Chicago Cubs Top 50 Prospects (2023)

Chicago Cubs Top 50 graphic design by Michael Packard, @CollectingPack on Twitter

This time last year, we were intrigued with the depth of the Cubs’ farm. Flush with high-ceiling teenagers, but lacking much impact in the upper minors, most rankings had this as a bottom half system. We noted: “With only one surefire Top 100 prospect right now, they could have 3-5 by the time we update our rankings midseason.” This proved prescient, as our June Top 189 featured four Cubs in the top 75. That was before Alexander Canario’s bonkers 2nd half, and before we’d had a chance to fully process the wildly out of nowhere “Mash” Mervis breakout.

Despite a lost year for last season’s #1 prospect Brennen Davis, this is a system on the rise. The Cubs have enviable depth in the outfield, as 5 of the top 7 prospects are outfielders. Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, and Canario each had standout seasons, showing real gains and providing hope that their considerable ceilings are actually within reach. Now we need to see them sustain this level of performance in the upper minors.

The talent isn’t exclusive to the outfield, either. With an influx of high-end pitching from the draft and two shrewd trades, this is a more balanced system than we’ve seen the last few years. It may still be little light on impact from the upper levels, although Mervis (our #4) and Hayden Wesneski (#10) will certainly play a role this year, but top to bottom, this is a group with significant upside and an improved long-term outlook.

With the front office showing a renewed emphasis on free agent spending, and a farm system on the rise, Cubs fans can hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel of this rebuild. (Hoyle)

Six Prospects1500 writers contributed to this column and rankings including Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame), Daniel Hoyle (@ATXRainDog), Michael Kelley (@MKelley_ND), Shaun Kernahan (@ShaunKernahan), Caleb Sanders (@UpNextMiLB), and Tom Usiak (@The_Tom_U) and the writer’s last name follows each player write-up or paragraph.

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 a 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

Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022

Tier 1

1. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, 20, High-A
PCA is a Cubs superstar in the making. The 2020 1st rounder (by the Mets, 19th overall) put together a stellar 2022 season coming off surgery that repaired his torn labrum in 2021. In 101 games between Myrtle Beach and South Bend, he slashed .312/.376/.520/.896 with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 16 homers, 32 steals, and 36 walks. Keep an eye on his 21.6% K%, although with his elite hit tool, that number could/should decrease. Tennessee fans should be excited to hopefully see him in the Smokies’ outfield at some point this coming season. (Greene)

Tier 2

2. Kevin Alcántara, OF, 20, Single-A
One could argue that the lost 2020 Covid season put a damper on Alcantara’s development. With only 75 Rookie league games under his belt coming into 2022 (41 as a 16-year-old in 2019, 34 as an 18-year-old in 2021), expectations were high but reserved for the former Yankees international signee. The outfielder who came to Chicago in the Anthony Rizzo trade deadline deal in July 2021, impressed in A-ball, hitting .273, with 15 HR, 85 RBI, and 14 SB in 112 games. Expect to see Alcantara begin 2023 in High-A South Bend. (Greene)

3. Brennen Davis, OF, 23, Triple-A/AFL
Back issues can be a lingering problem, and this is what Davis has been dealing with. He’s legitimately a Top 25-30 overall prospect in the game when healthy. The former Futures Game MVP was on the fast track to the majors after a solid 2021 and looking at a possible 2022 debut, but injuries set in. He got back into action in the Arizona Fall League but was shut down after only 21 plate appearances. His 2022 numbers do not look good, and 2023 is very important for Brennen to show he can still perform at the highest level. (Greene)

4. Matt Mervis, 1B, 24, Triple-A/AFL
Mervis was one of MiLB’s best hitters in 2022. He destroyed three levels (A+, AA and AAA) to the tune of .309/.379/.606/.984 slashline, with 310 total bases, 36 HR, and 119 RBI. He’s shot up prospects rankings everywhere following last season, as we he wasn’t even ranked in our Top 50 last January, and then landed at #15 on our midseason ranks last summer. Believed to be MLB-ready and the heir apparent at 1B in Wrigley, he may have to wait a bit longer as the Cubs just signed Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer this offseason. (Greene)

5. Alexander Canario, OF, 22, Triple-A
Canario tapped into some immense power this past season, finishing second among all minor leaguers with 37 home runs (STL’s Moises Gomez put up 39). He only had 45 HR in his previous 4 MiLB seasons since being signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. Both he and Davis should begin 2023 at Triple-A Iowa, only about 340 miles due west of Wrigley Field, and could get the MLB call-up depending on how things go with Bellinger, Suzuki, Happ, Velazquez, and Wisdom/McKinstry. (Greene)

6. Cade Horton, RHP, 21, College
After starting the season as the Sooners’ third baseman, Horton finally toed the Oklahoma rubber after recovering from injury in the second half of the season and hasn’t looked back. He has a fastball that flirts with triple digits and one of the best breaking balls in the 2022 class with his slider. To go with those he has a solid curve and a change that is still well behind the rest. He rocketed up draft boards thanks, in large part, to his performance in Omaha at the College World Series, and deservedly so. If he sticks in a rotation he has the upside of being a high quality number two starter, but there is some reliever risk in him although he would still keep his value as he could be a dominant reliever. (Kernahan)

7. Owen Caissie, OF, 20, High-A
Many prospectors were excited about the stat line that Caissie put in Rookie ball at the Arizona Complex League in 2021. The shine on him wore of in 2022 as he advanced to High-A South Bend. The Cubs acquired him in the package that sent Yu Darvish to San Diego, and I’m sure the front office is expecting to see more out of him this upcoming season. His power, combined with excellent bat speed is the calling card here, and the Cubs will need to see him display those tools moving forward. (Kelley)

8. James Triantos, 3B, 20, Single-A
The Cubs selected Triantos in the 2nd round of the 2021 Amateur Draft out of a Virginia high school. He has all the makings of a very solid regular 3B, a type that will likely play 10-12 years in the big leagues in a lineup as a dependable bat. I’m not sold on a high upside for him, but he has good bat to ball skills, average power and speed. He will play adequate defense and is someone that whomever is leading the Cubs can pencil in at the hot corner and 6th or 7th spot in the lineup on a daily basis. (Kelley)

9. Cristian Hernández, SS, 19, Rookie (ACL)
If you’re a little gun-shy about recent international signings throughout MLB and their relative lack of success, you’re not the only one. It’s not easy to live up to Manny Machado/Alex Rodriguez comparisons, and to date, Hernandez hasn’t been able to do so. 2023 will be a pivotal season for him to fully display the toolset he showed as an amateur in the Dominican Republic. He is only 19 though, so a sluggish start to his pro career isn’t a death sentence. I think he’s a great buy-low candidate in dynasty leagues and the price tag to acquire him shouldn’t be all that high. (Kelley)

10. Hayden Wesneski, RHP, 25, MLB
This will be the last time you the Texas hurler on prospect leagues. He pitched an impressive 33 innings for the Cubs last year after being acquired from the Yankees in exchange for Scott Effross. We should expect some regression as opposing teams begin to look at film of him and get real life exposure to his delivery. In total, he possesses a 4 pitch mix that he consistently throws for strikes, and I see him settling in as a mid-rotation starter with good ERA and WHIP numbers, to go along with decent strikeout totals. (Kelley)

11. Jordan Wicks, LHP, 23, Triple-A
I’ve got a feeling we will be seeing Wicks pitching in The Friendly Confines before the ’23 season reaches its conclusion. His repertoire starts with a low 80’s curveball that many viewed as the best in his draft class, and pairs that with a low to mid 90’s fastball. Like Wesneski, he pounds the strike zone and is excellent at limiting walks. He’s got a great competitive desire and will endear himself to Cubs faithful with his demeanor on the mound. He has all the makings of a dependable #2/#3 starter profile in my eyes. (Kelley)

Tier 3

12. Jackson Ferris, LHP, 19, College
A long and lanky lefty, Ferris is a fantastic combination of current stuff and projection. His fastball is heavy and plays even better than the mid-90s may otherwise suggest and has a quality curve and a more advanced change than you typically see from a prep arm. The arm action does cause some concern as it is very whippy and has plenty of late effort, but this also works in his favor as it adds extra deception. Definitely a low floor/high ceiling projection, with the upside of a number two starter, but a risk his mechanics never fully sync up to allow him to tap into his full potential. (Kernahan)

13. Ben Brown, RHP, 23, Double-A
The jury is still out on Brown, as to whether he’ll remain a starter or move to a high leverage role reliever. Brown has a big 6’6”, 210 pound frame that allows him to throw serious upper 90’s heat, along with a slider and mid-80’s curveball. The pitching coaches will need to help him further develop a changeup in order to remain a starter as he progresses against more advanced competition. At minimum, we’re looking at a future set-up man or closer, with a better than average chance to solidify a rotation spot. (Kelley)

14. DJ Herz, LHP, 22, Double-A
For as good as Herz was at High-A South Bend, he had the opposite showing after a promotion to Double-A Tennessee. An 8.24 ERA over 31 2/3 innings after his promotion had to come as a bit of shell shock for the lefty. I would take those results with a grain of salt, as it’s a relatively small sample size and he was nearly 3.5 years younger than league average. He’s similar to Brown, in that he has the stuff to be a high-leverage reliever (especially against LHH), but might be able to put it all together as a back-end rotation type. (Kelley)

15. Moisés Ballesteros, C, 19, Single-A
If you play in two catcher dynasty leagues with minor league rosters of 500 or more, and this guy is not on a roster, I’d suggest going to your free agent pool and selecting him ASAP. He possesses enough defense to play every day, with a very good bat at the position. At peak, his skill set should present close to 20 homers per year with solid batting averages. He can take a walk and thus far has kept his strikeout rate below 25%. (Kelley)

16. Caleb Kilian, RHP, 25, MLB
Kilian was a big piece of the Kris Bryant trade back in 2021 and made his MLB debut in 2022, but it was one to forget. The 6’4” right-hander broke out in 2021 with a 2.42 ERA across 100 innings in High-A and Double-A, but he took a step back this past season, particularly after his debut in the big leagues. Command issues never seemed to be a huge problem for him until last season (led all of MiLB in K/BB ratio in 2021), where he saw his BB/9 increase to nearly 5.00 across 100 Triple-A innings. If Kilian can find the command that he had prior to last season, he has the stuff to be a back-end starter in the big leagues. (Sanders)

17. Yohendrick Pinango, OF, 20, High-A
Pinango is a prospect that I believe can make a big leap in 2023. He isn’t even 21 yet and already possesses one of the best hit tools in the system. He has shown an advanced ability to put the ball in play despite a fairly high chase rate (sub 17% K rate in High-A) as well as sneaky power from the left side. He plays average defense in the outfield, so it will have to be his bat that carries him. If Pinango can continue to tap into that raw power while maintaining his ability to put bat-on-ball, he might begin to blossom in 2023. (Sanders)

18. Porter Hodge, RHP, 21, High-A
Hodge had a breakout season in 2022, posting a 2.63 ERA across 109 innings split between Single-A and High-A. Standing at 6’4” and 230 pounds, Hodge definitely has the build to be a legitimate big-league starter. He has shown an impressive ability to strike batters out (141 K in 109 innings) but walks a few more batters than one would like. The real test will be when Hodge debuts in Double-A, but he would likely move up this list if he posts a similar season as 2022 in the upper minors. (Sanders)

19. Kevin Made, SS, 20, High-A
Made is one of those players whose tools haven’t yet shown themselves in his play. As it stands right now, Made is a glove-first shortstop who definitely has the arm and range to stay at short, but has also gotten looks at third. The bat will be the biggest thing to watch for Made, as he struggled to make quality contact once he got promoted to High-A (.162 AVG, .085 ISO in 151 AB). He has a solid hit tool and projects to have average raw power but simply needs to improve his quality of contact in order to maximize his potential. (Sanders)

20. Daniel Palencia, RHP, 22, High-A
Despite being a smaller guy at 5’11”, 160 pounds, Palencia has one of the most electric fastballs in the minor leagues. Topping out at 103 mph and regularly sitting in the upper 90’s, Palencia pairs that fastball with an above-average curveball and a developing changeup. He has been used as a starter over the past two seasons, but with that kind of stuff and makeup, you’re likely looking at a high-leverage back-end of the bullpen kind of arm. (Sanders)

21. Miguel Amaya, C, 23, Double-A
Amaya’s 2022 season was primarily spent rehabbing from late 2021 Tommy John Surgery. He was once one of the top prospects in the organization but has taken quite the nosedive in the prospect rankings due to his inability to stay healthy (162 games played since 2019). The soon-to-be 24-year-old is an above-average defender when healthy and has shown a good ability to get on base. It’s hard to truly evaluate a prospect who is hurt as often as Amaya is, so the biggest goal for him in 2023 is to simply stay healthy. (Sanders)

22. Nazier Mule, RHP/SS, 18, High School
Mule has a plus fastball, quality slider, and a decent change, but some teams liked him better as a shortstop even though it appears the Cubs will have him focus purely on pitching. (Kernahan)

Tier 4

23. Ed Howard, SS, 21, High-A
24. Christopher Paciolla, POS, 18, Rookie (ACL)
25. Ryan Jensen, RHP, 25, Double-A
26. Luis Devers, RHP, 22, High-A
27. Pedro Ramírez, 2B/3B, 18, Rookie (ACL)
28. Luke Little, LHP, 22, High-A
29. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP, 23, MLB
30. Drew Gray, LHP, 19, Rookie (ACL)
31. Kohl Franklin, RHP, 23, High-A
32. Darius Hill, OF, 25, Triple-A
33. Chase Strumpf, 3B/2B, 24, Double-A
34. Reginald Preciado, SS/2B, 19, Single-A
35. Bailey Horn, LHP, 25, Double-A/AFL
36. Mason McGwire, RHP, 19, High-School

Paciolla played games at three positions in his brief time in Arizona after the MLB Draft, but third base is his most likely landing spot. At the plate he gets the bat to the zone well making plenty of contact, and the frame combined with bat plane should allow him to grow into at least average power. Infielder Howard, RHP Franklin, and LHP Horn are former highly-rated prospects that must show they are over their injuries to regain their status. Right-hander Devers and lefty Little are pitchers that can burst onto the scene this season. Two of the more underrated prospects, 18-year-old infielder Ramirez and outfielder Hill are hitting machines. Flamethrowing Estrada will compete for the closer role on the parent club. Infielders Strumpf and Preciado are also former highly-rated prospects that have yet to match potential with production. McGwire, a right-handed pitcher, is the son of former slugger Mark McGwire. (Usiak, with Paciolla by Kernahan)

Tier 5

37. Zac Leigh, RHP, 25, Double-A/AFL
38. Yonathan Perlaza, OF, 24, Double-A
39. Riley Martin, LHP, 24, High-A/AFL
40. Haydn McGeary, 1B/C, 23, Single-A
41. Jordan Nwogu, OF, 23, High-A
42. Derniche Valdez, SS, 16, International signee
43. Riley Thompson, RHP, 26, Double-A
44. Kenyi Pérez, RHP, 21, Rookie (ACL)
45. Ben Leeper, RHP, 25, Triple-A
46. Yovanny Cruz, RHP, 23, High-A
47. Pablo Aliendo, C, 21, High-A
48. Richard Gallardo, RHP, 21, Double-A
49. Brandon Birdsell, RHP, 22, College
50. Cole Roederer, OF, 23, Double-A

The pitchers at this level all have the potential to move up the charts with productive seasons. Lefty Martin has demonstrated he has what it takes to perform in the clutch as a closer. Right-handers Leeper, Cruz, and Gallardo are considered to have some of the best stuff, at times, as any pitchers in the system. Another right-handed pitcher, Thompson, has always been a steady contributor. Toolsy outfielders Perlaza and Nwogu have teased us with their ability, but have yet to put everything together. What catcher Aliendo lacks in ability, he more than makes up for with heart, as he was the soul of the Midwest League champion South Bend Cubs. Birdsell has plenty of injury risk, having already had Tommy John Surgery and having dealt with a rotator cuff issue, but the stuff is real and he has been dominant when healthy. Outfielder Roederer was often mentioned in the same breath as #3 prospect Brennen Davis, but injuries have delayed his development. He could be primed for a huge bounce-back. (Usiak, with Birdsell by Kernahan)

President of Prospects1500. Commissioner of Diamond Duos dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. Founder of MLB Fantasy Playoffs Parlay. Participant in more than a dozen other dynasty/fantasy baseball leagues. Account Manager for Reminder Publishing in real life. Huge Bruce Springsteen and pro wrestling fan. Along with his wife and two boys, lives in Longmeadow, MA. Follow on Twitter at @Scotty_Ballgame.

Daniel is a longtime baseball fanatic, born and raised in North Carolina on a sports diet of Tar Heels basketball and Braves baseball. He has lived in the Austin area since 2006 and now resides just a few miles from the Dell Diamond where the Texas Rangers AAA affiliate Round Rock Express play their home games. He has been playing fantasy baseball for more than 20 years, and over the past 5 years has developed a potentially unhealthy relationship with dynasty baseball. His deepest league is a mostly offline 20 team contracts league with 130-man rosters, and he enters 2023 looking to defend his first league title.

Born in Arizona. Raised in the Midwest, and with lots of baseball. When I’m not writing about baseball or purchasing my next baseball card, I can be seen coasting down the highway to yet another travel baseball tournament with my wife and son. I love the Braves, bat flips and outfield assists.

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.


    • Hi Jarrett, thanks for the question. We didn’t really consider Neidert for this list. He is still “eligible” with only 49 major league innings under his belt over 3 seasons in Miami. If we had considered him over some of the others we did include, he’d probably slot into Tier 4 somewhere.

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