Once upon a time, the Cubs represented the gold standard of how to complete a rebuild. Now they’re sort of stuck in neutral—still a silver standard in how to compete year over year but not much of a threat to the Dodgers and Rays of the world. Where they go from here is unclear. They missed their window to sell high on Kris Bryant, an unforgettable misstep after they manipulated his service time badly enough to all but guarantee he’d never resign. They have him and Kimbrel on the books for one more year at an inflated rate, so it seems like they’re stuck on the tracks they’re straddling now, sliding their way into the decade with little idea of how the roster will look just three or four years from now. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA

1. OF Brennen Davis | 21 | A | 2022

Drafted in the second round of 2018, Davis bulked up a bit during his first off-season as a professional but maintained his plus-plus athleticism and found himself blasting opposite-field home runs and slashing .305/.381/.525 in the Midwest League, where he was 2.2 years younger than the average player. I think he’ll keep most of his speed as he grows into his man strength, and he’s already demonstrated an adeptness for minor adjustments to help get the barrel through the zone. I’m bullish on his future. 

 

2. LHP Brailyn Marquez | 21 | MLB | 2021

Marquez has risen in most rankings thanks to his 102 mile per hour fastball from a three-quarters arm slot, but it will be his off-speed that ultimately determines whether his fate is front-end starter or back-end reliever. He’s currently featuring a changeup and hard slider, both of which pair well with his fastball. If he can locate them down and out of the zone, he’ll be a nightmare. I’d like to see him add a cutter and better repeat his delivery from a more stable base, but it feels like nit-picking to worry over these aspects of a young lefty with his arm talent. 

 

3. SS Ed Howard | 19 | NA | 2024

At the 16th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Ed Howard represented a tremendous value for the Cubs. He was the top shortstop prospect in the group, and he figures to add skill with the bat as he gains pro reps thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination, big frame (6’2” 185 lbs) and burgeoning strength. 

 

4. C Miguel Amaya | 22 | A+ | 2021

Amaya played well in his last crack at game action during the 2019 Arizona Fall League, and it’s really anyone’s guess where he’ll open 2021 after spending this season at the training site. His full-season plate skill metics from high A in 2019 look strong (13.2 BB%; 16.8 K%). He’s long been regarded for his defense, and he’s got plenty of power to impact our game sooner than later if he gets that chance in a crowded catching crew. 

 

5. RHP Cory Abbott | 25 | AA | Late 2020

I’m betting on Abbott in part because he kept improving throughout the 2019 season, rocking a 1.17 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP over his last nine starts. How’d he do it? Well he went to the lab with development coordinator Craig Breslow and found a plus cutter he could pitch off instead of his previously mediocre fastball. He also started spiking his curveball and saw instant results. I expected Abbott didn’t get some big league innings in 2020, but the team got great work from Alec Mills and didn’t really need him. 

 

6. SS Yohendrick Pinango | 18 | R | 2024

Pinango hit .395 over his final month in 2019 at the Dominican Summer League he’d mastered. He stole ten bases, walked seven times and struck out seven times over that stretch and was poised to be a fast riser in 2020 thanks to that hit tool, speed and plate skills. He’s physically developed and strong enough to hit for power but needs reps to access it in game. Covid has kept a lot of talented youngsters under the radar, and I think Pinango will be a popular name in Cubs circles after 2021. 

 

7. SS Rafael Morel | 19 | R | 2024

The only tool that’s not plus for Morel is raw power, but even that might wind up plus as he ages into his 5’11” frame (he’s listed at 165 lbs). He stole 23 bases and struck out just 14.2 percent of the time in 60 games in rookie ball and appears headed to the Midwest League in 2021, where he’ll be much younger than his average competitor. 

 

8. RHP Adbert Alzolay | 26 | MLB | Early 2020

If 2020’s stretch run is any indication, Alzolay’s best self is a dynamite reliever with a nasty new slider that pairs well with a sinker he’s started using as his primary fastball. He might be higher on the list if I knew the Cubs were going to keep him in the bullpen, but I’m worried he’ll remain a back and forth, multi-inning type who struggles to find a role that can help us in fantasy. As is, he lacks the command to turn a lineup over multiple times. 

 

9. SS Luis Verdugo | 20 | R | 2024

The last time we saw Luis Verdugo, he was embarrassing Arizona League pitchers to the tune of a .371/.410/.608 over the final month, hitting five homers and stealing six bags without getting caught. He was repeating that level, but his well-rounded skill set was clearly ready for the next challenge, and I’m excited to see how he handles the Midwest League in 2021. 

 

10. C Ronnier Quintero | 17 | NA | 2025 

The top earner from Chicago’s 2019 international class at 2.9 million dollars, Quintero is a plus power Venezuelan who does everything pretty well. The Cubs are kind of loaded at catcher throughout the organization, but the universal DH opens a path to anyone who can thump like Quintero. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Nice writeup Itch! Cubs have some help on the way, Marquez is a guy I’m watching close.
    Another guy to keep an eye on is Cole Roederer, 20 yr old OF, L/L, taken in 2nd round in 2018 (77th) after B. Davis (62nd). Kid has a hit tool, with some power/speed and CF defensive ability. Came from the HS known more for pitchers (Hart HS, CA) but he will arrive with many of the guys listed here. Keep up the great work!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Smitty!

      And agreed: Roederer is interesting. The final few guys out were Roederer, Kevin Made and Chase Strumpf.

      Marquez is going to be intensely fun to watch no matter how he turns out, I hope.

  2. JKJ

    JKJ says:
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    Good stuff!

    Cubs suck. Go Cards!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks!

      I cannot co-sign the sentiment about the Cards : )

  3. Cardinal says:
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    Itch, first thank you for keeping the content coming. Second…what type of ceiling do you see for Pinango?

    Thank you.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Cardinal!

      Tough to say bc he’s so young, but I like the hot tool enough that I think he’ll learn to access his power. Has .280 20 20 type upside profile.

  4. Harley Earl says:
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    Itch!!!

    Interesting take on Adbert Alzolay. I’d like to see him as a full-time bullpen arm too. I think he’s got dynamite stuff to work the 7th, 8th or even the 9th.

    • Harley Earl says:
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      On a side note,

      I thought MLB should have done Randy Arozarena right and given him the World Series MVP. Nobody on the Dodgers stood out. There were five Dodgers (Muncy, Seager, Turner, Kershaw and Urias) that all could have said they were MVP and there’s a legitimate argument for each because none really outdid the other..

      However, Arozarena was clearly the guiding force behind Tampa and would have been for any team that got there. I think he was clearly the best player in the Fall Classic. Might have been unconventional but I say Arozarena should have gotten the MVP. He earned it. and that’s coming from someone who is betting against him!

  5. Dougie says:
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    Itch, great work.
    Maybe i’m getting confused, but I thought I read an article you wrote about some independent league players. I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve searched all of your articles. Even searched some of those players’ names and come up with nothing. Was that someone else?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Dougie!

      Yeah you might be thinking of someone else bc nothing pops to mind for me.

  6. Jeff says:
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    – Love the choice for top prospect when most will likely go with Marquez
    – Love the aggressive rankings on top teenage prospects Howard, Pinango, Morel, and Quintero
    – Agree that Rafael is the correct Morel to sneak into the top 10
    – I’m less worried about role than workload for Alzolay, think he should be set up to throw 100-120 innings next year tops (not including playoffs)
    – Completely agreed on Abbott
    – Agreed with the guy who mentioned Roederer, probably would have him over Verdugo because he spent age 19 in the MWL but not really a big deal they aren’t far apart

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