On Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list, the Chicago Cubs netted four names, including their top prospect, slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez.
The Chicago Cubs’ farm system is no longer the juggernaut it once was. But for good reason – most of the organization’s top talent has already ascended to the big leagues. Names like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell once headlined such prospect rankings. Now, they’re found on Joe Maddon‘s lineup card on a daily basis.
In the publication’s annual release, a notable name familiar to Cubs fans came in at number five: Gleyber Torres. The middle infielder was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to Chicago at the deadline last summer.
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Some considered dealing Torres, along with several other talents, to New York in exchange for Chapman to be a bit steep. But, at the end of the day, Chicago got a championship out of it, so it’s hard to argue with the results.
While Torres ranked in the league’s top five prospects, the Chicago Cubs’ top name was Eloy Jimenez, who came in at number 14.
Per Baseball Prospectus, Jimenez has the highest ceiling in the system.
"“If there’s one player in the Cubs’ farm system who could be a multi-time All-Star, it’s Jimenez,” reads his profile. “The Cubs rave about his makeup and his arm in right field is one of the best in the system.”"
After Jimenez, who batted an impressive .329 with Low-A Myrtle Beach, the next-highest ranked member of the Cubs organization comes in at number 63 in Ian Happ. The switch-hitting second baseman turned heads late last year with his impressive offensive exploits, but he’s not likely to see Chicago until 2018.
The former ninth overall pick of the Cubs has proven himself to be an on-base machine, as he posted an OBP north of .410 at Myrtle Beach. His numbers tailed off a bit when he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee, but he still batted .262 with the Smokies. He also drove in 31 runs in 65 games.
Still a prospect..for now
The man who follows Happ on the list is a familiar name to all Chicago baseball fans in the form of Albert Almora Jr. Heading into last year, we profiled the speedy outfielder as we looked at what his future may hold.
The highlight of Almora’s 2016 campaign came in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 of the National League Division Series. With the winning run on first, Buster Posey connected on a ball, driving it deep to right field.
Almora raced to his left as the runner on first, Brandon Belt, chugged around the bases, looking to score the winning run. The Chicago rookie laid out, making a spectacular catch – before firing a strike to first base to double off the Giants’ first baseman to end the inning.
While his bat leaves something to be desired, the value Almora brings to the team in his legs and glove is immense. He’ll likely platoon with newcomer Jon Jay in center field and will no doubt see time off the bench as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner for skipper Joe Maddon.
The final member of the Chicago Cubs’ organization to make an appearance on Baseball America’s Prospect List is right-hander Dylan Cease.
He made a dozen starts for the Eugene Emeralds last season, impressing as he went. The 21-year-old averaged a staggering 13.3 strikeouts per nine, limiting opponents to 5.4 hits in the process.
There is no likely scenario where Cease is a short-term solution at the big-league level for Chicago. He’s got all of two dozen professional appearances under his belt. While he’s been dominant, at times, he has yet to taste the high levels of the minors.
Per Baseball America, Cease won’t reach the Friendly Confines this year or even next – but it slated to make his big league debut in 2019.
With a strong core of position players dominating the roster in Chicago, it seems likely Theo Epstein and the front office will soon shift their focus toward long-term pitching assets. But, for the time being, position players are the organization’s biggest asset – as proven by the 2017 Baseball America Top 100.