Chicago Cubs: How will the pandemic impact prospects?

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball is still intent on finding a resolution that will allow players to return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic safely.

The Chicago Cubs might yet take the field this season, though a showdown between the owners and the MLBPA still awaits (subscription required).

But while this is positive news for fans and major leaguers, there is still a ton of uncertainty for minor league talent in all 30 organizations.

Insiders squashed a rumor the MiLB season was being canceled at the end of April.

However, the audacity of the situation–not to mention a shortened schedule–could have a drastic impact on minor league players, and not just financially.

The Cubs were hoping this season would be akin to a stepping stone for some of their top prospects, including several fringe guys who might have even broken camp out of spring training.

Consider: left-hander Brailyn Marquez had a breakout season in 2019 and excelled in five starts at High-A ball. Marquez was likely to start the season at Double-A, and an excellent performance there likely would have put him on a fast track for the major leagues, especially considering aging and a shortage of quality depth in Chicago’s rotation.

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What about Miguel Amaya? The Cubs are set at catcher for the time being, but David Ross was very high on the youngster’s defensive instincts during spring training. Giving Amaya a full year of seasoning at Double-A (or higher) would have allowed him to be more disciplined and refined at the plate.

Then there is Brennen Davis, the 20-year-old who suddenly looks like a significant future piece in the outfield. Davis slashed .305/.381/.525 with eight homers in 204 plate appearances at Class-A South Bend last season. His progression throughout a full season would have made for a major storyline.

The shortened season and unknowns concerning MiLB might also force the Chicago’s hand in terms of roster considerations.

For example, there is no telling whether Adbert Alzolay would have started in the bigs or the minors. But, if the Cubs elect not to begin the season with Alzolay on the roster, they run the risk of him losing a season to develop and throw necessary big-league innings.

Naturally, the same can be said for Nico Hoerner. It seemed more likely Hoerner would have made the team out of camp. He was having a mammoth spring (.310/.429/.414) before the shutdown, and the Cubs would have liked the added depth at second base.

Still, given the nature of the situation, will Hoerner’s progress be stagnated? Will the Cubs need to consider giving him even more at-bats?

The pandemic impacts all teams’ farm systems. Indeed, the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft will be just five rounds.

But this was an especially imperative season for Chicago’s young talent, especially considering this might very well be the final year the majority of the core from 2016 remains intact.

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Some were expected to contribute to the major-league club. Others hoped to make strides as they advanced towards “The Show.” Regardless, the pandemic has already done quite a bit to disrupt the progress of Chicago’s young players.