Lots of places do prospect lists these days, but Baseball America was the first and is still arguably the most respected of the many prospect rankings. So when they announce their top ten Cubs prospects list for the 2024 offseason, it’s worth taking a look at.
The list and the scouting reports are behind a paywall, but I can share the names of the players they think are the ten best prospects in the Cubs system.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong OF
- Cade Horton RHP
- Matt Shaw SS
- Owen Caissie OF
- Moises Ballesteros C
- Jordan Wicks LHP
- Kevin Alcántara OF
- Ben Brown RHP
- Jefferson Rojas SS
- Jackson Ferris LHP
First off, it should be noted that, unlike some other prospect rankings, Baseball America’s rankings have always been very heavily weighted towards the opinions of scouts and other industry insiders. They certainly don’t ignore statistical data, but they usually filter it through the interpretations of baseball professionals. They also tend to seek out upside, since as the saying goes, you win titles with stars. But they do take risk into consideration, so a player like Jordan Wicks, who may not have the upside of a Jackson Ferris, gets ranked higher because Wicks has already demonstrated the skills to pitch in the majors.
The first thing that sticks out to me is that any farm system that has Kevin Alcántara as the number seven prospect is ridiculously deep. I’ll probably rank Alcántara higher when I come around to making my list in January, but I don’t really disagree with the potential of the six players ranked ahead of The Jaguar here. It’s a deep farm system.
The first three names on the list are no surprise. I can see how someone could make a case for Horton above Crow-Armstrong, but even if Crow-Armstrong’s bat disappoints, his defense in center field is so good that he could still end up as a 3-4 WAR player. Plus, pitchers are just inherently riskier and Horton has already had one Tommy John surgery.
Shaw certainly impressed in his short time in the organization. BA reports that the Cubs are dropping a Dustin Pedroia comp on him, which would certainly be exciting if it comes to pass. Probably exciting for Shaw as well, since he grew up watching Pedroia in Massachusetts.
Caissie and Ballesteros are similar in that they are both left-handed hitting bats with middle-of-the-order potential. They both also have defensive questions about them, although both improved in that area in 2023. (More defensive questions for Ballesteros than Caissie.) Most of you who follow the Minor League Wrap are already quite familiar with both of them, but I’d say that defensive is the only thing that might keep either or both of them from being Top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Ballesteros is definitely the better pure hitter. In fact, he’s one of the best pure hitters to come through the Cubs system in a while. Caissie is more of a traditional slugger with some contact issues.
At the bottom of the list are two players. Rojas and Ferris, who succeeded in Low-A last year despite being much very young for the level. As an 18-year old in a tough hitting environment in Myrtle Beach, Rojas hit a solid .268/.345/.404 over 70 games. Rojas is probably a hit-over-glove infielder, but he’s probably good enough defensively that he can stick in the middle infield. He’s also so young that it wouldn’t shock me if he improves enough defensively to be at least above average with the glove.
Ferris was only 19 and he’s still a long way away from the majors, but he showed some real promise down with the Pelicans last year. Control is an issue—as it often is for young arms—but he struck out an impressive 77 batters in 56 innings last season. Ferris has the size and stuff to be at least a mid-rotation starter.
It’s a good day to be a Cubs fan to see such a deep and talented prospect list like this come out. And it’s going to be a good problem for team president Jed Hoyer to deal with this offseason as there may not be enough roster spaces for all these players at Wrigley in the seasons to come. Keep that in mind as the Hot Stove rages this winter.