Opening Day is near, and the Chicago Cubs are looking to rejuvenate their roster. With limited cap space, there weren’t many new faces added through free agency, so they could look towards their farm system. Although most of their top prospects are far from being ready for the MLB, some players may make an appearance on the roster in 2020. Here are the Cubs top ten current prospects, according to MLB.com.
Nico Hoerner – SS/2B/OF
Coming in at the number one spot is Nico Hoerner, who is already a familiar face for Cubs fans, after playing in some important games at the end of last season. Hoerner played 20 games and had 78 at-bats as a Cub. He impressed when filling in for an injured Javier Baez by hitting .282/.305/.436.
MLB.com has him at 51st in their top-100 prospect list. This season would be his official rookie campaign. He is competing with veteran Jason Kipnis, who was the Cubs most notable acquisition in the off-season. If Hoerner doesn’t win the starting job, he may be sent down to Triple-A, so he can get some quality reps. Chicago doesn’t want to stunt the young infielders growth by letting him sit on the bench.
Brailyn Marquez – LHP
Brailyn Marquez is Chicago’s top pitching prospect. He has an electric fastball, that can reach over 100 mph. Marquez is the most promising pitcher developed for the Cubs in a long time because Theo Epstein has consistently looked to free agency for arms in the rotation.
His biggest problem has been his control, but he is steadily improving. In his last seven games of 2019, he pitched 38 innings with a 1.17 ERA and a 48/8 K/BB ratio. The 21-year old southpaw has been in the Cubs farm system since 2016, and is expected to reach the majors in 2021. With his intangibles, he is expected to be a starter near the top of the rotation for Chicago in the near future.
Brennen Davis – OF
The Cubs drafted Brennen Davis in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. He is a freak athlete that they hope can eventually reach 30-30 (HR-SB) level production. Davis has been nagged by injuries in the past year, which has slowed his development in the minors. In minimal games he showed some promise — with a slash line of .305/.381/.525.
Chicago hopes he can stay healthy throughout this entire season. With his arm strength he can play anywhere in the outfield, and he has incredible speed. He could be a prototypical lead-off hitter and center fielder. Davis is still a couple seasons from making the jump to the big leagues. There’s no doubt he has the highest upside out of all their positional prospects.
Miguel Amaya – C
Miguel Amaya is a 6’1, 20-year-old catcher from Panama. He was signed by the organization at age 16. Amaya has been molded into a reliable option behind the plate. His stats don’t jump off the page, but the Cubs like how he is progressing. Amaya is expected to reach the big leagues by 2021, and with Willson Contreras being surrounded in trade talks, the timeline makes sense.
Unfortunately, the young prospect doesn’t look like he’s close to reaching Contreras’ production any time soon. However, he could be a quality replacement or second option off the bench. Amaya is on track to becoming a .260 hitter with 12-15 home runs. The defense will be his most sought after trait as he continues to improve.
Cole Roederer – OF
Cole Roederer is a 6’0, left-handed outfielder. He fell in the 2018 draft because of an injury to his right shoulder. Roederer decided to forgo college, even after a strong commitment to UCLA, and has struggled early on in his stint with Chicago. Pitchers have taken advantage of his aggressiveness at the plate by throwing a heavy dose of changeups. This is typical for many players who go pro straight out of high school.
Brennen Davis and Roederer have shared time at center field, which may continue to be the case in 2020. They both seem very capable defensively, but Davis has shown much more potential at the plate. Roederer had an average of just .224 but managed to hit .254 in the final six weeks of last season. The team expects him to make great strides as he gets stronger and matures more as a hitter.
Adbert Alzolay – RHP
Adbert Alzolay went into Spring Training with a chance at cracking the starting rotation but was recently optioned back to Triple-A. The 25-year-old pitcher has been hampered by injuries in his career but emerged as the Cubs top prospect in 2017. Since then he has struggled to stay consistent. He had a 10.80 ERA in just five innings this spring and a 7.30 ERA in twelve innings in the majors last season.
Chicago has kept their faith in Alzolay, and refuse to convert him into a bullpen pitcher. They believe he can soon be a good addition to their starting five, but his recent performance hasn’t supported those notions. With him being sent down to the minors yet again, the final spot in the rotation will be given to Tyler Chatwood or Alec Mills. The Cubs have praised his work ethic, so it may be only a matter of time before we see him make another appearance.
Kohl Franklin – RHP
Kohl Franklin was Oklahoma’s top high school prospect in 2018, but missed most of the year with a broken foot. As he fills out his 6’4 frame, his pitching speeds have started to rise. His fastball velocity has been between 91-97 mph, which is a major improvement from his velocity of 86-89 mph in 2017.
Franklin is considered yet another promising pitching prospect for an organization that has struggled to develop pitchers. His ETA in the majors is 2022, as he gets ready to play full-season ball this season. He will need to stay healthy, but the Cubs believe he can be a mid-rotation starter in the next few seasons.
Ryan Jensen – RHP
The fourth and last pitcher in the Cubs top ten prospects is Ryan Jensen. Chicago drafted him in the first round of the 2019 draft. In his last year at Fresno State, Jensen won Mountain West Pitcher of the Year honors and tournament MVP awards. He has one of the best fastballs in the 2019 college class.
Jensen showed that he could maintain a high velocity on his pitches late into his outings. A concern is his ability to provide strikes. He will likely spend a couple of years in the minors to improve his control on secondary pitches, and ensure he can pitch within the strike zone consistently against professional batters.
Chase Strumpf – 2B
Chase Strumpf was also drafted in 2019 out of UCLA. He’s quickly drawn comparisons to fellow prospect Nico Hoerner. At the plate, he typically hits line drives and has more of a contact approach — although he does have the strength to hit it out of the ballpark. Early projections show he could reach up to 20 homers with his hitting style.
Strumpf isn’t the best positional prospect the Cubs have, but he could offer some much-needed depth at the MLB level. He’s still a season or two away from contending for a roster spot. Scouts believe he is more of an everyday player, rather than a utility guy. He lacks speed and arm strength but gets the job done at second base.
Christopher Morel – 3B
Christopher Morel excels in the field at the hot corner. His arm strength and speed are perfect at third base. He also makes good use of that speed with an aggressive base running approach. He’ll need to add strength to his 6 foot, skinny frame, so he can get more power behind his swing. The hope is he doesn’t lose his quickness when he adds extra muscle.
Morel already has one of the best bat speeds and exit velocities in the Cubs system. Although he tends to swing sporadically at bad pitches and tries to pull the ball too often. If he can become an average hitter, he will be a great asset to the roster. His advanced fielding and base running are his best traits. He’s joined in the minors by his brother Rafael Morel, who is listed at shortstop. Both of them could have a bright future for the organization.
Many of these prospects are still a long way from the big leagues, but a couple of them are closer than others. Nico Hoerner is the obvious candidate to be added to the roster. David Ross will have to decide who gets the nod at second base on Opening Day. The other two options, David Bote and Jason Kipnis, have much more experience than Hoerner, but he has a higher upside. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the spot to begin the season.
Another player who will likely get an opportunity at some point in 2020 is Adbert Alzolay. He made his MLB debut last season and is the most prepared pitching prospect. Though some of the other players have a better skill set, the Cubs would much rather call him up in the middle of the season. Injuries during a long 162-game campaign are imminent, Alzolay will be needed to fill in for any starter that misses significant time.
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