Baseball Prospectus released a comprehensive list of the best players in baseball 25-and-under. Baseball Prospectus included Major Leaguers and prospects in the ranking. And as would be expected, the Cubs were heavily represented in the list.
Few could question the top two players in baseball 25-and-under are Mike Trout (Angels) and Bryce Harper (Nationals). According to Baseball Prospectus, Carlos Correa (Astros), Manny Machado (Orioles), Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Jose Fernandez (Marlins), Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Corey Seager (Dodgers), Mookie Betts (Red Sox) and Byron Buxton (Twins) rounds out the top 10.
Kris Bryant is the first Cubs’ player on Baseball Prospectus’ ranking. Bryant is the 12th best player 25-and-under in the game.
Bryant earned his Rookie of the Year Award with an excellent season at the plate. Bryant made the adjustments in the second half after the league figured him out. Bryant changed his swing path and went on to hit .282/.361/.505 with 17 doubles, a triple and 14 home runs for a .867 OPS after the break (.330/.422/.620 with 1.042 OPS in August) while showing consistent improvement at third base playing next to Addison Russell.
Addison Russell (20) made the top 20 and Baseball Prospectus pointed out that on most years he would have been a Rookie of the Year candidate but not last season. Russell did not receive a single vote for Rookie of the Year due to the historically deep class.
Kyle Schwarber (27), Jorge Soler (45), Javier Baez (65), Gleyber Torres (101), Willson Contreras (125), Ian Happ (140), Billy McKinney (153) and Albert Almora Jr. (165) were included in Baseball Prospectus’ ranking of the top 25-and-under players.
Christopher Crawford pointed out that if Jorge Soler “was pretty much on any other club” he would be talked about as a breakout candidate. Due to the deepth on the Cubs roster, Soler likely won’t receive the playing time to garner that type of attention. Baseball Prospectus thinks the potential is there for long-term success because “there’s plus power and his feel for the barrel gets better every year.”
Javier Baez has a ton of upside, as Jed Hoyer has said countless times there will be a lot of extremes in his game. Baseball Prospectus feels his “offensive upside is undeniable” and he is “a chance to hit 25 homers with the ability to hit for average.”
Gleyber Torres and Ian Happ are going to spend a lot of time together this season with Myrtle Beach. And there’s a good chance, Torres and Happ will progress through the system together if the two players stay on the same development path. Baseball Prospectus is high on Torres and not because he’s a Cubs’ prospect. Christopher Crawford does not see Torres having the same impact as Kris Bryant or Addison Russell, “few do,” but he thinks Torres will provide “solid defense at shortstop and hit for average.” Plus there is pop in his bat and “a lot to like about his skillset.”
Willson Contreras is considered one of the top two catching prospects in the game, depending on the publication. Contreras impressed Joe Maddon and the front office during his first big league camp. Contreras is viewed as the Cubs’ catcher of the future. The skills are there. He just needs time to fine-tool his abilities while learning how to be a better receiver.
Albert Almora Jr. and Billy McKinney should be in the same outfield soon. Almora Jr. is starting the season with Iowa and this is a big year for him. Almora Jr. reported to camp with a different focus than in previous springs. If he can hit enough, the Cubs could have two of the best defenders in the National League in center and right field as soon as next season. McKinney likely would have started the season with Iowa had his season not ended abruptly a year ago with a fractured knee cap. “Billy Baseball” can hit with a sweet swing from the left side and is projected as a corner outfielder in the big leagues.