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Chicago Cubs Top 20 (ish) Prospects: Post-draft and trade update

A look at the Cubs system after an infusion of talent from the draft and trades.

2021 Major Leauge Baseball Draft
Jordan Wicks with unidentified man
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Now that the draft and trade deadline is in order, it’s a good time to update our BCB Cubs Top 20 Prospects list. In the last update here in late June, I adjusted the rankings based on how the prospects played over the first two months of the season. There has been another six weeks or so of minor league play since then and several newly-acquired players are worth adding to the rankings. I try to be conservative in moving players up and down, but now that the minor league season is about three-fourths over, there’s a much better sample size to adjust players based on their performance this year.

You’ll also notice that this list has more than 20 players. Partly that’s because one player, Nelson Velázquez, is probably going to fall off the list sometime next week because he’ll have too many major league plate appearances. I wanted to include him, but also give you a chance to know who I would add to the list when Velázquez falls off. There is also another issue: I simply think there are more than 20 players who deserve to be on the Top 20 list, so I listed several more players that I think belong on the list. It’s hard when the Cubs have more than 20 top 20 prospects.

One thing you’ll probably notice is that there are a lot more pitchers here than in previous lists.

As always, this list is mine and any errors are my fault. It’s based on what I’ve read about the players online and from what I’ve seen from watching hundreds of minor league games with Cubs prospects.

With all that said, here are the updated Top 20 BCB Cubs prospects.

  1. Pete Crow-Armstrong — OF

I don’t think you can deny anymore that Crow-Armstrong has established himself as the Cubs’ top prospect. Crow-Armstrong’s power increase is real with 14 home runs in 74 games between Low-A and High-A. That turns his potential from solid regular to possible future star. Also, no one has a higher floor than Crow-Armstrong. His defense is so good that he could come up to the majors right now and make the team better, even if he didn’t hit much. He’s also only 20 years old.

2. Brennen Davis — OF

Davis’ injury is concerning, but every report says that he’s on schedule in his recovery from back surgery. Whether he makes it back this season or not is still unclear, but Davis likely will be ready for the Arizona Fall League, should the Cubs choose to send him there. It’s a frustrating season, but Davis has always bounced back from adversity and there’s no reason to think this will be any different.

3. Kevin Alcantara — OF

Alcantara has been slumping a bit of late and the ballpark in Myrtle Beach is keeping his numbers down. But no one in the system has more upside than he has, and he’s certainly doing better than fine as a 19-year-old in Low-A.

4. Jordan Wicks — LHP

Every time I watch Wicks pitch, I come away impressed. Even in games where he struggles, you can see the mound presence and the overall stuff are good. That changeup is just nasty and the four-seam and two-seam fastballs are pretty good too. The slider is at least average with the potential to be better.

5. Caleb Kilian — RHP

The Cubs taught Kilian to throw a cutter and adjusted his slider. They’ve also worked to increase his velocity, which have all greatly improved his upside. The downside is that Kilian no longer has the excellent control he used to have. The hope is that with more experience, Kilian will be able to control his improved arsenal and become a solid MLB mid-rotation starter.

6. Cristian Hernandez — SS

Hernandez is not exactly tearing up the Arizona Complex League, but he’s doing fine as an 18-year-old. The huge ceiling is still there.

7. Cade Horton — RHP

The ranking is probably either too low or too high. I’m just guessing where he belongs in the rankings and I couldn’t justify putting him any higher than this. The Cubs’ 2022 first-round draft pick hasn’t played a game yet and might not this season after throwing a lot of innings in the College World Series after Tommy John surgery.

8. Hayden Wesneski — RHP

Wesneski came over from the Yankees in trade for reliever Scott Effross. Even in his poor Iowa Cubs debut, the 24-year-old Wesneski’s stuff looked impressive at times. His four-seam fastball was sitting 95-to-97 miles per hour and his slider had some good break on it. We’ll see how he does in his next start, but for now, we’ll stick him here.

9. Owen Caissie — OF

Caissie hasn’t tapped into his tremendous power as much as we might have hoped, but he’s still doing well for a guy who just turned 20 in High-A. I still have questions about his defense in the outfield and whether he can stick there, but I think he’s improving with experience. His arm is still very good.

10. Kevin Made — SS

Made took a huge step forward this year in plate discipline. He’s drawn 35 walks in 312 plate appearances this year after drawing just six in 243 last year. That’s led to an increase in power as well. Combine that with very good defense at shortstop and this 19-year-old kid has a future.

11. DJ Herz — LHP

Herz has the nastiest stuff in the system. His control issues and the stress of his cross-body throwing motion still give me reliever vibes, although he has been going longer in games recently.

12. Ben Brown — RHP

Brown is the pitcher the Cubs got back from the Phillies in the David Robertson trade. He’s a big (6’6”) 22-year-old righty with a mid-90s fastball and a slider clocked in the upper 80s. He looked impressive in his Cubs debut with the Tennessee Smokies, which was also his Double-A debut.

13. Alexander Canario — OF

If Canario continues to play like he did in July, he’ll be ranked in the top three in no time. He hit seven home runs in July and walked more than he struck out. He’s hit 26 home runs this year already between South Bend and Tennessee. There has been some real improvement in Canario as the season has gone on. We just need to see if what Canario can continue to build on this past month.

14. Nelson Velázquez — OF

Velázquez has been in the majors and playing fairly regularly since mid-June. I don’t need to tell you much about him. He needs 42 more at-bats to fall off this list.

15. Yohendrick Pinango — OF

He’s more interesting this year as he’s added some power to his game. His game is still putting the ball in play to all fields.

16. James Triantos — 3B

Triantos hasn’t exactly been struggling in Myrtle Beach this year, but he hasn’t been impressing either. Still, he’s only 19 years old and Myrtle Beach is a tough place to hit. His road stats have been better than his home stats.

17. Luis Devers — RHP

The 22-year-old Devers has been close to unhittable since his promotion to South Bend: a .148 batting average and a 0.34 ERA over 26⅔ innings. His stuff is more back-of-the-rotation, but the control and the ability to get ground balls make him more promising.

18. Darius Hill — OF

The 24-year-old Hill’s power and speed are below-average. He doesn’t walk much. His arm is average. Hill’s range in left field is good and he can play center or right field in a pinch, but he won’t be great there.

But man, can he hit. Hill can really make contact, drive the ball to all fields and get a hit.

19. Miguel Amaya — C

Amaya has just now returned from Tommy John surgery and he looks to be in better shape now than he was before he got injured. He’s also re-tooled his swing a little and we’ll see if it helps him tap into some more power. He’s always gotten good reviews for his defense and his ability to handle a pitching staff. He hasn’t started catching again yet.

20. Pablo Aliendo — C

Aliendo gets excellent marks for his defense behind the plate and after a bad month of April, he’s been hitting well in South Bend as well. He’s still only 21.

21. Jackson Ferris — LHP

Based on the descriptions I’ve read about Ferris in the scouting reports, this ranking is probably about 10 to 12 spots too low for the Cubs’ 2022 second-round pick. But high-school pitchers are such a risky lot, so I’m playing it safe for now. There are also some questions about his delivery. But if the Cubs’ Pitch Lab can mold him, he could really be something special.

Others who deserve to be on the list — in no particular order:

Ryan Jensen — RHP

Ben Leeper — RHP

Javier Assad — RHP

Brandon Hughes — LHP

Moises Ballesteros — C

Ed Howard — SS

Yeison Santana — SS

Jordan Nwogu — OF

And last but definitely not least:

Matt Mervis — 1B

Those nine players would round out my top 30, but not in that order. Mervis would not be at number 30, for example.