As we get ready for the calendar to flip to 2023, we can look back and find excitement regarding the leaps and bounds the Chicago Cubs farm system made this year. Fresh off a finals appearance that saw the Tennessee Smokies get eliminated in a winner-take-all game, with more experience and new additions from their list of top prospects arriving, the Smokies will look to go all the way in Double-A ball.
In fact, thanks to Jed Hoyer making several key trades in 2021, the organization saw three of it's four minor league teams make the playoffs just a season later. For the likes of Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez, followed by Scott Effross and David Robertson in 2022, the Cubs received seven prospects from those deals who are all now in the team's top prospect rankings. Five of them are in the Cubs' top 10 and all have the potential to climb into MLB Pipeline's top 100. Now, as we look ahead and as these prospects begin to get promoted, the Smokies will be in a prime position to succeed in 2023.
In order to understand why It's important to remember that a few prospects that succeeded last year will at least start in Double-A again. Moreover, Key prospects from South Bend that contributed to the team's 2022 Midwest League Championship will find themselves making the jump to Tennessee this year. South Bend had immense success from their starting pitching. In particular, Luis Devers and Porter Hodge held it down. Devers with a 1.05 ERA over 8 starts and 11 appearances upon being promoted, and Hodge with a 2.01 ERA in 7 starts in 8 appearances.
You also hope to see Luke Little, who recorded a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings upon his promotion to South Bend continue to shine. Several pitchers already ran through South Bend and made it all the way to Triple-A Iowa. Guys like Jeremiah Estrada, for example, show the potential of being a key piece of the Cubs bullpen as soon as next season. However, it isn't all just pitching that makes for a good campaign in Tennessee next year.
Pete Crow-Armstrong eyeing another huge season in 2023
It's pretty much a sure thing that Cubs' top Prospect, Pete-Crow Armstrong, will land in Tennessee this season. In 2022, starting in Myrtle Beach, PCA recorded a .354/.443/.557 slash line before swiftly getting promoted to High-A after just 38 games. In South Bend, he went on to hit .287, bringing his season total to .312/.376/.520 with 16 HRs, 61 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. He was also awarded a Minor League Gold Glove for his stellar defense in center field.
At Tennessee, you already have Jordan Wicks, Ben Brown, Ryan Jensen, and Walker Powell on the mound. Realistically, you hope to see Wicks and Brown get the nod to Triple-A Iowa before long. Hopefully, DJ Herz finds his rhythm next season. Still, a rotation consisting of Jensen, Devers, Herz, Hodge, and Powell looks absolutely dominant on paper. Right there, you have 5 of the Cubs' top 30 prospects according to Northsidebound.com. Daniel Palencia, as well, is another key name to keep an eye on.
Elsewhere, you have the bats of Jake Slaughter, Bryce Ball, and Yonathan Perlaza. Not to mention Owen Caissie, Pablo Aliendo, Luis Verdugo, and Jordan Nwogu who all have the potential to move up to Tennessee as well. You'd also love to see Miguel Amaya stay healthy and work out for the Cubs moving forward. His potential has always been quite high. Safe to say, next season will be absolutely critical for the further development of Cubs' prospects.
Though Tennessee specifically will be loaded, there is nothing wrong with an overload of talent in your system. Some guys will move up, some won't and some will be traded the closer the Cubs get toward contention. Regardless, as it sits now, the Cubs farm system is one of the best in baseball at this point. It will only be a matter of time before more Cubs teams are hoisting trophies in the minors. If you're a fan of minor-league baseball, the time is right now to get excited.