Chicago Cubs Top 21 Prospects: Revised


It has not been that long since I published my Top 21 Prospects for the Cubs farm system, but in that time the Cubs traded away Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner. Those trades brought the Cubs a nice haul of minor league talent. Every prospect the Cubs received deserves consideration for this list. Anothony Rizzo is clearly the best player to come back to the Cubs, and he will be somewhere near the top of the revised list. In the cases of Zach Cates, Dave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes things are a little less clear. All three are high quality players who improve the overall level of talent in the Cubs farm system, but do they crack the Top 21?

Let’s deal with these cases one at a time, starting with Rizzo. The left handed slugging first baseman instantly became one of the best hitters in the Cubs farm system and easily the highest ranked first base prospect. As one of the best prospects in all of baseball, Rizzo will definitely be near the top of the list for the Cubs. In my original rankings I had a top four that looked like this:
1 – Brett Jackson
2 – Matt Szczur
3 – Trey McNutt
4 – Javier Baez.

Jackson will continue to hold the top spot because he can play center, a position in which it is harder to find offensive production. Rizzo becomes the new number two, beating out another center fielder in Szczur largely because Rizzo is substantially closer to the majors.

The case for Zach Cates is much less clear cut. In his first year of professional ball he pitched fairly well for the Padres’ affiliate in the Low-A Midwest League. While his BB/9 is a little high, I can’t argue with this K/9 or his WHIP. He compares well to Luis Liria (number 16 on my original list) and Eric Jokisch (number 21), but not well enough to replace either. Ultimately, Cates joins a very good group of pitchers who just missed the Top 21. That group includes pitchers like Ben Wells, Yao-Lin Wang, Frank Del Valle, Starling Peralta, and more. Any one of them could surge out of the tremendous depth in the Cubs farm system to claim a spot on this list next winter.

Whereas the Cubs farm system is crowded with good, low level pitching, the system is also a little thin on good, high level outfielders. Dave Sappelt helps to reverse that trend. Sappelt is a smallish outfielder who does a lot of things well but doesn’t excel in any one area. He is a very good hitter, but lacks both the power expected from a corner outfielder and the speed expected from center. That limits his offensive potential. Defensively, he is solid across the outfield giving him added value as a potential fourth outfielder. In fact, he sounds a lot like Jae-Hoon Ha (number 19 on my original list). Ha is much younger than Sappelt, and while Sappelt has shown more offensive potential than Ha so far, Ha did reach Double A at the very young age of 20. Due in large part to his age and the potential to evolve into a multidimensional player on offense, I am going to keep Ha in place. Sappelt does make the list, however, checking in one slot below Ha.

And that leaves Ronald Torreyes. The Cubs were already deep at middle infield before Torreyes arrived, but even in the Cubs crowd of prospects Torreyes stands out. While he is a good defensive second baseman, his standout feature is his ability to hit for average. He rarely walks, rarely strikes out, and doesn’t show much power, but he does hit. And hit. And hit. His .356 BA in the Midwest League is an eye opener, and his .457 SLG isn’t bad for an 18 year old kid who weighed just 140 pounds. At first glance his stolen base numbers are nothing special (12 in 2011), but when you consider how often he got caught (7 times) a different picture starts to emerge. Torreyes is young, undersized, and raw, but if he can clean up his base running game, he projects as a nice addition to the top of anyone’s batting order. In the Cubs system, he compares best with Zeke DeVoss (number 13 on the original list), Pin-Chieh Chen (number 14). Both DeVoss and Chen have shown more potential as a stolen base threat than Torreyes, and that additional tool will keep them just ahead of the new acquisition on the list. Below Chen on my original list is Jeimar Candelario, a very young third baseman who might have more potential than anyone else in the system. He also stays in place. Torreyes will slot in below Candelario and one slot ahead of Luis Liria.

With those additions made, the new Chicago Cubs Top 21 Prospects List looks like this.
1. Brett Jackson – CF
2. Anthony Rizzo – 1B
3. Matt Szczur – CF
4. Trey McNutt – RHP
5. Javier Baez – 3B/SS
6. Robert Whitenack – RHP
7. Rafael Dolis – RHP
8. Welington Castillo – C
9. Jeff Beliveau – LHP
10. Josh Vitters – 3B/1B/OF
11. Junior Lake – SS/3B
12. Dae-Eun Rhee – RHP
13. Dan Vogelbach – 1B
14. Zeke DeVoss – 2B/OF
15. Pin-Chieh Chen – OF/2B
16. Jeimar Candelario – 3B
17. Ronald Torreyes – 2B
18. Luis Liria – RHP
19. Gioskar Amaya – INF
20. Dillon Maples – RHP
21. Jae-Hoon Ha – OF

Bumped off the top 21 are three players previous ranked.

22 – Dave Sappelt – OF
23. Hayden Simpson – RHP
24. Eric Jokisch – LHP

With these new additions the Cubs farm system is without doubt ranked in the top half of the league, and rising. The bulk of the talent is a few years away, but there is no doubt that the Cubs have a farm system that can produce the players needed to help rebuild the Cubs into a perennial contender.