With the first half of the minor league season behind us, it would seem to be a good time to revisit the top 20 prospects in the Cubs system.
The list is fairly similar to my pre-season list, because most players don’t have breakout half-seasons. There are, however, a few players who have shown real changes in their game and that is reflected in their rankings. Additionally, a few players have dropped down or off the list. However, I try to be conservative in changing evaluations based on only a half-season of play.
One player has dropped off this list for a very good reason: Christopher Morel is no longer considered a prospect. Left-handed pitcher Brailyn Márquez has dropped off because he still has only pitched that two-thirds of an inning on the last day of the 2020 season since 2019. I hope he corrects that soon and returns to his top prospect status, but I’m beginning to lose hope.
Catcher Miguel Amaya underwent Tommy John surgery and is missing the entire 2022 season. He and others fell off the list because others have passed them by.
With that said, here are my mid-season Top 20 Prospects update:
1. Brennen Davis—OF
It’s a lost season for Davis, but at least the back surgery he underwent revealed what was pretty much the best-case scenario. He still has as much or more power potential as anyone in the system and he’s in Triple-A. His major-league debut will come later than we hoped, but his potential is undiminished.
2. Pete Crow-Armstrong—OF
The one knock on Crow-Armstrong coming into this year was his lack of power, but he’s made adjustments this year and he slugged .557 in 38 games in Low-A. If he continues to play like that in the second half in High-A, we might re-evaluate this ranking in the off-season.
3. Kevin Alcantara—OF
Alcantara, like a lot of Cubs minor league hitting prospects, got off to a slow start in April, but he’s lived up to his hype since the weather got warm. Only 19 and in Low-A, Alcantara has a higher ceiling than anyone in the system.
4. Caleb Kilian—RHP
His recent disastrous spot start versus the Pirates notwithstanding, Kilian has been outstanding in Triple-A this season. He just needs to work on better controlling the new secondary pitches that he’s developed since joining the Cubs organization.
5. Owen Caissie—OF
After a terrible April, Caissie has done nothing but hit in South Bend. Especially impressive is the opposite field power he has shown. He actually goes the opposite way more than he pulls the ball. On the downside, I’m really worried about his range in the outfield, even though his arm is very good. On the plus side, if Caissie’s bat lives up to its potential, it will play at first base.
6. Cristian Hernandez—SS
His season just got underway with the Arizona Complex League Cubs. His grade on the year is an incomplete.
7. Jordan Wicks—LHP
Ignore the 4.53 ERA in South Bend. Wicks has been the victim of bad luck and bad defense. He’s been very solid in his full-season professional debut and the stuff has been as advertised.
8. DJ Herz—LHP
I have trouble getting over his cross-body pitching motion and my fears that he won’t be able to stand up the rigors of pitching 170 innings in the majors. But Herz probably has the best stuff in the system. (I say probably because who knows what’s up with Márquez?)
9. James Triantos—3B
Triantos is holding his own as a 19-year-old in Low-A. The only real downside is that his power hasn’t been there this season.
10. Kevin Made—SS
Made has really worked to be more selective at the plate and he’s done that without sacrificing any of his excellent contact skills. His ceiling may not be high, but a good-glove shortstop who gets on base at a healthy clip is a major leaguer.
11. Yohendrick Pinango—OF
Pinango is showing more power this season in South Bend, giving him a bit more upside. His strikeouts are up somewhat, but he still has a contact-oriented approach at the plate.
12. Nelson Velázquez—OF
This stint in the majors has been good for him. Velázquez still strikes out too much, but he might have a major-league career as a low-average, high-power fourth outfielder.
13. Ed Howard—SS
No one was harder on Howard than me after 2021. Rarely have I seen a first-round pick look worse than Howard did in his professional debut. But Howard did look better at a higher level this year before suffering a season-ending injury on May 10.
14. Luis Devers—RHP
The highest debut on the list. Devers has been the Pelicans’ ace this season and has shown the arsenal and the stamina to be a back-end starter in the majors. Maybe more if he takes another step forward.
15. Alexander Canario—OF
Seventeen home runs in 64 games between South Bend and Tennessee is great. The strikeouts and .213 batting average in Double-A are not. His defense looks improved to me this year and he still has that rifle for an arm.
16. Darius Hill—OF
Don’t make me regret this ranking. He’s a 24-year-old left fielder with fringe-average power at best and not much speed. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore what he’s doing at the plate this year and his ability to slap the ball to all fields. Is that enough to be a fourth outfielder? We’ll see.
17. Reginald Preciado—SS
I had Preciado ranked way too high in the preseason rankings. In my defense, I wasn’t the only one. He’s struggling this season, but he’s still got time to turn things around, although he’s injured at the moment. I’m not giving up yet.
18. Javier Assad—RHP
Assad has taken the long road to this ranking, but he’s finally where the Cubs hoped he would be when they signed him out of Mexico in 2015. I think the pitch clock helped him. He works fast, paints the corners and shows four pitches. The Cubs will have to make a decision about Assad this winter.
19. Ryan Jensen—RHP
I’m not giving up on Jensen, but I now think he’s likely to end up in the bullpen. Since his return from Mesa after the Cubs sent him there mid-season, Jensen has looked like his old prospecty-self, although in short outings.
20. Pablo Aliendo—C
Aliendo has shown some real skills behind the plate for South Bend this year. The glove is ahead of the bat at them moment, but he’s got some power if he can tap into it regularly.