When the Cubs traded Eloy Jimenez in July of 2017, power dropped precipitously in the system and didn’t start to return for almost two years. The 2019 season saw Robel Garcia come out of nowhere to crank 27 homers between Iowa and Tennessee while Trent Giambrone went yard 23 times. Some of that has been attributed to the baseball used back then and also the hitter-friendly environs of the Pacific Coast League.
Whatever the reason, those home run totals stood out in contrast to the rest of the system. Two years later, power is still a weak spot for the Cubs organization as every single affiliate is near the bottom of their respective leagues when it comes to homers. Contact is great and we’ve seen all too clearly how teams need more than just pop, but it’s hard to win in today’s game without the threat of the longball.
There is some hope, however, as a handful of prospects are showing off the strength to drive the ball over the fence. Here are the top 5 current power hitters in the Cubs system from Double-A down to Rookie League.
1. Brennen Davis is not the top prospect for nothing and we’ve seen in 2021 at Tennessee that he generates pretty easy power to all fields. Had he not taken a pitch to the face in spring training, his season probably would’ve started a month earlier and he could’ve added four or five more homers to the eight he’s got so far. His short, quick stroke allows him to hit to all fields and 25-30 home runs a year in MLB is not out of the question.
Brennen Davis: 428 feet to dead center 💥
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 11, 2021
2. Nelson Velazquez currently leads the system in home runs with 11 and has tended to hit them in bunches going all the way back to rookie ball. The 22-year-old dealt with hand injuries in 2019 and struggled to generate power all year long, but he’s come back with a vengeance and will probably end the year at Tennessee for a sneak peek. I could see him hitting 20-25 dingers a year if he makes it to Chicago, but the issue for him is laying off of pitches down and away.
Tune in just in time to see Nelson Velazquez go yard. He also has a double on the day. pic.twitter.com/qfMPkKz4zM
— Todd ⚾️🐻 (@CubsCentral08) June 6, 2021
3. Bryce Ball is a big man who hit prodigious homers during his prep days in Iowa before popping 17 dingers during his first pro season in 2019. We’ve seen him put a charge into several baseballs already, even if none have left the yard. He’s 6-foot-6, so the Cubs may want to work on shortening his stroke to get a little quicker and adjust to offspeed pitches, which would help cut down his strikeout rate.
Bryce Ball's raw power vs a left-handed pitcher: pic.twitter.com/kLOgdOTHnh
— Joey Ricotta (@theriot326) July 16, 2021
4. Christopher Morel got an aggressive assignment this year after spending all of 2020 at the alternate site in South Bend. He was coming off a really strong performance at High-A in 2019 before a knee injury took him out with six weeks left and I was excited to see how he did against more advanced competition. He has incredible bat speed, but also has some issues with swinging at bad pitches. Like Velazquez, he tends to go in spurts and is not a consistent power hitter. Still, if he develops some patience he could generate anywhere from 20-30 home runs in a season at the major league level.
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) July 3, 2021
5. Owen Caissie was acquired last winter from San Diego and showed off his power potential in extended spring training this May. The 2020 second-round pick out of high school in Canada has been doing very well during his debut in the Arizona Complex League. In addition to driving the ball, he’s shown the ability to hit for average (.320) and draw a lot of walks (30.6% walk rate).
In addition to those listed, the system is littered with a lot of guys who can flash power from time to time and just need to find a way to get more consistent. That group includes Chase Strumpf, Jordan Nwogu, Matt Mervis, Cole Roederer, Nelson Maldonado, and Jared Young, with others certainly emerging as the season goes along.
The big names you want to keep in your back pocket for the future are Cristian Hernandez and Reginald Preciado. Both have big frames just screaming physical projection and both are extremely young while playing in rookie ball with Caissie. If they’re able to develop over the next 2-3 years, they could become the dominant prospects in the Cubs system until they reach Chicago.