Chicago Cubs 2020 Top-25 Prospects
The Chicago Cubs head into the 2020 season with a farm system on the rise. From a real-life and fantasy sense, the Cubs have a top-5 in their system that stacks up alongside many other systems that boast high upside contributors in the middle of the field and on the mound. The top-25 Cubs prospects group has recent draft selections like Nico Hoerner (2018), Ryan Jensen, and Chase Strumpf (2019) that were targeted specifically to be fast movers and help the MLB team as quickly as possible. The Cubs have a dynasty-relevant group percolating in the lower minors like Richard Gallardo, Ronnier Quintero, Yohendrick Pinango, and Kevin Made who are all products of fruitful international scouting. The Cubs have made the most of their winning ways and lower draft slots to assemble a crop of prospects that deserves your attention for redraft enthusiasts and deep dynasty fanatics alike.
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Iowa – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Tennessee – Southern League
Single-A (Advanced): Myrtle Beach – Carolina League
Single-A (Full): South Bend – Midwest League
Short-season Single-A: Eugene – Northwest League
Rookie: Two teams each in the Arizona League and Dominican Summer League
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Top 25 Chicago Cubs Prospects
1. Brailyn Marquez, LHP, DOB: 1/30/99, ETA 2021
2019 Stats (A/A+): 103.2 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
This is a ranking to suggest one thing: Marquez is a future rotation anchor and on the brink of being considered among the top pitching prospects in the game today. If you consider the 2018 version of Marquez, you would see the pitcher that gets the often seen future reliever tag placed on him: a max effort delivery from a lanky teenager. Marquez isn’t that guy anymore.
The 2019 version of Marquez saw a much sturdier 6’4″ frame, particularly in the lower half, which helped smooth and clean up his delivery considerably. It’s easy high 90’s heat each and every day, and when the command is there and the slider/changeup combination is working he can be unhittable. The adage of “if he shows it, he has it” applies here, as evidenced in a 14 K start in July, or his eye-opening 5-game promotion to High A where he went 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 26K:7BB in 26.1 IP.
With a golden arm and now a durable starters frame, the Cubs should do everything they can to keep Marquez in the rotation and prove himself in the high minors. While there’s injury risk in any prospect, particularly pitchers that throw this hard, Marquez should build on what he unlocked at the end of last year and join the next wave of top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
2. Brennen Davis, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 11/2/99, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (A): .305/.381/.525/.907, 9 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 4/5 SB, 10.1 BB%, 21.5 K%, 177 AB
Davis possesses arguably the highest ceiling among prospects in the Cubs system. He has a unique combination of long levers and a short stroke which allows him to generate impressive all-fields power. It’s a smooth right-handed swing from a medium crouch that helps him maintain contact and deliver enough power without selling out. While there has been nothing but good strength added to date, the whispers on Davis are that his physical projection will limit his stolen base output considerably, tampering early hype for a future 30-30 type of player.
Even if he only reaches around 10 SB at peak, Davis profiles as an exceptional dynasty talent who’s hit-power combination in the outfield could anchor a lineup. Davis is anywhere from a top 25-50 overall ranked prospect in dynasty at present. He hasn’t generated a consensus breakout buzz yet, so it’s likely that the Davis owner in your league knows the type of talent they have on their hands and he won’t come cheap in a trade.
3. Nico Hoerner, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 5/13/97, MLB in 2019
2019 Stats (Rk, AA): .292/.349/.403/.752, 17 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 8/12 SB, 6.9 BB%, 10.1 K%, 288 AB
2019 Stats (MLB): .282/.305/.436/.741, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 0/0 SB, 3.7 BB%, 13.4 K%, 78 AB
Hoerner is your top Cubs prospect if you value proximity, hit tool, and floor. An advanced college bat out of Stanford, Hoerner ascended to the MLB only 14 months after being selected by the Cubs 24th overall in 2018. There’s a path to playing time in Chicago, though the organization has built-in a veteran platoon option this year in Jason Kipnis should Hoerner struggle. In a real-life sense, he’s a great fit in the Cubs lineup because he will be a key contributor alongside the already established veterans without carrying the weight of the team. Fantasy owners should view Hoerner similarly: if he fills your middle infield slot for the next few seasons, he can chip in double-digit HR and SB totals while delivering good ratios. Hoerner’s high contact, low BB profile should slide him back slightly in OBP leagues.
4. Miguel Amaya, C, Bats: R, DOB: 3/9/99, ETA 2021
2019 Stats (A+): .235/.351/.402/.753, 24 2B, 0 3B, 11 HR, 2/2 SB, 13.1 BB%, 16.8 K%, 341 AB
Amaya ranks safely among the top 10 or so catching prospects in dynasty due to his offensive potential. Amaya had an exceptional season at High A where he had only two plate appearances against pitchers that were younger than him. More impressively, he raised his ISO by 20 points while simultaneously increasing his BB rate (up from 10.4% in 2018) and lowering his K rate (down from 19% in 2018). Defensively, Amaya showed plenty of arm by catching 34.8% of would-be base stealers. If Amaya proves to be a durable catcher through the upper minors, he could mature into one of the more significant offensive contributors at the catching position.
5. Adbert Alzolay, RHP, DOB: 3/1/95, ETA, MLB in 2019
2019 Stats (A+, AAA): 69.1 IP, 4.80 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 12.2 K/9
2019 Stats (MLB): 12.1 IP, 7.30 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 6.6 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
The right-hander debuted in the majors after missing enough bats in the minors to earn a look in Chicago. When Alzolay got to the majors, his fastball got hit very hard with a .385 AVG against the offering even though it averaged 94.3 MPH. The curveball and changeup both generated over 36% whiffs and both produced stingy contact (.154 AVG against the curveball and .091 AVG against the changeup). If Alzolay is able to diversify off of the fastball usage (57%) and throw the more effective offspeed offerings at a higher rate, he should be able to find more success against big league hitters. There’s a three-pitch mix that could help Alzolay hold onto a rotation spot, though there’s a growing likelihood he ends up in the bullpen and could make an impact there missing bats one time through a lineup.
6. Cole Roederer, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 9/24/99, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (A): .224/.319/.365/.684, 19 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 16/21 SB, 11.6 BB%, 25.0 K%, 384 AB
Roederer showed a sweet left-handed swing during an aggressive full-season assignment in 2019. While the final line is not eye-popping, there is plenty to like from the season: he maintained nearly identical BB and K rates from his rookie campaign and improved steadily as he adjusted more advanced pitching. There were some platoon struggles for the young OF (.149/.253/.179 against lefties) and a heavy reliance on pull-side contact (52% pull rate) but the talent is readily apparent in the athletic instincts in centerfield, on the bases, and in the box. Even if he loses a step with further physical projection, Roederer’s exceptional bat speed should provide a healthy balance of all-fields power and speed at the highest level.
7. Chase Strumpf, 2B/SS, Bats: R, DOB: 3/8/98, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (RK, A-, A): .244/.374/.400/.774, 12 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 2/2 SB, 13.5 BB%, 24.6 K%, 135 AB
Drafted out of UCLA by the Cubs in the 2nd round, Strumpf showed he’s an advanced hitter by plowing through three levels of the minors. In his professional debut, we saw a short, strong stroke from the right-handed hitter with a preference for pull-side contact (over 50% at all levels). Strumpf has a nice balance of contact and power to go along with a high BB rate. There are questions about Strumpf’s ultimate defensive impact as well as his speed ceiling, though he may just have the pure ability to hit his way through all of that.
8. Cory Abbott, RHP, DOB: 9/20/95, ETA 2020
2019 Stats (AA): 146.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
If you look at the stable of arms in the Cubs system, probably no other pitcher has a higher chance to remain a starter than Abbott. On the surface, you see a thick frame and watch the easy delivery and think durable innings eater; and while this is true, Abbott also possesses a deep arsenal can miss bats and can confidently turn a lineup over multiple times. Abbott keeps hitters honest with three variations of breaking balls (the slider leads the trio followed by the cutter and curveball), two fastballs (two and four-seam), and a blossoming changeup. He passed the AA test with flying colors this past season, and though he’s not yet on the 40 man roster he could carve out a role in 2020 with the big club as a spot starter or multi-inning reliever.
9. Ryan Jensen, RHP, DOB: 11/23/97, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (A-): 12.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 10.5 BB/9, 14.3 K/9
The Cubs first-round selection this past summer, Jensen is a smaller but athletic righty who could potentially be a fast mover through the system. Led by a nasty fastball-slider combination, Jensen showed the ability to miss plenty of bats but also miss the plate during his professional debut. It is easy to see how long his arm action is (which likely impacts his command at present), but if Jensen is able to corral his offerings and develop the changeup as another secondary, he’s a good bet to stick in the rotation. Jensen is an exciting talent added to the system this past season and follows along with a trend of another fast-to-the-majors type of 1st rounder like Nico Hoerner from the recent draft classes.
10. Christopher Morel, 3B/OF, Bats: R, DOB: 6/24/99, ETA 2023
2019 Stats (A): .284/.320/.467/.787, 15 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 9/15 SB, 3.9 BB%, 21.6 K%, 257 AB
Morel was a celebrated J2 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, and the now 20-year-old put together an exciting campaign in full-season ball. Now almost exclusively a 3B, Morel has the chance to stick on the dirt and be a very good defender with both his arm and agility. Though not physically imposing, Morel’s bat speed produces above-average raw power, and his hit tool will determine how much power will manifest in games. He’s using more of the field now as his reliance on pull side power has gone down over the last few seasons. While his 2019 BABIP (.345) buoyed some of the figures here, and he’s headed for a tough ballpark next year to hit in, it may present a buying window on a dynamic prospect that you’ll want to pounce on now in dynasty before he really takes off in the high minors.
11. Kohl Franklin, RHP, DOB: 9/9/99, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (A-, A): 42 IP, 2.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
The 6’4″ righty is a pitcher that has what you look for in an arm that is enjoyable to watch: he has a smooth and confident delivery and attacks the zone with his offerings. Franklin’s slow knuckle curve and changeup are legitimate weapons, in particular, the changeup is effective at neutralizing lefty hitters. Franklin was stingy when working from the stretch with runners on base, surrendering only a .171 AVG and .244 SLG, figures which contribute to his excellent ratios. The former 2018 6th rounder slid in the draft due to a non-arm related injury, and he could look like an immense draft day value as a future rotation arm with an imposing bullpen role as a fallback.
12. Riley Thompson, RHP, DOB: 7/9/96, ETA 2022
2019 Stats (A): 94 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Thompson is a long-limbed 6’3″, and his high arm slot generates a good plane on his offerings. Here’s a righty that can bring the heat, where the fastball can climb to the high 90’s. With a curveball that tunnels well with the high fastball, he can make hitters flail in the box who have to respect the velocity. Injury history and an inconsistent changeup are holding Thompson out of the top 10, but any development of another secondary could vault him above many of the other arms in the system. There’s quite a bit of ceiling here, and Thompson is a good name to monitor this coming season as one that could set himself apart.
13. Richard Gallardo, RHP, DOB: 9/6/01, ETA 2024
2019 Stats (RK, A-): 34.1 IP, 3.93 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
Coming out of the 2018 J2 international class as a top pitching target, Gallardo had a debut season that surely delighted the Cubs brass. Pitching stateside in both the AZL and Low A levels, Gallardo was able to really impress. Gallardo became a strike-throwing machine: in his last 4 AZL starts, Gallardo breezed through with a 94% strike percentage and surrendered seven hits, two runs, and one walk over 12 IP. Gallardo has wide shoulders and a straightforward delivery that should be repeatable as he matures physically during his development. Gallardo gets good movement on all of his offerings, including two breaking balls and a changeup, and should be able to both generate weak contact and miss enough bats to profile as a mid rotations starter.
14. Pedro Martinez, SS/2B, Bats: S, DOB: 1/28/01, ETA 2024
2019 Stats (RK, A-): .311/.388/.437/.825, 8 2B, 6 3B, 2 HR, 19/29 SB, 10.3 BB%, 27 K%, 206 AB
The switch-hitting middle infielder showed good hitting ability from both sides of the plate in 2019, producing a nearly identical OPS as a left-handed (.824) and right-handed (.826) batter. A blistering July (.402/.484/.524 with 10 SB) earned Martinez a promotion to Low A. With a double-digit walk rate and the ability to steal bases, Martinez should have a safe floor as a utility infielder. I really like his movements in the field and ability to put the bat on the ball to give him a chance to exceed those expectations and carve out a more in vogue super-utility role.
15. Ronnier Quintero, C, Bats: L, DOB: 11/13/02, ETA 2025
2019 Stats (RK): Did Not Play
An elite international prospect signed out of this past J2 class, Quintero has a good physical frame with enough length and a strong lower half that makes him ideal for the catching position. It also helps him generate significant power which will be the offensive calling card for the youngster. From the limited film available, Quintero has a powerful swing that can generate some loft and he looks imposing in the box. Quintero will take some time, so he should be more of a deep league target at this point, but there’s a high ceiling in this player.
16. Michael McAvene, RHP, DOB: 8/24/97, ETA 2021
2019 Stats (A-): 12.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 14.2 K/9
The Cubs 3rd round selection in 2019 was a former college closer and was converted to the rotation as a professional. In his six professional starts, his fastball-curveball was a blistering combination and he dominated at Low A. His last outing was 4 IP and he handled being stretched out well even after a grueling college season that culminated in a semifinal run for Louisville during the College World Series. While McAvene will get a run as a starter, I like his floor more to make an impact in the bullpen than some of the other righty’s in the system because he’s been successful as a bulldog closer before. Regardless of his pitching role, he’s a fiery competitor who will bring a lot to the Cubs organization.
17. Yohendrick Pinango, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 5/7/02, ETA 2024
2019 Stats (RK): .358/.427/.442/.869, 20 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 27/34 SB, 9.9 BB%, 7.3 K%, 240 AB
Pinango did about everything you could ask for in the DSL this past season, highlighted by reaching base at least once in 57 of 62 games. Pinango led the DSL in hits with 86, swatted 20 doubles which were good for 2nd in the league, and finished in the top 5 in SB. This prolific on-base ability, where he walked more times than he struck out, is always a good metric to track in these early stages. Pinango will be one to watch closely in how he adjusts to coming stateside, and is a good target in deep dynasty.
18. Ethan Hearn, C/1B, Bats: L, DOB: 8/31/00, ETA 2023
2019 Stats (RK): .163/.286/.275/.561, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 1/2 SB, 13.3 BB%, 36.7 K%, 80 AB
A high school catcher, Hearn fell in the draft to the 6th round due to signability questions. But the Cubs were thrilled to land the big bat and big arm of Hearn, who could develop into a field general behind the dish who can contribute plenty of power in the lineup. Like Ronnier Quintero, Hearn is a long term project but could pay off significantly as a well-rounded catcher who can contribute loud tools both offensively and defensively.
19. Kevin Made, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 9/10/02, ETA 2024
2019 Stats (RK): Did Not Play
Along with Ronnier Quintero, Kevin Made was another excellent J2 acquisition by the Cubs. Made provides intriguing upside in a deep dynasty context, and he is the type of talent you’ll be happy to get in on the ground floor. He’s a lean SS already listed at 6’1″ with a good frame to work with, and projects to have average hit and may mature into plus raw power. There’s an inherent risk in such a long path to the majors, but I like his athleticism, length, and strong arm to give him a better chance to blossom into a strong all-around player.
20. Nelson Velazquez, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 12/26/99, ETA 2023
2019 Stats (Rk, A): .288/.341/.441/.782, 17 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 5/8 SB, 7.5 BB%, 26.8 K%, 281 AB
The solidly-built Velazquez brings a good all-around corner outfield profile: he can move well on the bases and in the field, and provide the power and arm that you look for in a right fielder. The BB and K metrics have stayed pretty consistent in Velazquez’s two professional seasons, and the 121 wRC+ in full-season ball demonstrated above-average offensive contribution. Along with his strong throwing arm, Velazquez put up a 1.010 OPS against left-handers which helps boost his profile to at least as a 4th OF floor, where strides in the hit tool could push him to a second-division starter.
21. Alfonso Rivas, 1B/OF, Bats: L, DOB: , ETA 2020
2019 Stats with Oakland (A+, AAA): .292/.387/.423/.810, 26 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 2/4 SB, 12.5 BB%, 22.0 K%, 463 AB
Rivas has yet to play a game in the Cubs system outside of Spring Training action after being acquired this past offseason in a trade with Oakland for Tony Kemp. Yet Rivas is an intriguing acquisition for the Cubs as a player who is likely to debut in the majors at some point this coming season depending on roster needs at 1B and the corner outfield spots. Rivas brings a good all-around toolset, where the offense is led by an average to above-average hit tool and good approach. The below-average power keeps him in somewhat of a “tweener” profile in the 1B/corner OF realm, but Rivas is a good bat who’s quality of contact could help him run into more HR in the big leagues.
22. Justin Steele, LHP, DOB: 7/11/95, ETA 2021
2019 Stats (RK, A-): 38.2 IP, 5.59 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
The lefty Steele has been around in the Cubs system, as the former 2014 draft high school selection is now on the brink of contributing in the big leagues. He’s been tested in the Arizona Fall League and against AA hitters between 2018 and 2019, and he’s battled through a TJ surgery and another shut down this past year. His pitch offerings are led by a high octane fastball and a curveball that can generate swings and miss, and they’re both so good that it may cover his still-developing changeup as a reliable third offering. Given the arsenal and health, Steele could become a bullpen force, although there’s still an opportunity he can contribute multi-inning roles in either the back of the rotation or bullpen at the highest level.
23. Luis Verdugo, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 10/12/00, ETA 2023
2019 Stats (RK): .305/.367/.447/.813, 9 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 8/10 SB, 8.6 BB%, 17.6 K%, 197 AB
If not for a scorching last month of the season offensively, Verdugo’s writeup would primarily focus on his impeccable defensive skills. Verdugo hit all 5 HR in a one week span in August, so when he’s hot as a piston he can really raise some eyebrows. Some questions remain with a BABIP that rose 120 points and a flyball rate that decreased nearly 10 percent, but Verdugo has a nice enough offensive foundation and line-drive stroke that you should keep tabs on his development. If a conventional season were upcoming, it would have been interesting to see if he’d wind up in short or full season as a barometer of how the organization views him, but we’ll just have to keep an eye on how Verdugo fares as he ascends the minor leagues in the hit tool department.
24. Zack Short, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 5/29/95, ETA 2020
2019 Stats (RK, AA, AAA): .235/.363/.404/.767, 14 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 2/4 SB, 14.7 BB%, 27.8 K%, 213 AB
Short has an explosive swing for a smaller framed infielder that generates hard line drive contact. He can grind out an at-bat and find his way on base at a high clip which covers a below-average hit tool and average speed to a certain extent. Short’s calling card is his excellent defense at the SS position, which boosts his value quite a bit and holds out hope he’s a starter. If he’s able to expand his approach to cut down on strikeouts (31% in 160 PA at AAA), he could transcend a utility profile. I’d feel better about Short forcing his way into a starting role in another organization that doesn’t have so much depth in the middle infield through all levels in the Cubs system and overall possesses a more valuable skillset in a real-life versus fantasy sense.
25. Tyson Miller, RHP, DOB: 7/29/95, ETA 2020
2019 Stats (AA, AAA): 136.2 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
The 6’5″ right-hander is one of the craftier pitchers in the system. Though his stuff won’t overpower, he works at a fast pace and has a bevy of average offerings that he sequences well and keeps hitters off-balance. He can run into trouble against lefties if his changeup is not on, but his slider is emerging as his best pitch. While he’ll likely peak as a back end starter, he’s in a system that can get the most out of his control profile.
Next 10 Cubs prospects: Brendon Little (LHP), Keegan Thompson (RHP), Rafael Morel (SS), Chris Clarke (RHP), Jack Patterson (LHP), Aramis Ademan (SS), Erich Uelmen (RHP), Yovanny Cruz (RHP), Andy Weber (SS), Fabian Perutz (IF).
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