MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Chicago Cubs

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our fifth farm system overview will be of the Chicago Cubs. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: C Miguel Amaya

miguel-amaya-cubs
Photo Cred: Sports Mockery

Age: 20

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185 lbs

Signed: July 17, 2015

Hit: 55 Power: 50 Field: 57.5 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 54.25

The Cubs have thought about trading Wilson Contreras this offseason, and if they do so, they theoretically would be without a catcher of the future. Yet, that’s certainly not the case- Miguel Amaya has a great chance to develop into a better player than Contreras. Signed into the 2015 international signing period, the 20-year-old made it to High-A this season, and had a lot of success. With an advanced approach that comes with tremendous plate discipline, he should always draw high on-base percentages, and although he may only have average power, there’s a chance he can develop more with a power-generating swing that I absolutely love. Even better, he’s also regarded as an excellent defender behind the plate; we’re looking at a complete package behind the plate. He’s probably a few years away from the majors, but whether Contreras is traded or not, there’s no doubt in mind that Amaya can be a future All-Star for them.

#2: RHP Richard Gallardo

gallardo
Photo Cred: Baseball America

Age: 18

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 187 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2018

Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 62.5 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 54

The Cubs have always been majors players in the international market, whether it be with Amaya, Contreras, or prospects they’ve traded away, such as Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez. Well, similar to Amaya, they appear to have struck gold in the 2018 international signing period- they landed the top pitcher in that class in Richard Gallardo. What is there not to love with the 18-year-old? His fastball already sits in the low 90s, and will only gain velocity as he matures. Plus, it also possesses the type of rising movement that caused the velocity to appear greater than it is, and he complements it with a power breaking ball that is simply lethal. Moreover, despite being just a teenager, he already possesses an above-average changeup, and already demonstrates an excellent feel for pitching with solid command. You can only imagine what the finished product can be as Gallardo fully develops, and because he’s so advanced, he could be looking at a major-league debut in just a couple of years. That’s how special of a pitching prospect he is.

#3: OF Brennen Davis

brennendavis
Photo Cred: Off The Bench Baseball

Age: 20

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 175 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- 2018

Hit: 45 Power: 55 Field: 55 Arm: 55 Speed: 62.5

Overall Grade: 52.675

A former high-school basketball star, outfielder Brennen Davis has been incredibly successful since being drafted in the second round in the 2018 MLB draft, and has quite the ceiling. When you have a 6’4″ frame that has yet to fill out and possess amazing athleticism, you’re going to draw a lot of spotlight. Plus, as expected, the 20-year-old should develop above-average power, as he has the strength and bat speed to hit for 30 home runs one day. In the end, it’ll come down to a refinement of his hit tool, as his swing is still unpolished, but right now, Chicago has to be ecstatic about his potential.

#4: RHP Adbert Alzolay

alzolay
Photo Cred: WGN-TV

Age: 24

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 179 lbs

Signed: November 28, 2012

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 47.5 Command: 47.5

Overall Grade: 52.5

Adbert Alzolay may have been 18-years-old when signed, but still, his 6 years with the Cubs organization shows a commitment by the front office to develop him. Since he’s now 24-years-old, the time is now for him to make an impact in the major leagues, but unfortunately for him, he struggled mightily between Triple-A and the majors last season. Still, his fastball-breaking ball combination is electric, and before this season, he never had an issue with his command. There’s still middle-of-the-rotation starter potential, but if not, he would certainly be a quality reliever.

#5: 2B Nico Hoerner

hoerner
Photo Cred: chicago.suntimes.com

Age: 22

Height: 5’11” Weight: 200 lbs

Drafted: 24th Overall- 2018

Hit: 57.5 Power: 45 Field: 50 Arm: 50 Speed: 55

Overall Grade: 51.75

Although infielder Nico Hoerner was a standout performer at Stanford, it was still a surprise when the Cubs selected him in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Since then, however, the 22-year-old has excelled at every level of the minor-leagues, including the Arizona Fall League, and even made his major-league debut this past season; he’ll be the Cubs’ starting second baseman this year. With excellent bat-to-ball skills, he should reach base at a solid rate (he doesn’t strike out much), but still, he doesn’t have much power, and his defense is probably average at either second base or shortstop. I definitely believe Hoerner has the makings of an everyday second baseman. However, he’s not quite the elite prospect that he’s being made out to be- he’s probably a 2 WAR player in the mold of Starlin Castro and Adam Frazier.

#6: LHP Brailyn Marquez

marquez
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 20

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 185 lbs

Signed: August 23rd, 2015

Fastball: 62.5 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 45 Command: 47.5

Overall Grade: 51.375

The Cubs’ run on international prospects doesn’t end here; Chicago signed him for $600,000, and since then, he’s developing nicely. Now 20-years-old, the 6’4″ southpaw has his strong pitching arsenal to strike batters out at a high rate. Although his breaking balls are inconsistent and often slurvy, his fastball can reach 100 MPH, and has excellent movement. Furthermore, the Dominican’s command hasn’t been as much of an issue as expected, despite a minor hiccup this season, and he’s already reached High-A. He may be more raw of a prospect than Gallardo or Alzolay, but his upside is that of a frontline starter, though it remains to be seen if he can maximize on that potential.

#7: LHP Justin Steele

justinsteele
Photo Cred: ChicagoNow

Age: 24

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 5th Round- 2014

Fastball: 52.5 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 51.375

The only prep pitcher from the 2014 draft class that is still in the Cubs organization, Justin Steele, despite being a fifth-round pick, was progressing at a tremendous rate. That was before he hurt his elbow late in the 2017 season, however, which ultimately caused him to have Tommy John surgery. Still, he came back from the surgery sooner than expected, and now, looks like an even better pitcher. His fastball, which works in the mid-90s with sinking action, is definitely a passable pitch, though it’s his curveball that is his best pitch at the moment. The wildcard for him is his command, which had been terrific previously, but lagged a little (4.66 BB/9) in 38.2 innings at Double-A. Yet, that’s a small sample size, and if Steele can handle a normal workload this season, Chicago should soon get the services of a potential #4 starter as soon as next season.

#8: OF Cole Roederer

roederer
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 20

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 175 lbs

Drafted: Round 2C- 2018

Hit: 50 Power: 52.5 Field: 50 Arm: 47.5 Speed: 55

Overall: 50.575

Another surprise pick from the 2018 MLB draft, Cole Roederer was expected to attend the UCLA, but for $1.2 million, the Cubs were able to pry him away from that commitment. Right now, the 20-year-old projects to have 50-tools all-around, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially, that he’s posted great exit velocities, according to Fangraphs, and could have plus power with good plate discipline in the future. I’m not sure he sticks in center field, but either way, he has the offensive profile to be potentially an everyday corner outfielder, and could see his stock rise with further development.

#9: SS Aramis Ademan

ademan
Photo Cred: ChicagoNow

Age: 21

Height: 5’11” Weight: 160 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2015

Hit: 50 Power: 42.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 55 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 48.875

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Aramis Ademan was seen as an advanced prospect, and as a result, the Cubs opted to try to promote him aggressively. Well, that has backfired. In the past two seasons at High-A, the 21-year-old has posted a weighted-runs-created plus below 100, and has hit for a combined eight home runs. Needless to say, his offensive profile is relatively weak, and although he’s a solid defender, he’s not strong enough in that department to make up for his offense. Maybe his hit tool can develop enough for him to be a decent utility player, but right now, it’s hard to know if he can even be that, which is an indictment on the job Chicago has done in developing him.

#10: SS Zack Short

zackshort
Photo Cred: Daily Freeman

Age: 24

Height: 5’10” Weight: 180 lbs

Drafted: 17th Round- 2016

Hit: 42.5 Power: 47.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 52.5

Overall Grade: 48

It’s pretty rare for a 17th-round pick to move up through a team’s farm system enough to earn recognition. Yet, that’s where Zack Short finds himself, as the 24-year-old produced at a high-level in the minor-leagues. Essentially, the 24-year-old is a three true outcomes hitter who strikes out a lot, but still, he walks at a high clip; he’s a more advanced version of Ryan Schimpf with less power. I don’t see him developing into a starting infielder, yet potentially more than Ademan, he should have a future as at least a utility infielder; I’m even higher on him than this ranking would suggest.

Best of the Rest

  • Ryan Jensen, a first-round pick from this past draft, has the makings of a high-leverage reliever.
  • Chase Strumpf is pretty polished offensively, and could even move up through the minors quickly likes Hoerner.

Farm System Overview

Trades that the front office has made for immediate results have certainly thinned out a once-elite farm system, but all hope isn’t lost for Cubs fans; Amaya and Gallardo could become stars, Hoerner and Alzolay should be major-league contributors, and Davis and Marquez have very high upsides. It’s mostly come via international signings, but as long as Chicago can continue to be major players in that market, perhaps they can once again revamp their farm system; a trade of Contreras or Kris Bryant could also help matters.

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