Which Cubs Prospect Has Next Once Nico Hoerner Officially Graduates?

In just a few games, Nico Hoerner will reach 130 MLB at-bats and can no longer be considered a prospect. Brennen Davis should take over the top spot on most lists around the industry, with Brailyn Marquez leading the way on a few others. What most Cubs fans want to know, though, is who’s got next. Which prospect will be on Hoerner’s heels when it comes to having an impact in Chicago, not just getting a cup of coffee?

We saw Justin Steele get a brief call-up before being optioned back to South Bend without making his debut. Adbert Alzolay could be a guy getting opportunities later this year, but you have to wonder about the Cubs’ reluctance to bring him up already. Alzolay got in a few starts last year in Chicago but has been hampered by nagging injuries throughout his professional career.

Brailyn Marquez is another possible option. How cool would it be to see 102 mph from the left side coming out of the pen? With the Cubs set to lose three starting pitchers this winter, bringing Marquez to Chicago might even be a way to prepare him for the 2021 season and a possible spot at the starting rotation. They get a big bullpen arm and can see how he does against the highest level of competition in the world.

However,  the odds-on favorite is 21-year-old lefty reliever Burl Carraway, the Cubs’ 2020 second-round draft pick out of Dallas Baptist. Armed with an upper 90’s fastball and a killer curve, Carraway’s skill set and experience are best suited to help him stick once he arrives. The big edge he has over other pitchers is that he’s left-handed and he’s built, physically and mentally, to be a reliever.

With the Cubs in dire need of another lefty to go along with Kyle Ryan in the bullpen, not to mention questions at the back end, Carraway could be up this season. In order for this to happen, he will have to be placed on the 40-man roster. 

When it comes to position players at the high levels of the minors, the Cubs are still a ways away from having someone come up and assume an everyday role like Hoerner did. Miguel Amaya might technically have the biggest advantage right now, but he’s blocked by Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini through 2022. 

Outfielder Brennen Davis may have the highest ceiling of anyone in the system, but still has not played above low-A. If all had gone well this year, Davis might have dominated Myrtle Beach and then headed to Tennessee for the second half. Based on the praise he received from Triple-A manager Marty Pevey, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Davis to skip two stops and start at Iowa to in 2021.

The issue is you don’t really have a spot for him in Chicago until 2022 unless the Cubs go wheeling and dealing some of the expiring contracts of their core outfield group. 

Depending on how things break, Jack Patterson might be a long shot to come up and stick. The little-known lefty went from extended spring training all the way through the lower levels before finishing at Double-A Tennessee last season. His ability to locate his fastball and throw a wicked slider for strikes was too much for most minor league hitters in 2019, though how that plays at the major league level remains to be seen.

All of these players could eventually make it to Chicago over the next few seasons, but everything about this wild season points to Carraway being the first. With only one left-handed pitcher in a nine-man bullpen, it would not surprise me to see him running in from beneath the bleachers come September.

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