I used to think that Baseball Prospectus intentionally put a little shock value into their top prospect lists for the Cubs system. In 2015, they placed Addison Russell over Kris Bryant at the top. I understand that Russell has MVP-type qualities, but there’s no way they should’ve selected him over Bryant.
The following year, BP picked Gleyber Torres over Willson Contreras. That wasn’t really much of a shock, as Contreras had had one good season at the plate at AA Tennessee. Everybody knew he could play defense, but they were unsure whether his 2015 season at Tennessee was an outlier. He quickly proved that his talent was greater than anyone thought it could be heading into that next season.
BP had a tough decision to make for the 2017 list. Would they follow suit with most other prognosticators and select Eloy Jimenez number one or would they go with Ian Happ? Or would they go total wild card? In the days leading up to the list’s publication, I kept thinking they’d go with the latter type of pick.
They began with this statement: “Flags fly forever, baby! (It’s not very strong at the top, but there’s a lot of interesting young upside plays further down the list).” I think that is fairly accurate. The Cubs do have a few high profile bats in the top 5, but the rest of the list is still quite young and has yet to prove its muster past low-A.
1. OF Eloy Jimenez
2. 2B/OF Ian Happ
3. OF Albert Almora, Jr. (Almora has just a few at-bats before he loses his prospect status)
4. RHP Trevor Clifton
5. 3B Jeimer Candelario
6. RHP Jose Albertos
7. RHP Dylan Cease
8. RHP Oscar De La Cruz
9. OF Eddy Julio Martinez
10. RHP Thomas Hatch
It’s a pretty straightforward list, not that much different from any others we have been profiling the past month. Nothing jumps out at you like in previous years. Cease is a little lower while Clifton and Albertos are a little higher than you might find elsewhere. Hatch and Martinez are on this list but not on others.
Mark Zagunis is not included in the top ten, but he gets props later at #11. Isaac Paredes, Donnie Dewees, and Jose Rosario got some BP love as well, and I really believe Paredes could be the big breakout prospect this year.
Paternostro even has a section on Duane Underwood who has tumbled a bit due to inconsistent health and performance.
We pegged Underwood as a riser for 2016, but it didn’t quite work out that way. An elbow injury cost him some time, but even when he was on the mound, the stuff and command went in the wrong direction this year. He didn’t consistently show the mid-90s fastball of the past and the curve continued to just flash. He still struggles to throw strikes, and coupled with the recent arm woes, the Cubs might be best off moving the former second-round pick to the bullpen sooner rather than later.
While that assessment is extremely accurate, Sunday’s “Down on the Farm” session from CubsCon painted a different picture of where Underwood is at in his development. In the video by Evan Altman, Jaron Madison discusses Underwood in the very first minute.
It will be interesting to see how the players on this list develop over the course of the year. Some will rise, some will fall, and some may even make it Chicago. The interesting thing about the write-up by Jeffrey Paternostro is that it has a section on what could happen to each prospect if things went south. For most, the worst-case scenario has them ending at AA.
I should be back later this week with a post about Fangraphs’ top prospect list, which is set to be released later today or early Tuesday.