In case you live under a rock, let me tell you – spoiler alert – The Cubs won the World Series in 2016. The roster that won it all also featured many young position players situated to excel for years to come. You might say that if there was a team that didn’t need a farm system, it would be the Cubs. However, the Cubs have more promise in the minors waiting for their shot to go deep in the playoffs with the major league club. There is a high chance these players will be traded in aggressive moves aimed at another championship. There is also a lot of talent in the majors blocking the way for young position players. These are good problems to have. The Cubs won the World Series. Other teams want to be the Cubs. Here is what the Cubs look like below the major league level.
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 who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 11/27/1996)
Jimenez just turned 20 years-old after slashing .329/.369/.532 in single-A ball. He is moving up prospect lists every day and is one of the top power prospects in baseball.
2. Ian Happ, 2B/OF
Age: 22 (DOB 08/12/1994)
Happ could have a future in the current Ben Zobrist role. The highlight of Happ homering from both sides of the plate in the Arizona Fall League title game perhaps shows his ability as an all-around stud.
3. Dylan Cease, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 12/28/1995)
Tommy John surgery helped Cease fall to the sixth round of the 2014 draft. The Cubs may have gotten a steal of first-round talent as Cease throws an electric fastball that has hit 100 mph.
4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Age: 23 (DOB 11/24/1993)
Candelario slashed .333/.417/.542 over 76 games in triple-A in 2016. His skills will push him to the majors soon, but it’s hard to see him being with the Cubs as reigning MVP Kris Bryant stands in his way at third. He could prove to be a very valuable trade piece.
5. Albert Almora Jr., OF
Age: 22 (DOB 04/16/1994)
Almora has already scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning in game 7 of the World Series to help break a 108-year title drought after coming in to pinch run for Kyle Schwarber. Not too bad. Almora continues to prove he has great value with his defense in center field and he should have a lot of opportunity to continue developing his hit tool in the majors in 2017.
6. Trevor Clifton, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 05/11/1995)
Clifton threw 119 innings in high-A in 2016 to the tune of a 2.72 ERA and nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings. His 2016 was his most exciting yet and if he continues to prove himself Clifton could be moving up the prospect boards very soon.
7. Oscar de la Cruz, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 03/04/1995)
De la Cruz stands at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds as a 21-year-old with a mean fastball. A sore elbow slowed his start to 2016, but he appears to be moving through the ranks rapidly.
8. Mark Zagunis, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 02/05/1993)
Zagunis split time between double and triple-A in 2016 where he continued to show off his incredible ability to get on base. Nothing else about Zagunis pops out wildly, but getting on base is a pretty good thing to excel at in baseball.
9. Jose Albertos, RHP
Age: 18 (DOB 11/07/1998)
Albertos is a solid all-around pitcher from Mexico at just 18 years-old. His fastball already touches 97 and if he can continue to develop as he ages he could really be something special.
10. Eddy Martinez, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 01/18/1995)
Martinez is a solid all-around player from Cuba. He has the athleticism to stick around in the field and perhaps grow to be even more of a base stealing threat.
11. Donnie Dewees, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 09/29/1993)
Dewees split time between single-A and high-A in 2016 and stole 31 bases between them. He hits for a decent average and has speed that could prove very valuable if it all continues to grow.
12. Duane Underwood Jr., RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 07/20/1994)
Underwood spent most all of 2016 in double-A where he struggled a bit – especially with walks. The pieces are there for him, but he needs to put it all back together in order to find success again.
13. Thomas Hatch, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 09/29/1994)
Hatch is a solid all-around pitcher that had success in college including a 23-inning streak of not giving up a run in the college playoffs. He’ll get to prove himself in the pros for the first time in 2017.
14. Bryan Hudson, LHP
Age: 19 (DOB 05/08/1997)
Hudson has a towering 6-foot-8 frame as a 19-year-old. He has lots of room to add power to his fastball as he continues to throw a great curveball.
15. Aramis Ademan, SS
Age: 18 (DOB 09/13/1998)
Ademan is a young, Dominican shortstop that has a fair ability to get on base and swipe bags after he gets there. There is not a ton of power evident at this point, but he could be a solid hitter at shortstop in the future.
16. D.J. Wilson, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 10/08/1996)
Wilson athleticism and quickness allows him to steal bases and excel in the field. He may even have some sneaky power – something to keep an eye on as he progresses.
17. Victor Caratini, C/1B
Age: 23 (DOB 08/17/1993)
Caratini spent all of 2016 in double-A where he slashed .291/.375/.405. He hold value in being the top catching prospect for the Cubs and his ability to get on base at a fair rate.
18. Ryan Kellogg, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB 02/04/1994)
Kellogg had a good 2016 posting a 3.03 ERA over 130 innings in single-A. The 6-foot-6 Canadian that went to college at Arizona State can throw well, but hasn’t made up his mind on what climate he prefers to live in. Perfect guy to stay in Chicago.
19. Wladimir Galindo, 3B
Age: 20 (DOB 11/06/1996)
Galindo is a 6-foot-3 Venezuelan that has shown flashes of power. The tools are there to be a great, slugging corner-infielder, but there is still a bit to develop.
20. Erling Moreno, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 01/13/1997)
Moreno has already has UCL reconstruction with his elbow in his young career, but he still shows a lot of promise. As a 19-year-old in low-A last year he pitched 30 innings and found himself with a 0.90 ERA.
21. Isaac Paredes, SS
Age: 17 (DOB 02/18/1999)
Paredes made his way to single-A as a 17-year-old, but spent most of the year in rookie ball. He can be compared a fair bit to Aramis Ademan as a shortstop with a fair ability to hit and get on base.
22. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
Age: 24 (DOB 03/26/1992)
Zastryzny has stumbled his way through the minors, but may have found his place as a reliever in the majors. He might get a shot at starting again, but the Cubs may want to keep him as more of a LOOGY reliever.
23. Felix Pena, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 02/25/1990)
Pena pitched well as a reliever in triple-A in 2016 and saw nine innings in the majors (even recording a save). Going into his age 27 season, the Cubs seem apt to give him his shot as a reliever in the majors in 2017.
24. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 05/10/1991)
Johnson pitched very well as a younger Cub, but 2016 was rough with a 6.29 ERA over 63 innings. He also seems to often find nagging injuries that hold him back a bit. If a return to health and his former stuff can be found, there is plenty of potential.
25. Zach Hedges, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 10/21/1992)
Hedges had a great 2016 gathering a 2.75 ERA over 144 innings between high-A and double-A. The 6-foot-4 pitcher that spent time at Azusa Pacific has a great slider that could find its way to be a weapon in the majors somehow.
26. Ryan Williams, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 11/01/1991)
Williams pitched 44 innings in triple-A in 2016 before being shut down for the year with a shoulder issue. He has shown great promise throughout the minors and we need to see if he can overcome his injury in 2017.
27. Jose Paulino, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 04/09/1995)
Paulino dominated low-A in 2016 with a 0.51 ERA over 35 innings before getting pulled up to single-A where he had a 3.15 ERA over 40 more innings. The young, lefty Dominican shows promise and just needs to continue proving himself.
28. Jake Stinnett, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 04/25/1992)
Stinnett played all of 2016 in high-A and found himself with a 4.27 ERA over 116 innings. He needs to progress a bit faster if he wants to make an impact at the major-league level someday.
29. Jacob Hannemann, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 04/29/1991)
Hannemann hit ten home runs and swiped 26 bags in double-A in 2016. Going into his age 26 season he needs to move quickly to make an impact in the majors.
30. Jose Rosario, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 08/29/1990)
Rosario flew through the ranks as a relief pitcher in 2016 and posted a 2.50 ERA across three levels. He was added to the Cubs’ 40-man in November and may get his shot this year.
31. Preston Morrison, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 07/19/1993)
Morrison finished 2016 with a 2.11 ERA over 128 innings between single-A and high-A. He has some potential to vault up the rankings.
32. Charcer Burks, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 03/09/1995)
Burks hit 11 home runs and stole 23 bases with a .247/.356/.407 slash line in high-A in 2016.
33. Chesny Young, 2B/3B
Age: 24 (DOB 10/06/1992)
Young plays well all over the field and seems destined to be a great utility player unless he can land more solidly at one position. His great hit tool and ability to get on base should continue to propel him forward after spending all of 2016 in double-A.
34. P.J. Higgins, C
Age: 23 (DOB 05/10/1993)
Higgins spent 2016 in single-A where he batted .283/.389/.355. Higgins might not get too many people wildly excited, but he plays a fair catcher and gets on base at a great clip.
35. Ian Rice, C
Age: 23 (DOB 08/19/1993)
Rice hit 15 home runs across single-A and high-A in 2016 while batting .265/.380/.461.
36. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B/SS
Age: 20 (DOB 08/27/1996)
The young middle-infielder out of Mexico batted .310/.366/.373 in single-A in 2016.
37. Michael Rucker, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 04/27/1994)
Rucker was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round in 2016 after finishing at BYU and Gonzaga with an ERA of 2.90 over 180 innings.
38. Justin Steele, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 07/11/1995)
Steele played all of 2016 in single-A and finished with a 5.00 ERA. He had posted much better numbers in the lower leagues and may require some more time to adjust.
39. Carson Sands, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 03/28/1995)
Sands stats lineup similar to Justin Steele as they struggled in single-A together. Hopefully one can figure it out and help the other.
40. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/03/1994)
Tseng has struggled a touch more as he’s moved up each year posting a 4.29 ERA over 113.1 innings in double-A in 2016.
41. Bailey Clark, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 12/03/1994)
Clark was just drafted in 2016 by the Cubs, but seems as though his stuff may be destined for the bullpen in the future.
42. Corey Black, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 08/04/1991)
Black had a wild 2015 and began to bring himself back together in 2016 before getting moved to triple-A. Black may need to figure himself out as a reliever in triple-A before he can get a shot at the majors.
43. Chad Hockin, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/07/1994)
Another hard-throwing 2016 draft pick that may be destined for a future in the bullpen.
44. Trent Giambrone, 2B
Age: 23 (DOB 12/20/1993)
Giambrone was taken by the Cubs in the 25th round of the 2016 draft and immediately made an impact in low-A slashing .292/.404/.433 over the 51 games he got to play.
45. Kevin Cornelius, 1B/3B
Age: 24 (DOB 08/28/1992)
Cornelius was just taken in the rule 5 draft by the Cubs in December after floating around the lower minors with some fair stats. He’ll have to prove himself against more difficult competition to stick around.
46. Ryan McNeil, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 02/01/1994)
McNeil had a great 2.50 ERA over 54 innings in relief for high-A Myrtle Beach in 2016 recording 22 saves.
47. Brad Markey, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 03/03/1992)
Markey pitched 84 innings with a 1.61 ERA in 2015 then moved to double-A in 2016 where he found an ERA of 3.17 over 130.2 innings.
48. Chris Pieters, 1B/OF
Age: 22 (DOB 09/21/1994)
Pieters stole 20 bases and slashed .246/.324/.337 in low-A in 2016.
49. Kyle Twomey, LHP
Age: 23 (DOB 12/29/1993)
Twomey threw for a 3.44 ERA over 73.1 innings in single-A in 2016.
50. David Bote, 2B
Age: 23 (DOB 04/07/1993)
Bote slashed .328/.399/.492 playing mostly in high-A in 2016.