Every year after the minor league season ends, Baseball America announces a Top-20 prospects list for each minor league. The Cubs had five prospects named to these lists, all from the lower minor leagues.
These rankings are mostly based on conversations with the managers and coaches of each minor league. That’s slightly different from Baseball America’s rankings of the Top 30 prospects for each major league system, which weigh the opinions of scouts much more heavily.
To qualify for one of these lists, a player had to have played at least a third of that minor league team’s games in the previous season. So while everyone who saw Nico Hoerner play this summer was impressed, he doesn’t qualify for any of these lists.
The five players who were named to their league’s Top 20 prospects lists were:
South Bend Cubs Miguel Amaya, who was the 12th-best prospect in the Midwest League.
Eugene Emeralds left-handed pitcher Brailyn Marquez, who was the 3rd-ranked prospect in the Northwest League.
Eugene Emeralds outfielder Nelson Velazquez, whom BA ranked as the 8th-best prospect in the NWL.
Arizona Cubs outfielder Cole Roederer, the 7th-best prospect in the Arizona League.
And finally, AZL Cubs shortstop Luis Verdugo was the 17th-best prospect in the Arizona League.
The Cubs failed to have any Top 20 prospects in the Pacific Coast League, the Southern League or the Carolina League. Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, the two players the Cubs traded to the White Sox for Jose Quintana, were the both ranked as the best prospect in the Southern League and the Carolina League respectively.
The Dominican Summer League list is yet to come and if the Cubs place someone on that list, I’ll have an update.
On Amaya, BA praised both his offense and defense, especially for a player who was still only 19 in the 2018 season. They noted that Amaya wore down as the season progressed, which is something that one would think could be improved upon with more experience and conditioning. They liked Amaya’s power potential, ranking it as at least average with the chance to be more, but warned that he liked to chase pitches out of the zone too much. They also liked Amaya’s defensive tools.
Marquez had the highest-ranking of all five of the players on these lists, although it should be noted that there is less competition in the eight-team Northwest League than in the 16-team Midwest League. Also only 19 years old, Marquez was praised for his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and his overall high ceiling. BA also liked his breaking pitch, which they said was sometimes more of a slider and sometimes more like a curve. His changeup was said to need work but a 19-year-old who doesn’t need to work on his changeup is a rare beast indeed.
Velazquez, another 19-year-old, was praised for his elite power potential and his rocket arm, which they called “plus-plus.” Velazquez was one of only six players in the Northwest League to have double-digit home runs. They noted the biggest red flag on Velazquez was hit hit tool and that he needed to work on pitch recognition and his overall approach at the plate. Right now, he’s getting by on pure athleticism but that’s not going to work as he moves up the system, as noted by his extremely-poor April in the Midwest League.
The 18-year-old Roederer was the Cubs second-round draft pick this past summer and he impressed the Arizona League observers with terrific all-around skills and better power than advertised going into the draft. Roederer also demonstrated enough defensive skills and athleticism that made observers feel that he was most likely to stick in center field going forward. They also praised his quick hands and approach at the plate, which made them think he’d stay as a top-of-the-order hitter.
The 17-year-old Verdugo was overmatched at the plate in 2018, hitting only .193/.264/.293. But scouts still liked his approach and thought he was driving the ball well, especially as the season went on. No one thinks he’ll keep posting a batting line like that going forward. They also liked his feel for the strike zone. Defensively, they praised Verdugo’s strong arm and sure hands. Observers thought he showed good range at short, although he’s not terribly fast and there is some thought that he’s going to grow out of the shortstop position. Luckily, his arm is strong enough to play third base.