Cubs' best prospects are just getting started
The Cubs used plenty of homegrown talent to win the World Series four years ago. But since then, the farm system seems to have gone dry.
The Cubs' minor league talent was ranked No. 23 out of 30 teams by MLB Pipeline, and that was with second baseman Nico Hoerner listed as the top prospect. Hoerner's 2020 season in the big leagues was nothing special.
The highest-ranked prospect besides Hoerner is pitcher Brailyn Marquez, who made his MLB debut in the final weekend of the season and gave up 5 runs to the White Sox.
But Marquez had never pitched above Single A before that day on the South Side. Cubs president Theo Epstein talked about how the team handled cancellation of the 2020 minor league season.
"We still got a lot of work done," Epstein said. "Our staff was very determined to still make an impact on our prospects and there was a lot of coaching going on, a lot of work and a lot of positive development at the alternate site in South Bend, but also through our player development app and through a lot of one on one virtual coaching sessions."
The Cubs didn't send many position players to the South Bend alternate site this summer. Catcher Miguel Amaya, outfielder Brennen Davis and infielder Christopher Morel were the only three from their list of top prospects.
Davis and Amaya are ranked as the Cubs' No. 2 and 3 prospects, respectively, behind Marquez. Davis, a 6-4 former basketball player, was a second-round draft pick in 2018, played in Single A South Bend in 2019. Amaya played in high A at Myrtle Beach in 2019. Did they get any better at South Bend this summer? Hard to say.
Another pitcher who made his major league debut in 2020 was Tyson Miller. He started one game, pitched in relief in another, and posted a 5.40 ERA in 5 innings. He made it to Triple A Iowa in 2019.
The MLB Pipeline list of Cubs' top prospects is mostly players who haven't risen beyond Single A or were 2020 draft picks. Shortstop Ed Howard from Mt. Carmel High School, the No. 16 overall pick this year, was listed as the team's No. 4 prospect.
Howard and third-round pick Jordan Nwogu, an outfielder from Michigan, made their professional debuts at the Arizona Instructional League this month. A couple of other ranked prospects who are playing in Arizona are outfielder Cole Roederer and second baseman Chase Strumpf. Most of the players who spent the summer in South Bend are not doing the instructional league.
The Cubs think left-handed pitcher Burl Carraway, their second-round pick in 2020 out of Dallas Baptist, has a chance to make a quick jump to the majors. A reliever who throws in the mid-90s, Carraway was at South Bend this summer.
Their fourth-round pick was another strong-armed left-hander, 6-foot-8 Luke Little from San Jacinto (Tex.) Junior College. He's on video being clocked at 105 mph in a practice gym. Little is thought to be more of a project and is at the instructional league this month.
Hard-throwing pitchers have been prevalent in the playoffs this year and the Cubs don't have many of those on the big league roster.
"I feel like there's a lot of talent in our farm system right now," Epstein said. "Obviously the world didn't get to see the progress that was made in certain areas. I'm excited what that might look like in 2021."