Keith Law released his ranking of the top prospects in the game. And the organization that Law thinks is the fourth best in baseball has six players in his top 100 prospect list.
Gleyber Torres is considered the Cubs best prospect and he checked in at No. 15 on Law’s list. Willson Contreras made it in the top 30, ranked No. 27 by Keith Law.
SS Gleyber Torres (15), C Willson Contreras (27), 2B/OF Ian Happ (47), OF Billy McKinney (69), OF Albert Almora Jr. (88) and RHP Dylan Cease (91) are the six Cubs in Law’s top 100 after not being included in his pre-season list a year ago. Happ is the only player of the six that was not available prior to last season.
For comparison, six Cubs have been included in MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus’ top prospect lists. MLB Pipeline has Gleyber Torres (28), Willson Contreras (50), Ian Happ (76), Duane Underwood Jr. (77), Albert Almora Jr. (86) and Billy McKinney (88) in its top 100. Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 included Gleyber Torres (41), Willson Contreras (57), Ian Happ (67), Billy McKinney (74), Albert Almora Jr. (83) and Eddy Julio Martinez (97).
Keith Law’s Top 10 Prospects entering the 2016 season: SS/3B Corey Seager (Dodgers), OF Byron Buxton (Twins), RHP Lucas Giolito (Nationals), SS J.P. Crawford (Phillies), LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers), RHP Tyler Glasnow (Pirates), 3B Rafael Devers (Red Sox), RHP Alex Reyes (Cardinals), OF Nomar Mazara (Rangers) and SS Orlando Arcia (Brewers)
Gleyber Torres put together an excellent season as an 18-year old in the Midwest League. Law thinks Torres is a few years away from the majors and could be blocked at shortstop by Addison Russell when he’s ready to play in the infield for the Cubs. Law said what Torres did last year as the second-youngest player in the league “marks him as a potential superstar in his own right.”
Torres is “very smooth at shortstop, with plus hands and a plus arm.” Law liked what he saw from Torres in the post-season last year at Myrtle Beach. Offensively, Law noted that Torres “stayed behind the ball really well, with great hand-eye coordination and the ability to shoot a ball to the outfield the way Derek Jeter would do with two strikes.” Law thinks if Torres stays on his current path he could be a top five prospect by this time next year.
Willson Contreras had a breakout season and went from a relative unknown in the Cubs’ system to “one of the best catcher prospects in baseball.” Law pointed out the “huge across-the-board improvements” have made Contreras “a legitimate two-way threat behind the plate.” Law noticed an increase in his bat speed last year and could hit for more power but there is not a big loft in his swing right now. Law graded his arm as 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Contreras has “good energy and actions but needs work on the mechanics of receiving and framing, as well as the finer points, like calling a game.”
There are reasons to believe Willson Contreras could regress this year “but the tools and athleticism support a projection of an everyday catcher who hits for high averages without striking out and who controls the opposing running game.”
Keith Law believes Ian Happ is “more than capable of playing an average second base” and due to an outstanding approach at the plate he “should be a fast mover through the low minors.” The switch-hitting Happ has a smoother and shorter stroke from the left side and can get long from the right side, but Law thinks improvements can be made with “coaching help and more reps.” Happ has “15-20 homer potential, driven more by his contact rate than any need to get stronger or change a swing.” Law feels Happ’s “ultimate position” is second base.
Billy McKinney, or “Billy Baseball” as the Cubs call him, is ranked as high on Law’s list because he can hit. Law said, “McKinney has a beautiful, fluid, left-handed swing, very easy to repeat, geared toward line-drive contact but without a ton of leverage in it, so he projects as a high-OBP, high-doubles guy, but his ultimate power ceiling might be south of 20 homers as a result.”
Law pointed out McKinney may have played center field in the minors but he cannot play that position moving forward. McKinney doesn’t have the speed needed for the position. He’s a below average runner. Law thinks he could provide average defense in left field. Law explained, “A more realistic ceiling has him posting OBPs in the upper .300s, rarely striking out, getting 15-19 homers a year at his peak, with average defense in left, while receiving mountains of praise for being a ‘professional hitter.’”
Albert Almora Jr. hasn’t progressed as rapidly as some thought he would. Law grades Almora Jr.’s defense as a 70 and he thinks “he still has a considerable chance to be a Major League regular thanks to his defense and some improvements in the quality of his contact.” Almora makes “outstanding reads on balls off the bat” which allows him to make up for below-average running speed. Law thinks Almora Jr.’s defense will at least get him to the majors “even if he doesn’t hit.” And Law feels Almora Jr. will be “at least a solid-average everyday player.”
Dylan Cease is climbing the prospect rankings. Law liked the changes he saw in Cease’s delivery last summer after he returned from Tommy John surgery. Law said Cease was back up to 99 mph “easier than ever with a cleaner delivery.” Law added, “He has a lightning-quick arm and is a very athletic kid, so given more time between him and the knife, he should be able to throw more strikes and regain command of both pitches, although he’ll have to throw his changeup more to develop it as a viable third pitch.” Law thinks “there’s legit No. 2 starter upside” and possibly more with Cease “as long as he stays on the mound for regular workloads going forward.”
2016 Cubs Prospect Rankings
- Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2016 [includes scouting reports]
- FanGraphs Top Cubs Prospects List for 2016
- Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2016
- Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 Includes Six Cubs Prospects
- Six Cubs Prospects Land in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 List for 2016
- Baseball America’s Top 31 Cubs Prospects for 2016
- Cubs System Ranked No. 20 in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook
- Cubs System Lands at No. 4 on Keith Law’s Organizational Rankings