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Keith Law of The Athletic reveals his Top 20 Cubs prospects

Another list of top Cubs prospects is revealed. Also, Fangraphs lists 3 Cubs prospects on their top minor league prospect list.

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Adbert Alzolay
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

It’s that time of the year when everyone is coming out with their ratings of minor league baseball prospects. I did my lists last week and now The Athletic’s Keith Law and Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen produced more prospect lists that were published yesterday. When I first started writing about the minor leagues for this site over a decade ago, Baseball America was the only place where you could read rankings and evaluations of minor league prospects. Now pretty much everyone is doing it. I hear that O, The Oprah Magazine is going to have prospect lists for the 2022 season. But in any case, the more evaluations and the more opinions we can get on minor league prospects, the better.

Law announced his Top 100 prospects last month and two Cubs, Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez, made that list of the best prospects in the game. Miguel Amaya was named to his “just missed” list of prospects. Yesterday he revealed his Top 20 Cubs prospects. (The Athletic sub. req.) Although the list is behind a paywall, I can reveal what the list is and offer my thoughts on his rankings.

  1. Brennen Davis OF
  2. Brailyn Marquez LHP
  3. Miguel Amaya C
  4. Adbert Alzolay RHP
  5. Ed Howard SS
  6. Kohl Franklin RHP
  7. Ryan Jensen RHP
  8. Yohendrick Pinango OF
  9. Riley Thompson RHP
  10. Reginald Preciado SS
  11. Chase Strumpf 2B
  12. Cole Roederer OF
  13. Chris Clarke RHP
  14. Christopher Morel 3B
  15. Yovanny Cruz RHP
  16. Rafael Morel SS
  17. Michael McAvene RHP
  18. Yeison Santana SS
  19. Owen Caissie OF
  20. Ethan Hearn C

Under the category of “Others of note,” Law mentions LHP DJ Herz, C Ronnier Quintero, OF Ismael Mena, OF Justin Nwogu and LHP Burl Carraway.

Law has something to say about all these players, but you’ll have to subscribe to The Athletic to read them. I can offer some of my own thoughts:

  • Law’s top five prospects are identical to my top five prospects, so obviously this is a very good list. (That’s a joke, but I’ve learned a lot about evaluating minor leaguers from reading Law over the past decade, so it’s probably not a complete coincidence that our lists were similar.)
  • He has Pinango all the way up at number eight, which makes me even more curious to see him play. I had him in my “others I considered” list but ultimately I felt I couldn’t rank him because I hadn’t seen any video of him. But he is one of the most intriguing Cubs prospects going into 2021. Law also thinks Pinango could develop some power as he gains more experience, which helps to explain this high ranking.
  • Law tends not to rank pure relief pitchers very highly, so you can be assured that he believes every pitcher in the Top 20 has at least a chance to start. Of course he knows that some will end up in the bullpen eventually, but that explains why Carraway is in his “others of note” list and not the Top 20. The Cubs aren’t even trying to make Carraway a starter.
  • Three of the four prospects received in the Yu Darvish deal are in the Top 20 and the fourth is in the “others of note” list.
  • Cruz and Herz were two pitchers I considered for my Top 20 and honorable mentions, but ultimately left them off in favor of players I just liked better. Had I more stamina, I might have said something. I’m glad to see Law mentioning them here.

Turning to Longenhagen’s Top 100 list at Fangraphs, there are three Cubs on his list of the best prospects in baseball, which is actually a Top 133 list that he’s just calling a Top 100 list. I guess “Top 100” is just more catchy than “Top 133.”

There’s no paywall at Fangraphs so you can read the article yourself, but the three Cubs prospects Longenhagen’s list are:

41. Brennen Davis OF

113. Brailyn Marquez LHP

133. Reginald Preciado SS

Longenhagen is a bit higher on Davis than several other lists have him and quite a bit lower on Marquez. He’s also the only evaluator that I’ve seen list Preciado among the best prospects in the game, so he’s clearly much higher on him than everyone else.

On Davis, Longenhagen is impressed with the changes that Davis has made in his swing and the muscle he’s added to his frame since his high school days. He lists Davis’s injury history as a concern.

Longenhagen is fairly certain that Marquez is going to end up as a reliever, which explains the much lower rating than most other lists like this one. He’s says that while no one can judge anything from Marquez’s one (bad) major league appearance, it was a sign that Marquez hasn’t beaten the control problems that he’s seen elsewhere. Longenhagen thinks that Marquez’s issues with his delivery will prevent him from ever developing the consistency necessary to start.

Preciado is the final prospect on Longenhagen’s list of the best 133 prospects in baseball, and it’s clear that he’s a fan of the infielder the Cubs got from the Padres in the Darvish deal. He compares his swing to that of Corey Seager. He saw the switch-hitting Preciado hit the ball hard from both sides of the plate in last fall’s instructs. Longenhagen added that Preciado had a lot of trouble with breaking pitches when he saw him, but he chalked that up to rust from not playing last year and being only 17 years old and facing pitchers who were much older and experienced than he was.

As you can see, evaluating prospects is much more of an art than a science and there is ample room for disagreement. And in case anyone took me seriously, no, Oprah is not doing prospect lists next year. At least I don’t think she is.