The Chicago Cubs traded away many of their assets en route to a World Series title. That prospect depth is starting to be replenished, slowly but surely.
MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list was released on Saturday. It’s one of the most highly-regarded prospect lists in baseball, alongside others like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. And, after a few years on the quieter side, the Chicago Cubs and their system had some cause for excitement.
But near the bottom of the list, two Chicago Cubs prospects were named, an improvement from last year’s lone representative. After being ranked No. 87 last year, catcher Miguel Amaya landed at No. 94 on the 2019 list, while shortstop Nico Hoerner rounded out the list at No. 100. Both are promising prospects who had strong showings in 2018, and having two guys on the list is a good sign for the replenishment of the Cubs farm system.
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More catching depth on the way
Amaya’s 2018 season opened a lot of eyes to his potential. He signed with the Cubs in July 2015 out of Panama, and 2018 was his first full season of minor league ball (he spent 2016 in the Dominican Summer League and 2017 with short season in Eugene).
In his first full season with Low-A South Bend, Amaya impressed. He slashed .256/.349/.403 with 12 home runs in 116 games. His success was enough to earn him a spot in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C. He’ll likely start 2019 at High-A Myrtle Beach. A midseason promotion could be a possibility, though front offices usually prefer to take their time with catching prospects in the minor leagues.
According to MLB Pipeline’s report on Amaya on the Top 100 list, the Cubs were originally attracted to Amaya’s defensive abilities, and he has shown signs of being a skilled framer. Those abilities would certainly be appreciated at the major league level, and his offensive potential wouldn’t hurt, either. It could take a few seasons, but Amaya has shown that more catching depth could be on the way soon to assist Willson Contreras.
Another first-round college hitter on the move
Shortstop Nico Hoerner headlined the Cubs 2018 MLB Draft selections, and he didn’t disappoint in his short stint in pro ball this summer. The first-round pick out of Stanford started in the Arizona Rookie League and ascended to Low-A South Bend after a stop in Eugene before being benched with a left elbow injury 14 games in.
In those 14 games, though, he slashed .327/.450/.571 with two home runs. After recovering from injury, he played in the Arizona Fall League and continued that success, batting .337 in 21 games for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Hoerner’s quick ascension last summer brings to mind the development of the Cubs’ past first-round college hitter selections: Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. All ascended through the minor leagues quickly and found early success in the big leagues. Hoerner could provide depth in the infield as soon as 2020 or even as a potential September call-up in 2019.
With Ben Zobrist‘s contract ending soon and Happ looking more like an everyday outfield guy, Hoerner’s depth could be needed, whether at shortstop or second base.
For all the talk of the Cubs’ farm system being diminished, it’s making its way back slowly. Fans can get excited about prospects like Amaya and Hoerner, and several other players from the 2018 draft look to be on their way up as well.