The winter prospect season finally ended this week when FanGraphs released their top Cubs list on Wednesday. That’s actually ahead of last year, when the list dropped on the draft day. Eric Longenhagen, who compiled all the information, admitted right up front that the lack of a minor league season in 2020 and the inability to visit each facility resulted in some challenges when it came to properly evaluating players.
Whatever the reasons are/were, this group of 49 prospects has some unique characteristics. We’ll take a look at some of those wrinkles below and you can click the link above to view the list and the breakdowns for yourself.
Top of the List
It was pretty certain Brennen Davis would be the No. 1 prospect and that’s how this one starts out. Longenhagen raved about Reginald Preciado after seeing him in instructs with the Padres, so a high ranking was probably to be expected. However, putting him all the way up at No. 2 was a big suprise.
The Two Shortstops
Ed Howard (4) and Cristian Hernandez (3) are going to be linked forever because they were brought into the organization within six months of each other. It’ll be interesting to see over time who ends up sticking out the position and who winds up moving off. Odds are Howard stays at short and Hernandez moves to either third or a corner outfield spot because of his larger frame.
The list is 49 names deep and nowhere on it are two of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects, DJ Herz and Chris Clarke, both 2019 draft picks. Herz is having a very good season at Myrtle Beach while Clarke has yet to pitch but is listed on the roster of the Cubs’ rookie league team in Arizona. I’m not sure what FanGraphs was thinking leaving both off.
There are a lot of relievers on this list, something we pointed out a short while ago in terms of the system’s growing strength. They included Ben Leeper (19), Manny Rodriguez (33), Jeremiah Estrada (37), Ethan Roberts (38), and Dakota Mekkes (47), all of whom are given a SIRP (single inning relief pitcher) designation. Cayne Ueckert (30) can be added to this collection of highly potent relievers, most of whom are at Double-A and higher.
Eight of the top 10 slots are populated by young hitters, including Owen Caissie, who came over in the Yu Darvish deal. If you take away Alzolay, Kevin Made would move up to make it nine of 10.
It’s nice to see that 22 of the players listed are under 22 years old and 11 of them are under 20. Six players from that group are in the top 10, with the two youngest (Hernandez, Preciado) occupying two of the top three spots. They are going to need some time to develop and their youth could color the rankings to a great degree, but the Cubs have a great deal of talent coming up.
It would be great if FanGraphs redid this list in August after the draft and trade deadline have passed. That would give time for the newest additions to the organization to be factored in, plus it would allow for further evaluation of the players Longenhagen and his colleagues could not previously evaluate.
For now, the FanGraphs list marks the end of one prospect season and the beginning of another as the Cubs go out and acquire a bunch of new talent in the next six months.