When the Cubs reconvene in Mesa in late February 2019, the team should feature some offensive personnel some from the offseason. There will be a few free agents added and maybe even a couple of trades. But when it comes to prospects advancing to help the major-league team, the odds are very slim outside of a few pitchers.
The Cubs will rely on AAA Iowa for pitching throughout next year. Theo Epstein tends to stock extra starters and relievers there and it is highly doubtful that any prospect will break camp on the 25-man roster. But later in the year it’s inevitable that someone will get a shot in case of injury or through their own performance. When it comes to which prospect might have next, it is a pretty short list.
1. Dakota Mekkes
After less than three seasons, he’s pretty much ready to show up in Chicago and help the bullpen. His deceptive delivery has played at every level of the minor leagues and he’s had great success at each step. He has had to make a few adjustments and he will continue to do so at the major-league level. The only thing holding him back is his walk rate.
2. Adbert Alzolay
Last winter it appeared he was being groomed for a spot in Chicago. He would be a great fit in the bullpen, but when you can still throw 96-97 in the 6th and 7th endings, you pretty much want to check that out as a starter first. The Cubs don’t really have a starter who can sling it that hard all the time. Once Alzolay appears to be healed from the lat strain that caused him to miss most of 2018, he might get a chance sooner than later. It’s going to be close between him and Mekkes.
3. Kyle Ryan
At times in 2018, he did very well out of the pen and he did very well as a starter for AAA Iowa. The former Tigers lefty reliever looks to be fully recovered from his poor 2016 and could earn a shot at some point next season.
4. Michael Rucker
When almost 70 percent of your pitches are strikes, people are going to take notice. Rucker spent the last year and a half starting at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, but might revert back to the ‘pen. As a reliever, he can sit 95-96 mph with his fastball and has excellent control and command of all his pitches.
5(tie). Mark Zagunis, Zack Short, Trent Giambrone
These three will all be on standby depending on the needs of the big league club, but Short might have the best chance in a middle infield capacity. He was named the top defensive shortstop in the AA Southern League while cranking out 17 home runs in 2018. More than likely, his shot would come later in the year. Then again, Addison Russell‘s issues might open the door for Short.
8. Nico Hoerner
When the Arizona Fall League begins on October 9, my eyes will be on Hoerner. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against such elite competition after just 50 at-bats between Eugene and South Bend. If Hoerner can hang, his career takes an immediate jump to beginning 2019 as the starting shortstop at AA Tennessee. As we’ve seen in the past, some of the Cubs’ top prospects tend not to stay too long there if they can dominate right out of the gate.