Baseball Prospectus released its ranking of the top 101 prospects in baseball. And for the third straight year, a lot of the young players in the Cubs system landed on the list.
Six players from the Cubs system cracked Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101, but not one made it in the top 40. Baseball Prospectus had this to say about the Cubs’ organization, “After graduating Addison Russell, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber in 2015, it would be forgivable if the Cubs system was down a bit this year. Their player development system doesn’t rebuild, though, it reloads.”
SS Gleyber Torres (41), C/3B Willson Contreras (57), OF Ian Happ (67), OF Billy McKinney (74), OF Albert Almora Jr. (83) and OF Eddy Julio Martinez (97) made Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 Prospects list.
RHP Duane Underwood Jr. is widely considered the Cubs’ top starting pitching prospect. Baseball Prospectus did not include him on its list of the best prospects in the game.
Last February, Addison Russell (2), Kris Bryant (5), Jorge Soler (19), Albert Almora Jr. (38), Kyle Schwarber (77), Billy McKinney (81) and Pierce Johnson (83) were included in Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 for the 2015 season.
Baseball Prospectus Top 10 Prospects for 2016: SS Corey Seager (Dodgers), OF Byron Buxton (Twins), RHP Lucas Giolito (Nationals), SS J.P. Crawford (Phillies), OF Nomar Mazara (Rangers), LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers), 2B Yoan Moncada (Red Sox), 3B Joey Gallo (Rangers), LHP Steven Matz (Mets) and RHP Alex Reyes (Cardinals)
Gleyber Torres is expected to start the upcoming season at High-A Myrtle Beach. Torres is coming off an excellent year that started in South Bend and ended with celebrating a Carolina League Championship with the Pelicans. As an 18-year old, Torres played in 126 regular season games between Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach. Torres hit .287/.346/.376 with 24 doubles, five triples and three home runs for a .722 OPS.
Willson Contreras will be in big league camp for the first time this spring and is expected to begin the year as Iowa’s everyday backstop. Contreras had a breakout season a year ago in which he won the Southern League batting crown and was named the Cubs’ Minor League Position Player of the Year. Baseball Prospectus agreed with MLB Pipeline in that Contreras is the best catching prospect in baseball.
Contreras batted .333/.413/.478 in 126 games for Double-A Tennessee last season with 34 doubles, four triples and eight home runs for a .891 OPS. Contreras turns 24 in May.
Ian Happ is making the conversion to a full-time second baseman. Happ’s bat is ready for High-A ball, but his development as a second baseman might keep him with Low-A South Bend at the beginning of the season. If all goes as expected in Spring Training, Happ should be Gleyber Torres’ double play partner with the Pelicans. Happ batted a combined .259/.356/.466 in 67 games with Short-Season Eugene and Low-A South Bend. Happ hit 17 doubles, four triples and nine home runs for a .822 OPS.
Billy McKinney has recovered from the hairline fracture in his right knee that cut short his 2015 season. McKinney performed well at the plate for Double-A Tennessee and should begin the year in the same outfield in Iowa with Albert Almora Jr.. In 106 games between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, McKinney batted .300/.371/.454 with 31 doubles, three triples and seven home runs for a .825 OPS.
McKinney profiles as a left fielder, doesn’t have the foot speed for center field or the arm to play right field. And he projects as a perennial .300 hitter in the major but one that may just reach double digits in home runs every year.
Albert Almora Jr. did not take the steps in his development last season the Cubs expected. Almora turned it on in August and the front office would like to see him have a good spring that carries into the season. Almora should begin the year as Iowa’s starting centerfielder. Almora’s glove is ready for The Show. His bat needs to catch up. Almora hit .272/.327/.400 with 26 doubles, four triples and six home runs for a .727 OPS last year. Almora turns 22 in April.
The Cubs outbid the Giants for OF Eddy Julio Martinez last October. The 20-year old has a very good chance of beginning the year in the same outfield as Eloy Jimenez and Donnie Dewees in South Bend.
2016 Cubs Prospect Rankings
- Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2016
- FanGraphs Top Cubs Prospects List for 2016
- Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2016