The past few days have been pretty busy when it comes to prospect lists of the top 100 variety and even individual Cubs lists. It began on Wednesday morning when FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen dropped his latest rankings, which included three Cubs names. Only Brennen Davis was listed in the top 100, but Brailyn Marquez was listed at 113 and Reggie Preciado was the final name at No. 133.
Davis actually came it at 41 overall, the highest a Cubs prospect has been ranked on any list in a while. He was at 50 a year ago and has advanced because he has “quickly translated his athleticism into production and his ceiling is considerable.” Longenhagen is one of the few writers who buys into Davis as much as Cubs fans do.
Márquez was knocked because his “low arm angle, unathletic delivery, and inconsistent command produce considerable relief risk.” This is becoming a more common theme this winter and could be influenced by the big lefty arriving at the Cubs’ alternate site looking a little out of shape. The 22-year-old is slated to open the season at Double-A Tennessee, a relative stone’s throw from Chicago in developmental terms, and the option to remain a starter enhances his profile if he can command his pitches better.
The recently acquired Preciado has been a favorite of Longenhagen’s since before coming over in the Yu Darvish trade. In fact, Longenhagen said at the time of the trade that he would rank Preciado ahead of Ed Howard on the Cubs’ list. Based on the overall list, Preciado will be No. 3 for the North Siders when FanGraphs’ team lists arrive.
Keith Law of The Athletic released his top 20 Cubs prospects list early Wednesday afternoon and, as usual, it was a little bit different from most others. Sometimes it appears as though he’s going for shock value, but a lot of that is how evaluators view prospects in terms of ceilings or floors. While Law’s 20-man configuration naturally didn’t vary greatly in terms of most names, there were a few exceptions.
Davis was on top, followed by Márquez and the rest of the usual suspects for the remainder of the top 10 (in no particular order): Howard, Adbert Alzolay, Ryan Jensen, Miguel Amaya, Kohl Franklin. Then he went off the board a little bit with two surprises: Riley Thompson and Yohendrick Pinango.
Riley Thompson is sitting 93 to 94 sometimes topping out at 96. He’s given up 3 unearned runs so far. pic.twitter.com/vxYFU6bmJv
— Todd ⚾️🐻🦌 (@CubsCentral08) May 5, 2019
Law loves Riley’s combination of offspeed pitches but sees him more as a reliever due to his injury history. Ranking Pinango this highly might be an attempt by Law to sort of call his shot by guessing early on a prospect and hoping the kid hits it big. The evaluation spent more time gushing about Pinango’s physical projection than his 145 wRC+ in 2019.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 w/ Yohendrick Pinango pic.twitter.com/cXn3Q67jTA
— REP1 Baseball (@REP1Baseball) June 12, 2020
Not to be outdone, Kiley McDaniel of ESPN released his top Cubs list ($) on Friday morning. Davis was at No. 1 and Amaya at No. 2 based on the overall top 100 that dropped a week ago, so the question was how young and athletic McDaniel going to go in evaluating the rest of the system’s top tier.
The answer is pretty young, even though the list is only 10 deep. Davis and Amaya were joined by Alzolay, Márquez, and Cole Roederer. Then there were five teenage shortstops: Howard, Preciado, Cristian Hernandez, Yeison Santana, and Kevin Made. This is the first time we’ve seen either of the latter two ranked that high.
That correlates with the Cubs’ increasing depth at short and I also like that McDaniel is still high on Roederer, the 21-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder. The best part of the list is the “Others of Note” section in which McDaniel drops some names that could break out in the spring or summer. Included this time are Strumpf, Jensen, Owen Caissie, Ismael Mena, Jordan Nwogu, and Ronnier Quintero.
While I agree with most of it, I am a bit stunned at the lack of love at all for Franklin and Christopher Morel.
Finally, FanGraphs published their Top 100 ZIPS projections for prospects on Friday morning. Amaya came in at 27 and Davis, who has played in only 68 career MiLB games, still got some juice at 86. Pitcher Cory Abbott was slotted in at 96.
If you have been reading our minor league coverage this winter and beyond, none of the aforementioned prospects or trends mentioned here should be particularly surprising to you. The Cubs’ system has changed a great deal over the past two summers, both in terms of the types of players the organization is acquiring and how those players are being developed.
Among the major outlets, only MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs have yet to release their top Cubs lists, though it’s hard to imagine either will look markedly different from what we’ve seen so far. Davis was the highest-ranked Cub on six of the nine lists so far and Márquez was led the other three. That represents a shift from a year ago, but the real changes will come this summer.
The long-awaited return of Minor League Baseball means seeing players in action for the first time in over a year and a half, and how those players handled their own development during that layoff will say a lot.
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