Shortstop Nico Hoerner, who was a sensation in his late-season call-up to the majors, leads the Cubs prospects who were named to Baseball America’s annual Top 20 Prospects lists that were released over the past week.
Every year when the the minor league season ends, Baseball America compiles a list of the Top 20 Prospects in each league. These lists are based mostly on the opinions of the many coaching staffs. This is a contrast from BA’s Team Top 30 Prospects lists, which are compiled mostly on the opinions of scouts and other front office personnel.
Obviously some leagues are easier to make the Top 20 lists on than others. There are 16 teams in the Pacific Coast League and the Midwest League. There are only eight teams in the Northwest League. Not all leagues are equally filled with prospects, so keep that in mind when reading these rankings. Being ranked third in one league is not necessarily the same as being ranked third in another.
Also, in order to be considered eligible to be ranked, a players must have spent at least one-third of that league’s season as an active member of the team.
Clicking on the name of the league will take you to the list. However, all the rankings and commentary are behind a paywall.
The Cubs prospects making the year-end lists are as follows:
Pacific Coast League
The Iowa Cubs may have won their division, but they did so with a mostly veteran lineup. No members of the Iowa Cubs were named to the Top 20 Prospects list.
Even though he missed a good chunk of the season with injuries, Tennessee Smokies shortstop Nico Hoerner was named the 15th-best prospect in the Southern League. The coaches praised Hoerner as a “grinder” and they expect that his production will outpace his skills because of that.
He wasn’t named as one of the Southern League’s Top 20 Prospects, but it should be noted that Smokies catcher Jhonny Pereda won the Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove for defensive excellence behind the plate. That’s for the entire Minor Leagues, not just the Southern League. Pereda posted a .996 fielding percentage in 85 games behind the plate, as he handled 833 chances over 743.2 innings while making three errors. Pereda threw out 33% (44 of 132) of would-be base stealers.
So a big congratulations to Pereda.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans had a poor season, but catcher Miguel Amaya was a bright spot for the Cubs’ High-A affiliate. BA named Amaya as the 11th-best prospect in the Carolina League.
The other coaches in the league thought that the 20-year-old Amaya was still raw, both at the plate and behind it, but they liked the potential they saw very much. They called him a patient hitter who can hit with power to all fields—and Baseball America noted that his hitting stats weren’t helped by the Pelicans’ home park, which strongly favors pitchers.
The South Bend Cubs finished the season as Midwest League Champions, so it makes perfect sense that South Bend would have the most impressive group of talent of all the Cubs affiliates. Three South Bend players made the League’s Top 20 list.
Left-handed pitcher Brailyn Marquez was ranked at the third-best prospect in the league by the coaches polled by Baseball America. They noted that Marquez has trouble with consistency and mechanics. He needs to throw more strikes. But you just don’t see many 20-year-old left-handers who can regularly hit 100 mph on a radar gun. Marquez finished the season in Myrtle Beach, but he didn’t have enough time there to qualify for the Carolina League list.
Outfielder Brennen Davis was the 10th-ranked prospect in the Midwest League. Only 19-years-old, Davis was expected to play in Eugene this year, but as one scout said, Davis “bullied his way to South Bend.”
Davis was considered a raw, long-term project when the Cubs took him in the second-round of the 2018 draft out of high school in Arizona. But it turned out he’s a lot more polished than anyone expected and handled the Midwest League with relative ease. BA notes that he still has things to work on, but he’s a lot more than just a toolsy outfielder. The coaches noted that he has a real advanced approach at the plate and he doesn’t get himself out much.
Finally. right-handed pitcher Riley Thompson was named as the 19th-best prospect in the league, despite being a bit old for the league at 23. He was praised for his “easy” fastball at 92-96 mph and the high spin rate of his curve.
The Eugene Emeralds weren’t one of the top teams in the league, but with only eight teams in the league, it would be a real embarrassment if some Ems players didn’t make the Northwest League Top 20 Prospects list. Fortunately, three Ems players did make the list.
The Cubs second-round pick in 2019, second baseman Chase Strumpf, was ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Northwest League. Strumpf was called a “professional hitter” with a strong command of the strike zone and the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields.
Right-handed pitcher Kohl Franklin was a favorite around here and he was a favorite around the coaching staffs of the Northwest League as well. He was ranked as the 13th-best prospect in the league.
Franklin was praised for a low-90s fastball that many think could gain velocity as the 19-year-old fills out. His changeup and curve project out to be major-league average and he used his change a lot this year to get outs. I’ve said this before but to me, Franklin looks a lot like his uncle, former major league pitcher Ryan Franklin.
Finally, left-handed hitting outfielder Edmond Americaan was ranked as the 15th-best prospect in the league. BA noted that Americaan spent a lot of the 2019 season re-tooling his swing which began to pay off by the end of the year. He’s now able to use his strong wrists to hit with power to all fields. They think he has enough speed to stick in center but his strong arm could be more valuable in right.
Just one player on the Cubs two rookie league teams made the Top 20 list and that was infielder Pedro Martinez, who also was impressive in Eugene but didn’t make that league’s list. (He just barely had enough time there to qualify for the Northwest League list.)
The 18-year-old switch-hitting Martinez was ranked as the 18th-best player in the Arizona League. The ranking noted that Martinez has a good swing that should generate power from both sides one day. Martinez was also praised by the Cubs for his positive attitude and work ethic.