Opening Day in minor league baseball is next Thursday (April 7). The Cubs should release the first rosters for Triple-A Iowa, Double-A Tennessee, High-A Myrtle Beach and Low-A South Bend soon. Those that missed Tom’s previews of the South Bend Cubs, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Tennessee Smokies and Iowa Cubs should click on the links.
Minor League Ball and Keith Law recently posted pre-season prospect rankings with the minor league season quickly approaching. John Sickels included seven Cubs in his top 175 prospects for 2016.
Keith Law believes the Cubs have three of the top 50 prospects in the game and shared some interesting thoughts on Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.
Minor League Ball
John Sickels released Minor League Ball’s Top 175 Prospects for 2016 and included seven Cubs in the list.
SS Gleyber Torres (45), 2B/OF Ian Happ (112), OF Billy McKinney (114), RHP Pierce Johnson (134), C Willson Contreras (152), RHP Oscar De La Cruz (162) and 3B Jeimer Candelario (170). And Sickels said the case could be made for Albert Almora Jr., RHP Dylan Cease, Carl Edwards Jr., OF Eloy Jimenez, OF Eddy Julio Martinez and RHP Duane Underwood Jr. to be in the in the 140-175 range, along with quite frankly half the other prospects in baseball.
John Sickels does not think the Cubs have an ‘A’ prospect in the system right now. When Sickels posted his review of the Cubs organization in January he noted “many of the B- guys have breakout upside potential.”
Cubs Grades: Gleyber Torres (B+) Ian Happ (B), OF Billy McKinney (B), Pierce Johnson (B), Willson Contreras (B-), Oscar De La Cruz (B-) and Jeimer Candelario (B-).
Minor League Ball’s Top 10 Prospects for 2016: SS Corey Seager (Dodgers), RHP Tyler Glasnow (Pirates), RHP Lucas Giolito (Nationals), LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers), SS Dansby Swanson (Braves), 2B Yoan Moncada (Red Sox), OF Byron Buxton (Twins), RHP Alex Reyes (Cardinals), RHP Jose Berrios (Twins) and Steven Matz (Mets).
Keith Law’s Top 50 Prospect List
Keith Law updated his pre-season ranking of the top prospects in the game. When Law released the list of the top 100 prospects in February, Law included six players from a Cubs’ system he is very high on.
Law ranked 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) in his top 100 and OF Eddy Julio Martinez just missed the cut.
Law still thinks Torres, Contreras and Happ are the top three prospects in the Cubs’ system and their ranking did not change in his updated list.
As for Ian Happ making the conversion to a full-time second baseman, Law believes Happ can handle the change but due to the Cubs being so “loaded in the infield it’s possible he’ll return to center or right field.”
Willson Contreras opened even more eyes this spring in big league camp. Jed Hoyer said earlier this week that the front office and coaching staff really liked the way Contreras interacted with veteran starters Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey during Spring Training.
Contreras impressed Maddon and the coaching staff with his defense (throwing, blocking, pitch-framing). He needs time in Triple-A to work on his game calling, receiving and pitch-framing. Keith Law noted he thinks Contreras “can help the club this year, probably fairly soon.”
MiLB.com Cubs Prospect Primer
MiLB.com posted its Cubs Prospect Primer that included a lot of must-read insight from farm director Jaron Madison.
The Cubs top prospect, Gleyber Torres, was tabbed as the system’s shining star. Willson Contreras is Major League-ready and the Cubs “believe they have one of the game’s most dynamic catching talents in the making.”
Pierce Johnson is back and healthy. The Cubs feel the biggest thing for Johnson this year is starting the season on the field and not on the DL … and to pitch a full season. Duane Underwood Jr. could be this season’s breakout prospect. Underwood Jr. “headlines Chicago’s pitching talent.”
Dylan Cease has the loudest tool according to MiLB.com, referencing his fastball that sits in the upper-90s and touches triple digits. Cease’s fastball grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. MiLB.com thinks Cease will begin his year with Short-Season Eugene and spend time with Low-A South Bend at the end of the season.
Billy McKinney, Ryan Williams and Jen-Ho Tseng are other prospects in the system to keep an eye on.