A flurry of trades and promotions has thrown the Cubs’ Top 20 Prospect list into a whole other direction. The changes have been so radical two more spots were added in order to accommodate all the deserving players.
Here then, is a list on how the current prospects rate.
1) Eloy Jimenez, OF (Low-A South Bend Cubs)
The accolades continue to pile up for Eloy Jimenez, who is steaming his way toward organizational Player of the Year. The 19-year old has won his second Midwest League Player of the Week Award, batting .600 with two homers and 10 RBI in the last week of July. For the month, Jimenez hit .354 to raise his season line to .343/.380/.544/.924, with 35 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 22 walks, 83 strikeouts, 72 RBI and seven stolen bases 373 in at bats. Jimenez has improved defensively, with a .992 fielding average in left field, committing only two errors all season.
2) Jeimer Candelario, 3B (Triple-A Iowa Cubs)
The rollercoaster ride that has been Jeimer Candelario’s season has seemed to have settled down some. After an odd demotion to start the season, the 22-year old was promoted to Triple-A, made a cameo in the majors, and is now back down with the Iowa Cubs. Through it all, the switch-hitter has managed to somehow keep his head screwed on straight and produce. Candelario is set to reach career highs in home runs and RBI as he has batted .297 with six home runs in 45 games for Iowa. That raises Candelario’s totals for the year to .251/.357/.434/.791 with 29 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 57 walks, 80 strikeouts, and 49 RBI in 355 at bats. On top of all of that, Candelario was invited to be part of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and continues to have the makings of a Gold Glove caliber defender, fielding a combined .966 at one of the toughest positions on the diamond.
3) Ian Happ, 2B/OF (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
Although some list may place him at the top, Ian Happ showed in July that he still has some work to do. After a torrid beginning to his stay with Tennessee, Happ cooled down to hit .222 with no home runs and only nine RBI in 27 games. That brought the switch-hitter’s season totals to .291/.378/.449/.828, with 26 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 54 walks, 97 strikeouts, 57 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 374 at bats. Defensively, the 21-year old has seen a slight statistical bump to a .971 fielding percentage overall at second base. However, Happ has seen a lot more starts in the outfield recently.
4) Dylan Cease, RHP (Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds)
Cubs’ fans need to continue holding their breath and hope, because Dylan Cease is once again instilling fear over his physical well being. The 20-year old was working his way back from Tommy John surgery when he left a start early with what was reported as cramps. Cease did not take the mound again for 18 days, lasting only 0.1 innings, walking four and giving up an earned run. Cease’s regular turn in the rotation would have been Thursday (Aug. 4), but the Northwest League All-Star Game might push that back a couple of days. Cease had been consistently in the 97-99 mph range with his fastball and has demonstrated control before the injury. His last appearance has moved Cease’s numbers to a 3.68 ERA, 1.409 WHIP, and 34 strikeouts in 22 innings. If all that has occurred is a minor flare-up, Cease can still considered the best pitching prospect in the organization.
5) Oscar De La Cruz, RHP (Low-A South Bend Cubs)
After spending most of the season in Arizona recuperating from arm difficulties, Oscar De La Cruz has shown that he deserves more than just mention in the conversation of the Cubs’ best pitching prospects. In three appearances since a tune up in rookie ball, the 21-year old has averaged 4.1 innings and seven strikeouts, allowing only one earned run over that span. It took only two starts at Short Season-A Eugene before De La Cruz was promoted to Low-A South Bend, where he is expected to spend the rest of 2016. De La Cruz has a mid-90s fastball, but must work on his secondary pitches and his consistency.
6) Jose Paulino, LHP (Low-A South Bend Cubs)
Maturity was all it took for Jose Paulino to turn for an interesting lower level pitcher to a top prospect. Paulino simply blew away the competition in the Northwest League, posting a 0.51 ERA in six starts for Short Season-A Eugene. The 21-year old found the going a little rougher in his first Start for Low-A South Bend, giving up three earned runs in five innings. Paulino sports not only a mid-90s fastball, but a hard slider and change-up that have that project as above average pitches. The difference for Paulino from years past is the sequencing of his pitches and ability to challenge hitters.
7) Trevor Clifton, RHP (High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Just slightly behind Dylan Cease and Oscar De La Cruz, Trevor Clifton may be one of the best power pitchers in the organization. Evidence to that end was witnessed Wednesday, as Clifton carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The 21-year old is now second in the Carolina League in strikeouts and ERA, placing in the latter just behind former teammate Zach Hedges. After a rough July, Clifton now has a 3.15 ERA, a 1.209 WHIP, and 101 strikeouts in 94.1 innings to go along with a 6-7 record. Clifton still needs to show more consistency, but for now he is in the running for organization Pitcher of the Year.
8) Bryan Hudson, LHP (Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds)
It was expected that a young talent such as Bryan Hudson would experience some ups and downs in his first professional season. The 2015 third round pick has done just that, as Hudson has struggled to harness his pitches. The 18-year olds’ fastball is in the low- to mid-90s range, but has a commanding curveball. For Short Season-A Eugene, Hudson has gone 2-3 with a 4.37 ERA, 1.657 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts with 26 walks in 35 innings. Hudson has been a workhorse. Hudson is tied for second in the Northwest League for games started and is leading the club with 35 innings pitched. It is hoped that with more experience the 6-foot-8 youngster can learn how to better control his body.
9) Donnie Dewees, OF (High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Donnie Dewees has experienced the highs and lows of professional baseball in his first full season. The 22-year old started the season hot for Low-A South Bend, and then saw his numbers fall off in May and June. Dewees saw his numbers in July, hitting .361 in 21 games, raising his totals to 282/.337/.414/.751 with 15 doubles, 12 triples, three home runs, 28 walks, 51 strikeouts, 59 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 365 at bats before getting the call to go up to Myrtle Beach. Dewees is off and running with the Pelicans, batting .306 with a home run and six stolen base in nine games. Defensively, Dewees may be best in left field, but has generally held his own in center field.
10) Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
With the Cubs finding more pitching prospects on the disabled list than on the mound, Jen-Ho Tseng stands out by being consistent. The 2014 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year had been on the disabled list earlier this year, but has since turned in 11 consecutive starts. The 21-year old saw his ERA in July raise to 3.41 as the fortunes of his team sank, but his second half numbers of 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight starts is still very good. Overall, Tseng is 5-4 in 16 starts with a 3.06 ERA, 1.312 WHIP, 84 hits, 28 earned runs, 24 walks and 51 strikeouts in 82.1 innings. More importantly, Tseng has given the Smokies confidence that they can have a chance to win every time he takes the mound.
11) Mark Zagunis, OF (Triple-A Iowa Cubs)
Consistency doesn’t always make you headlines, but if you are consistently good, it can make you a good ballplayer. Such is the case with Mark Zagunis, who has been the Cubs’ most consistent minor league player. The 23-year old was promoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting .302 with 13 doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 24 RBI in 51 games for Double-A Tennessee. Since coming to the I-Cubs, Zagunis has hit .274 with six home runs and 25 RBI to bring his season totals to .288/.384/.509469/.853 with 25 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 52 walks, 78 strikeouts, 49 RBI and five stolen bases in 358 at bats. The former catcher is adapting to the outfield well, committing only three errors and fielding .985 while playing both left and right fields. Late note: Zagunis has been placed on the 7-day disabled list with a broken foot and may not play again for the rest of the season.
12) Eddy Julio Martinez, OF (Low-A South Bend Cubs)
Adjusting to a new country and way of life is hard on most people. Eddy Julio Martinez is finding a way to make the transition and play baseball at a high level. After a miserable first half in which the Cuban National experienced his first Midwest spring, Martinez has batted .331 in the second half of the season. That has raised the 21-year olds’ season totals to .271/.351/.413/.764 with 20 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 43 walks, 87 strikeouts, 60 RBI and six stolen bases in 361 at bats. Martinez needs to tweak his defense in the outfield a bit, committing four errors and fielding only .978.
13) Victor Caratini, C (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
The physical demands of the catcher position have yet to take their toll on Victor Caratini, who has made an interesting dilemma at catcher even more intriguing. The 22-year old former infielder is considered the best defensive catcher in the system, fielding .996 with a 23% caught stealing rate. Like many of the catchers in the minors, Caratini is being cross-trained at first base and has fielded flawlessly there. At the plate, the switch-hitter remains steady, batting .292/.381/.400/.781 with 20 doubles, a triple, four home runs, 43 walks, 66 strikeouts, 35 RBI, and two stolen bases in 315 at bats. Caratini has also show a decent .259/.359 left-right split.
14) Ryan McNeil, RHP (High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Part of the present front office’s first draft, Ryan McNeil has come a long way to recover the promise he originally showed. McNeil was an integral part of the 2012 AZL Cubs playoff team, but ended up sitting out the postseason after injuring his arm. The now 22-year old needed Tommy John surgery, and lost all of his 2013 season recovering from it. McNeil had a severely limited pitch count in 2014, and looked to be turning the corner in going 3-3 with four saves, a 2.80 ERA, and 57 strikeouts in 61 innings for Low-A South Bend in 2015. McNeil spent the early part of this season sharing the closing role with David Berg, James Farris, and Jose Rosario with Myrtle Beach before fully taking over the reins in June. Since then, McNeil has piled up both a league and Cubs’ system high 17 saves in 19 opportunities along with a 0-1 record, 2.30 ERA, 1.233 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts in 43 innings.
15) Chesny Young, INF (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
A hot April yielded to some cool months in May and June, but Chesny Young has now shown he can make an adjustment. With a .296 July, Young remains in the top 10 of the Southern League in hitting and on-base percentage while being tied for 11th in stolen bases. The 23-year old still has a very good line of .288/.373/.361/.734 with 15 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 51 walks, 52 strikeouts, 23 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 382 at bats. The promotion of Ian Happ has moved Young to both third base and shortstop, while placing him in the leadoff spot, where he has hit .292 with a .350 on-base percentage. Young remains a stalwart defender at second, third, short and the outfield.
16) D.J. Wilson, OF (Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds)
After six weeks of his first professional season, it looked like D.J. Wilson may need a demotion to the Rookie League. And then, “boom!” the lights went on for Wilson as he went on a 10-for-13 tear to raise his average nearly sixty points. The 19-year old still has some work to do, but his speed and athleticism are obvious. So far Wilson has hit .243/.333/.346/.679 with six doubles, a triple, two home runs (including an inside-the-park home run), 17 walks, 34 strikeouts and nine stolen bases in 136 at bats. Wilson still plays a little out of control at times, as illustrated by being caught stealing seven times and his six outfield errors. Even at his young age, Wilson is considered to have one of the best outfield arms in the system.
17) Brad Markey, RHP (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
In a similar scenario to his teammate Jen-Ho Tseng, Brad Markey simply takes the mound every time it is his turn and gives his team a good chance to win. The 24-year old is fifth in the Southern League in ERA and leads the Smokies in victories. Markey had a down month of July with a 4.85 ERA in five starts. That gave Markey a 6-6 record with a 2.97 ERA, a 1.330 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts in 103 innings for the year. A big concern for Markey at this time is his 12 home runs allowed. However, that has only been an increase of one homer for Markey in the past month. While still considered a tweener as a starter or reliever, Markey could have a bright future.
18) Carlos Sepulveda, INF (Low-A South Bend Cubs)
One of the most overlooked Cubs prospects, Carlos Sepulveda is developing into an all-around talent. The 19-year old has displayed a mature approach at the plate, taking over the leadoff spot and hitting .337 with a .439 on-base percentage and 14 walks against 11 strikeouts there. Overall, Sepulveda is batting .323/.377/.390/.768 with 10 doubles, two triples, a home run, 20 walks, 30 strikeouts, 20 RBI and four stolen bases in 251 at bats. And while his fielding percentage is only .975 at second base, teammates and coaches alike rave about Sepulveda’s defensive ability. While still a little raw, Sepulveda has all the makings of a top prospect in the near future.
19) Zach Hedges, RHP (Double-A Tennessee Smokies)
One of the most under the radar prospects, Zach Hedges has quietly put together a fine season. Selected in the 26th round of the 2014 draft, Hedges started the 2016 season with High-A Myrtle Beach. The 23-year old earned a promotion to Tennessee after going 7-8 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.138 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in 96.2 innings. Since moving to Double-A, Hedges is 0-1 in two starts with a 4.09 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, and seven strikeouts in 11 innings. The sinkerball pitcher is known for his pinpoint control, as Hedges has yielded only 21 walks in 107.2 innings.
20) Bijan Rademacher, OF (Triple-A Iowa Cubs)
Receiving a long overdue promotion, Bijan Rademacher was assigned to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs just prior to this report. Rademacher leaves the Southern League as its second best hitter, batting .313/.395/.484./879 with 17 doubles, nine home runs, 35 walks, 49 strikeouts and 36 RBI in 256 at bats. The former pitcher is a true team player, lining up at first base 13 times despite having no infield experience in his background. Known as an outstanding defender, his numbers do not reflect his ability as Southern League players have learned not to take liberties on the base paths when Rademacher has the ball. The 25-year old is a good complimentary player in the mold of former Yankee great Roy White, who often took a back seat to some higher profile outfielders with the Yanks in the 1970’s.
21) Jose Rosario, RHP (Triple-A Iowa Cubs)
Working his way back from some serious arm issues, Jose Rosario is on the verge of coming to the Major Leagues. Born in New York City but raised in the Dominican Republic, Rosario lost all of his 2015 season to Tommy John surgery. Now fully recovered, the Cubs moved the 25-year old to the bullpen with positive results. Rosario began the season in High-A Myrtle Beach, but was promoted to Double-A Tennessee when he went 1-0 with five saves, a 1.65 ERA, and 14 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. With the Smokies, Rosario saved four games, had a 2.76 ERA, and struck out 15 in 16.1 innings before moving on to Triple-A. As a member of the Iowa Cubs, Rosario struggled a little, posting a 4.00 ERA and striking out nine in nine innings. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Rosario has an upper-90s fastball that can touch triple digits to go along with a mid-80s slider.
22) Erling Moreno, RHP (Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds)
In the international signing class of 2013 that included Eloy Jimenez, Jefferson Mejia, and Gleyber Torres it was easy to overlook Erling Moreno. Missing most of 2015 with arm issues moved Moreno further out of the spotlight. But the 19-year old is coming back from his injuries and showing why he was such a hot commodity as a 17-year old. Opening 2016 in the Rookie League, Moreno was a modest 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA, but sported a 1.082 WHIP and had 33 strikeouts in 32.1 innings and was promoted to Short Season-A Eugene. With the Emeralds, Moreno has had only one chance to start but had seven strikeouts and gave up no runs in five innings. With a mid- to upper-90s fastball, Moreno, like all young pitchers, needs to work on his secondary pitches.
- The CCO’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects – June Update
- The CCO’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects – May Update
- The CCO’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects – April Update
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: The Top 10
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: Nos. 11-21
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: Best Tools, Outside the Top 21