For the past five summers, the strength of the Cubs’ minor-league system was always their hitters. The sheer talent level of prospects who’ve made it to Chicago has been amazing, whether you’re citing Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, or Kyle Schwarber. Add in Albert Almora as the heir apparent to the center field spot and Jeimer Candelario chomping at the bit and the list gets longer.
After Candelario and Almora, the herd of elite position players thins somewhat. There are, however, still some good hitting prospects to keep an eye on, some of whom are more well-known than others. Here are five hitters who’ve been flying just slightly under the radar but who I think should top storylines in the Cubs minor league system in 2017.
Wladimir Galindo – The young third baseman stayed healthy for the first time in 2016. What we saw in that campaign was a bat that produced a lot of doubles, triples, and home runs for Eugene. At the same time, that bat that was not very selective. During the first part of August, Galindo had a nice run over two weeks when he hit for a good average, drew some walks, and hit a few home runs. South Bend is in for a treat in 2017 and manager Jimmy Gonzalez has done an excellent job of teaching plate discipline for the prospects there over the last two years. I am really excited to see how Galindo takes to Gonzalez’s tutelage.
Matt Rose – It’s gonna be really interesting to see if Rose can pick up where he left off at the end of 2016, when he hit seven home runs just in August. I don’t think he can do that every month, but it would be nice to see that power potential continue at Myrtle Beach in 2017. Rose also showed the ability to hit for average in his second go-round at South Bend.
Jonathan Sierra – This tall left-handed-hitting outfielder made his debut in 2016 in the Dominican Summer League. He did not get off to the greatest start, hitting only .194 in June. But as the summer wore on, Sierra begin to do something most normal 17-year-olds don’t. He began to walk. Most really young prospects begin to develop their plate approach somewhere around the low-A level. It is quite surprising that Sierra began to display such discipline that early and that well. I think he will debut stateside at Mesa in 2017.
Delvin Zinn – He is 100% pure athlete, maybe the best in the system. The 2015 and 2016 draft pick signed and got some work in at Mesa in 2016. Zinn then showed a significant degree of development in a short time at fall instructs. With two more years of similar growth, he could become one of the top prospects in the system. The fact that the Cubs drafted him in back to back years should give you a hint as to how much they value his talent. Whether he sticks at second base or shortstop is still up in the air, but he’s got time for that to sort itself out. He should begin 2017 in Eugene.
Chesny Young – Now at AAA Iowa, Young can almost sniff Chicago. 2017 should be his best year, as he will be in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. I don’t know if he’s ever going to be a regular in a major league starting lineup, but he could contribute off the bench as a pinch-hitter/utility man. Young hit .303 at AA Tennessee in 2016, and might be able to come up and stick with Chicago later in the year. Even as a right-handed hitter, he holds a lot of value with his ability to hit and get on base. Young has played all over the infield at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, where he also logged eight games in the outfield, in the last two seasons. That versatility could prime him for a utility role in the majors. While Young is never going to display a lot of power in the majors, he will hit and get on base a lot.
There are several other prospects to keep an eye on, including Eddy Martinez, Eloy, Ian Happ, DJ Wilson, Donnie Dewees, and Yasiel Balaguert. There’s also a young man by the name of Eloy Jimenez who might draw some attention. If you were to focus on one team just to watch the hitters develop, I think it has to be Tennessee. They will have a lot of interesting bats in the first half and could have even more as the season progresses.