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Chicago Cubs top 12 prospects: Mid-season update

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An update on the top prospects in the Cubs system at the All-Star Break.

Miguel Amaya
Miguel Amaya
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

With the major league All-Star Break upon us, I thought it was a good time to give an update on the top prospects in the Cubs system. This is where I see the Cubs top prospects lining up at this moment in time.

I’m including 12 players in this list because I care so much about my readers that I gave you a full dozen. Or maybe I just wanted to write about 12 players.

As always, this list is mine and all the mistakes are my fault. Clicking on the player’s name will take you to his milb.com page.

  1. Nico Hoerner, shortstop. .282/.358/.494 in 24 games for Tennessee

Hoerner’s missed much of the season after suffering a hairline wrist fracture when he was hit by a pitch. He missed much of last season with a elbow injury as well. But in limited time, he’s shown that he’s the most complete player in the Cubs system. Hoerner will be one of those players who may not have one outstanding skill, but he’ll be at least good at everything. I think there is more power to come from Hoerner as well. He can play a solid shortstop, but he’s not moving Javier Baez off the position in Chicago, so second base could be his future.

2. Adbert Alzolay, right-handed pitcher. 2-2, 4.08 ERA in seven starts in Iowa. 52 strikeouts and 9 walks in 35⅓ innings

Alzolay’s high ranking is not just a result of him being healthy and having a reasonably-successful major league debut. Both of Alzolay’s primary secondary pitches, his curve and his changeup, have taken big steps forward this season. His fastball is more consistently hitting 94-97 mph as well. If he can avoid injury issues going forward, he should be a mid-rotation starter in the majors.

3. Miguel Amaya, catcher. .221/.341/.373 in 63 games in Myrtle Beach.

There may be some questions if Amaya will ever hit for much average, although at only 20 years old and in High-A, there’s no reason to be overly concerned yet. There’s not much doubt that he’ll hit for power. Also clear is that Amaya has some terrific defensive skills. Few young catchers are as confident behind the plate as Amaya is. Pitchers love throwing to him and he’s already framing pitches well. As he matures, his arm is getting stronger as well.

With the emphasis on defense and game management in baseball today, there seems little doubt that there will be a major league job waiting for Amaya, no matter how much he hits.

4. Brennen Davis, outfielder. .297/.386/.478 in 39 games in South Bend.

When the Cubs drafted Davis in the second round of the 2018 draft, the scouting report on him could be summed up as “talented but raw.” Since he reported to South Bend on May 25, he’s looked a lot more “talented” and a lot less “raw.”

Davis may have more upside than anyone else in the Cubs system. His speed and power could make him a 20/20 or maybe even a 30/30 player in the majors. He also projects out to be an above-average defensive center fielder and maybe even better than that. That’s a future all-star if he lives up to his potential.

5. Aramis Ademan, shortstop. .241/.355/.362 in 72 games in Myrtle Beach.

The big question after Ademan’s poor 2018 campaign was whether he was over-aggressively promoted or was he just not that good? It looks like Myrtle Beach was just too aggressive a promotion for the 19-year-old Ademan in 2018 as the now 20-year-old Ademan is having a successful 2019 season.

One concern about Ademan was that he wore down last year as the season went on. He was even worse late last season than he was earlier in the year. Ademan has also struggled over the past month, so he may need to build up some strength and stamina going forward.

6. Brailyn Marquez. left-handed pitcher. 3-3 4.50 ERA in 13 starts in South Bend. 67 strikeouts and 36 walks in 56 innings.

Marquez has done pretty much exactly what we expected out of him coming into the season. He still throws in the upper-90s and he’s still struggling to control his slider and changeup, although both are promising. He’s still raw and promising. Nothing new to report here.

7. Ryan Jensen, right-handed pitcher. Has not yet pitched professionally.

Obviously I’m just basing this ranking on what Jensen did at Fresno State, but Jensen has reported to Eugene and will likely make his pro debut soon. The Cubs are certain to limit his innings this season, so we probably won’t see much of him there. Still, I very much liked what I saw at Fresno State—an upper 90s fastball and a nasty slider.

8. Robel Garcia, second baseman. .285/.364/.594 with 21 home runs between Tennessee and Iowa.

I don’t know what type of major league player Garcia is going to turn out to be. There still are a lot of questions about his ability to make contact. His defense is iffy. He’s already 26, so there isn’t likely to be much growth there. But Garcia has tremendous power from both sides of the plate. He hits the ball hard to all fields. He could flame out in a month, but the upside is huge.

9. Cole Roederer, outfielder. .217/.290/.352 with 3 home runs and 7 steals in 62 games in South Bend.

The good news here is that Roederer has dropped because of how much other players have improved more than what Roederer has done. Roederer was supposed to be the more polished of the two outfielders taken in the second round last year (the other being Davis), but he’s actually had more trouble translating his considerable skills into game production.

The other good news is that Roederer had a solid month of June, so it looks like he’s starting to make the necessary adjustments.

10. Paul Richan, right-handed pitcher. 8-4, 4.06 ERA in 14 starts for Myrtle Beach. 70 strikeouts and 16 walks in 75⅓ innings.

Richan’s stuff is more good than great, although his slider is probably plus and he fastball does reach 92-93 mph at least. But his command and control are very good and he certainly knows how to use what he does have. He could be in the majors as early as next season and he projects out to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.

11. Richard Gallardo. 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts for Cubs 1 in the Arizona League.

He’s a talented 17-year-old in rookie ball and he pitches like it. Check back again in a year.

12. Tyson Miller. 4-3 with a 2.56 ERA in 15 starts for Tennessee. 80 strikeouts and 18 walks in 88 innings.

I’ve been one of Miller’s biggest doubters as he’s put together a season that has him as the leading candidate for Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Miller doesn’t have great pure stuff (although you hear “spin rate” mentioned a lot about him), but he knows how to use it and he throws a lot of strikes. Miller doesn’t ever beat himself.

Miller is the type of pitcher who could flame out in Triple-A (and he didn’t make it out of the second inning in his first and so far only start for Iowa), but he’s been good for almost two seasons now, so I’m ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m certainly pulling for him.