton (20)
The Cubs surprised many by selecting Horton 7th overall in this year’s draft. I was thrilled. Now that there’s growing evidence the Cubs have figured out how to effectively develop pitching, I had been dying for them to draft some upside arms. Horton oozes upside with a mid-to-upper 90s FB and a plus-plus slider, Cade captivated Cubs scouts. His curve is presently above average and the change is nascent but has the potential to round into form. The most exciting part of his upside is how little he’s focused on pitching. A two-sport athlete, emphasis on athlete, Cade went to Oklahoma as a QB and a SS/RHP. After needing TJS going into his sophomore season, Horton returned playing mostly 3B in his junior year as he ramped up his pitching. By the end of the season, he was dominating the best college hitters in the game. I’m chomping at the bit to see what he can accomplish by focusing solely on pitching.
Segment today on Cade Horton (as I promised, his slider grip is above). pic.twitter.com/FlmHGL2saB
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 24, 2022
LHP Jackson Ferris (18)
Ferris is a projectable lefty at 6’4″ and 195 lbs. who already throws 93-95, T97 on his FB, high spin rates on his breaking ball, and good feel for a change up. His delivery needs refinement as he can fall off balance which leads to inconsistency, but the 2022 2nd rounder out of IMG Academy has the tools and ceiling of a #2 or #3 starter.
LHP Drew Gray (19)
Another high upside prep lefty, Gray was taken in the 3rd round of the 2021 draft also out of IMG Academy. He wowed scouts with his elite spin rates on both his FB (2500 rpm) and his curve (2800 rpm). He then debuted in the ACL hitting 93-94 on the radar gun and dominating his competition in two short starts. Gray required TJS on March 1st of this year. He’s on track to return next season eventually landing at Single-A Myrtle Beach.
RHP Richard Gallardo (20)
Gallardo has already graduated from Myrtle Beach and his pitching for the Cubs High-A affiliate in South Bend. Signed for $1 million in July, 2018, he’s added velocity to his FB and regularly hits 95-96, but he’s known more for his well-rounded arsenal and an above-average change. Despite the added velo, he’s still too hittable, but he’s got plenty of time to continue his development. Gallardo profiles as a steady 5th starter at the big league level.
RHP Nazier Mulé (17)
Nazier was taken in the 4th round of this year’s draft and signed for $1 million. He is an electric athlete at 6’3″ and 210 lbs. who can already hit 100 on the radar gun and has produced the same reading in exit velocities at the plate. Mulé played SS in high school but would switch to pitcher to close out games with his triple-digit heat. Incredibly mature for his age, the Cubs are open to allowing Mulé to play some DH while focusing on pitching.
I became a fan of Nazier Mule at 2:30 am this morning. pic.twitter.com/GcjwQ697Lt
— Cody Delmendo (@Cody_CHGO) July 20, 2022
RHP Ángel González (19)
It’s rare for a teenage pitcher to be playing in full season ball. (At least it has been for the Cubs.) Angel is already in Single-A Myrtle Beach. He can hit 98 on the gun and pairs that with a solid 87-89 slider.
RHP Luis Rujano (19)
Signing as an overslot 13th rounder ($210,000) in this year’s draft, Rujano is a big high school righty at 6’4″, 200 lbs. He’s still pretty raw, but sits 91-93 and has touched 96. He’ll be developed as a starter, but on this 20U roster, he’s coming out of the pen.
LHP Wilson Cunningham (19)
Taken in the 20th round of the 2021 draft, Wilson signed a unique contract with the Cubs that allows him to study at the University of Chicago while also developing as a pitcher in their organization. He’s a mountain of a lefty at 6’8″, 200 lbs. The Cubs will take their time with him, but he’s looked good in his first 2 professional appearances.
RHP J.P. Wheat (19)
Wheat is an intriguing prospect standing at 6’5″ with room to fill out and add muscle as he develops. He already throws low-to-mid 90s with excellent spin rates on both his FB and his hammer curve.
‘22 JP Wheat (@GTBaseball commit) • Naturally clean delivery w/a ton of length to the frame. Long and loose, comes out of the hand well. Hammer of a BB at 78-79 (2600rpm). FB up to 94 (2660rpm). Very impressive arm, fun follow to GT. @NLA_Rays pic.twitter.com/PwRXN7rSoD
— Brando Centrone (@BcentronePS) February 18, 2022
RHP Joel Sierra (20)
Joel was throwing 100 mph in the ACL before going down with an injury. The Cubs are high on him.
RHP Michael Arias (20)
Arias is a converted SS who is already hitting 99 on the gun. The Cubs like his athleticism and are excited to see what he can do now that he committed to pitching.
RHP Freylin Silverio (17)
Silverio is the lone DSL prospect on this pitching staff. With a lean 6’3″ frame, scouts have already noticed the projectable righty who has an easy, repeatable delivery and present above-average control.
C Adan Sanchez (17)
And Sanchez is the lone DSL hitting prospect on this roster. He was the top IFA signee for the Cubs this season at $1.5 million. It’s not certain if he’ll stick at catcher or 3B, but so far it looks like the bat will play at either position. He’s slashing .337/.447/.402 in the DSL so far.
INF Ed Howard (20)
The Cubs 1st rounder in 2020 suffered a severe hip injury on May 10th and will miss the rest of this season. The latest reports are that he is walking again and the Cubs hope he can be doing baseball activities this fall/winter. He’s struggled with the bat thus far in his short/interrupted career, but the defense at SS has always graded plus-plus.
INF Reginald Preciado (19)
Preciado was one of the prized prospects acquired in the Yu Darvish deal. After dominating in the ACL last year, Reggie struggled to adjust to full season ball striking out in 39% of his PA. He had an improved month of May slashing 284/.329/.448 but went down with a leg injury the 2nd week of June. The hope is he’ll be able to return to game action before the season ends.
Reginald Preciado hits a two-run home run to give the Birds the lead in the seventh!
3-2 Pelicans as the 12th consecutive win is three outs away. pic.twitter.com/Q8hwmHKAIE
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) May 28, 2022
INF Pedro Ramírez (18)
An unheralded IFA singing, Pedro surprised by posting a .359/.417/.503 slash good enough for a 155 wRC+ in the DSL last season. And he continues to prove doubters wrong this year in the ACL hitting .308/.357/.470 thus far in Mesa.
OF Ismael Mena (19)
Another one of the prospects in the Darvish deal, Mena ranks as one of the fastest prospects in the organization which at 6’3″ and 185 lbs. is pretty impressive. He struggled with the bat in his debut but is fairing better in his 2nd go around in the ACL hitting .281/.347/.337. The power isn’t there yet, but the frame suggests it’s coming.
OF Cristian More (20)
The lone Cuban prospect on this roster, More has been a pleasant surprise this year. After 2 nondescript seasons in the DSL, More is hitting .333/.409/.533 thus far in the ACL.
Well, there you have it. After adding a lot of young, high-upside, athletic talent via the draft, IFA and trades over the last two seasons, the Cubs have amassed a full 26-man roster of 20 and under prospects all worth following. Admittedly, two of these prospects will turn 21 in a few weeks (Horton on August 20th and More on August 11th), but they still count for now. Some will likely be derailed on their way to the bigs while others will surprise, and a few seem destined for All-Star caliber careers. But for now, you gotta admit, this is pretty cool…
I've been analyzing the Cubs minor league system for over 30 years and commenting on it since 2003. When I'm not doing that, I'm trying to be the best dad I can be for my 2 daughters and acting in TV shows and commercials in Los Angeles.