What do you do now Cubs fans? You waited 108 years to drink from the lips of victory, and it happened. So, what’s left to wait for? The hope springs eternal known as the Northsiders minor league system, enters a very new phase in the team’s history. No longer is it the breeding ground of hope and promise, but the feeder system to continue stocking the newly minted juggernaut. While players like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras all played pivotal roles in the Cubs run, they still surprisingly had the lowest number of home grown players on their playoff roster. Of course young talents like Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo don’t count, even if we barely remember them elsewhere. All this to say the Cubs have a young and talented roster with few spots for everyday players to breakthrough. This leads me to believe, that much like the jettisoned Gleyber Torres, many of these youngsters discussed today will end up breaking through with other clubs while the Cubs chase titles. Exciting times to be a Cubbies fan, even if you jumped on the bandwagon on the way to the victory parade.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Eloy Jimenez, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+
2016 was a true breakout year for the top international signing of the 2013 class. Following the trade of Gleyber Torres to the Yankees, Jimenez emerged as the top prospect in the Cubs system. An advanced hitter for his age, he profiles as a right-handed all-star bat with plus plus power, and a plus hit tool that will keep his averages high. He’s blessed with excellent bat speed, and bat on ball skills. Presently an average to above average runner, but I don’t see him as much of a base stealer at the MLB level. His performance in this year’s Future’s Game really put him on the map, and he enters the offseason as one of the most desired prospects in dynasty leagues going into 2017. He’s continued to hit this fall in the AFL slashing .271/.352/.521 with 3 homers in 13 games.
Ian Happ, 2B/OF | Age:22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
Another advanced college hitter from the 2015 draft, Happ was unable to keep pace with fellow top 10 picks Dansby Swanson, Alex Bergman, and Andrew Benintendi. That’s not to say that Happ didn’t have a very solid first full season of professional ball. The switch hitting Happ began the season with hi-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina league where he slashed .296/.410/.475 with 7 homers and 10 steals. He was then promoted to AA Tennessee where he was up and down. The fantasy tools are evident as he projects as a plus contributor in batting average, on base percentage, power, and speed. If he sticks at second base long term he could eventually be a top 10 fantasy asset at the keystone in his peak years.
Dylan Cease, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A-
After an untimely elbow injury in March of 2014, Cease dropped from anticipated first round pick to 6th round steal. Following a long road to recovery, Cease returned to the mound last summer. Immediately lighting up radar guns with high 90’s heat, even touching triple digits. He mixes his plus plus heater with a nasty three quarters hook that draws comps to Doc Gooden. So the good Doc Gooden comps, not the bad ones. He still needs to develop his change, and refine his control, but his ceiling is one of the highest in the minors. His slender 6’2 frame is less than ideal, but he makes up for what he lacks in size with athleticism and a clean delivery.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
A switch-hitter with power, Candelario is prosp-blocked in a way that may force him out of the Cubs organization. He’s an everyday 3rd baseman right now, one that could contribute to a second division level club right now. His swing is balanced from both sides and he shows excellent understanding of the strike zone. He’s more than likely going to be an above average offensive, and defensive third baseman. He saw a cup of coffee in Chicago this season, and projects out not all that dissimilar to fellow Cubs product Willson Contreras. He usually takes some time to settle into each level upon promotion, but eventually always produces.
Mark Zagunis, OF | Age:23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA
The scouting report begins and ends with Zagunis’ elite on base ability. He has middling power and speed, but an advanced hit tool that has moved him into the discussion of the top 5-10 hitting prospects in the Northsiders system. Some see him hitting 15 homers in his peak years, but that seems like a really optimistic scenario. One that would have to be driven by mechanical changes in his line drive swing. Looks to me like a bench player or fringe MLB starter. Not likely to see starting time with the Cubs this season, but could see 400 at bats with a lower level small market club if he’s traded.
Duane Underwood, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+
Anytime I hear people building up Underwood as a valuable fantasy baseball prospect I know they’ve read his scouting reports. If they dove into the tape or numbers, they’d feel differently. Underwood is a classic stud scouting report guy with little real life returns to justify his weighty status as the top pitching prospect in the Cubs system. Over the last year Dylan Cease has passed him, so he doesn’t have quite the same misconception about his ultimate ceiling as he had a year ago. I see him as Nathan Eovaldi. A player with a serious fastball that doesn’t know how to use it. His control is wonky, and he doesn’t miss nearly enough bats. Look elsewhere, and if you own shares, sell ’em.
Donnie Dewees, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+
A second rounder out of North Florida in 2015, Dewees burst onto the scene in the summer of 2014, following an all-star showing in the infamous Cape Cod league. Dewees possesses a plus hit tool and plus speed, with gap to gap power. Looks like he has the tools to be an across the board fantasy asset. Think .280 average, 12-15 homers, with 25 steal speed. If he could walk a little more he could end up as a very solid leadoff hitter at his peak. Another reason to add him..he looks like the head of a centuar. Eat that shizz A-Rod.
Trevor Clifton, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+
One of the most underrated arms in the Cubs system, Clifton mixes a plus fastball that sits mid-90’s and touches 97, with a curveball that has all the makings of a plus pitch. The catch with his curveball is he needs to control it better. His change is an average offering at this point, and you just need to know he throws one….Cool? He struggles to control and command his pitches too much which hurts his overall upside. There is some bullpen risk, but he looks most likely to progress as a starter. His swing and miss ability, paired with his groundball tendencies make him an intriguing prospect in dynasty leagues.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Eddy Martinez, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A
There was a time in the not too distant past where I wondered if Eddy Martinez existed. Ranked by MLB and a few other prospect sites as the top International player available during the 2015 J2 signing period. Since landing stateside, he’s been solid, and has flashed some of the promised five tools he was rumored to have. There were conflicting reports regarding just how much power he’d have, and 10 homers and .126 ISO didn’t answer any questions. He does have the bat speed and contact ability to make gains over the next year as a slugger. Ultimately he profiles as a fantasy player that can contribute in a multitude of categories with no real stand out tool.
Oscar De La Cruz, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A
A big righty with a big fastball, De La Cruz outside Dylan Cease has the highest upside of any pitcher in the Cubbies system. 2016 was a true breakout year for De La Cruz, as he displayed excellent swing and miss stuff at Class A South Bend. There he averaged 11.3 K/9 matched with a 2.6 Bb/9, and a groundball rate of 43%. Heavy baller stuff! His fastball sits in the mid-90’s with excellent movement, his curveball still needs refinement but shows good power and movement, and like many young pitchers he’s working on his change. I’d happily own De La Cruz in any league where 150 prospects are owned.
Jose Albertos, RHP | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: Rk
Small righty with stuff alert! Am I the only person who’s ears just perked up? Yes I have a weird small righty fetish. At 18 he’s just a baby, but shows advanced command and control for a player his age. His stuff is frontline starter-esque, mixing a mid-90’s fastball with a plus change, and an average slider. He’s still years away, but flashes high end potential. Worth stashing in deeper dynasty formats where you can let specs marinate in your minors.
Bryan Hudson, LHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
A local Illinois prospect, and giant, Hudson isn’t nearly as exciting as the aformentioned Jose Albertos or Oscar De la Cruz, but he offers upsde nevertheless. Blessed with plus offerings in his low to mid 90’s fastball, and his upper-70’s hammer curve. He doesn’t get as many swings and misses as you’d like from a fantasy starter, but he looks like he’s got room to develop in that regard.
D.J. Wilson, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
Prep hitter taken in the 4th round of the 2015 draft, Wilson shows plus speed, and base stealing ability, in addition to an above average hit tool. His compact lefty swing shows more power projection than was billed coming out of high school, but he’s by no means a masher. Best case scenario he develops into a base-stealer with average power.
Others: Thomas Hatch, P.J. Higgins, Chesney Young, Jose Paulino, Bailey Clark
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