Chicago Cubs 2018 Top 50 Prospects

Chicago Cubs Top 50 Prospects for 2018

None of last year’s top five find their name on this list – such is the life of a contending major league team coming off their third straight NLCS appearance. The Cubs find themselves with one of the more depleted farms in baseball, but there is still plenty of potential.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster




 
Tier 1:

None

Tier 2:

1. Adbert Alzolay, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Alzolay wasn’t even in the top 50 a year ago and now find himself atop the Cubs’ farm system. Alzolay threw for 114 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2017 and ended up with a 2.99 ERA as well as a 3.18 K/BB ratio. His fastball hits 96 mph and the Cubs need pitching at the major league level more than anything else. Alzolay is on the right trajectory now, but a chance at the majors in 2018 is not for certain.

2. Jose Albertos, RHP
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Albertos started the year late due to forearm tightness and the Cubs decided to take it slow with the teenager. It was a rough re-entry, but Albertos was named Cubs minor league player of the month in August after throwing in five starts for a 1.96 ERA and 4.29 K/BB ratio. The young right-hander will look to carry that momentum into 2018 as he climbs through the minors.

3. Victor Caratini, C/1B
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Caratini saw his first major league at-bat in June this past year and bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the bigs. Over 66 major league plate appearances Caratini slashed .254/.333/.356 with many coming in pinch hit situations. Those numbers aren’t so hot, but Caratini mashed in Triple-A during the 2017 season to the tune of a .342/.393/.558 slash line. The potential with the bat is certainly there and Caratini continues to find ways to improve as a catcher, but with Willson Contreras blocking his path, Caratini’s value may be highest as a trade piece.

Tier 3:

4. Oscar De La Cruz, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
De La Cruz may very well be the best pitcher in the Cubs’ system, but injuries have held him back. He threw a solid 56 2/3 innings in 2017 for a 3.34 ERA and 3.69 K/BB. The coming season may prove to be a breakout for De La Cruz where he ends up in the majors – or injury might turn him into exploring a reliever role. If De La Cruz can stay healthy, his ceiling is as high as anyone in the Cubs’ farm.

5. Brendon Little, LHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
The Cubs’ had two first round picks in 2017, but they made sure to grab Little first. Little is in position as the top lefty pitcher in the farm and has hit 97 mph on the gun, but he could still take a bit of time to develop.

6. Alex Lange, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Lange was the other first round draft pick by the Cubs in 2017. Lange is out of LSU where he threw his premier curveball effectively. The righty may carry some injury risk that leads him toward the bullpen, but Lange will certainly get a chance to prove himself as a starter in 2018.

7. Aramis Ademan, SS
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
The top position prospect in the Cubs’ system started the year crushing it in Low-A Eugene, but struggled to adjust upon promotion to South Bend. Between the two levels, Ademan hit for a .267/.324/.427 slash line. Ademan is still young, but projects to be a solid middle infielder.

8. Miguel Amaya, C
Age: 18
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Amaya is a 6-foot-1 teenager that moves well behind the plate. The Panamanian is already very exciting as a receiver, but has more work to do with the bat. Still, at his age, Amaya has plenty of positive projection to his offensive game.

9. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Tseng started 2017 in Double-A and then torched Triple-A upon promotion. Tseng got his first start in the majors in September and have up five runs in three innings. Tseng then had a three inning appearance later on that went much better and earned him the first major league win of his career. The Cubs need arms up in the majors and Tseng is the most ready.

10. Thomas Hatch, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Hatch slammed durability concerns and started 26 games in 2017. He threw for a 4.04 ERA and 2.52 K/BB. Hatch is seen as having a solid floor, but doesn’t appear to have the skill set of a future ace at this point.





Tier 4:

11. Darryl “D.J.” Wilson, OF
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Wilson might be the quickest guy in the Cubs’ system, and he offers a little pop too. Wilson’s weakness comes in his batting average where he hit just .236 in 2017. If Wilson can develop his hit tool some more, he could have a ceiling as a 15 home run/30 steal type player.

12. Nelson Velazquez, OF
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Rookie League
Velazquez has drafted in the fifth round by the Cubs and might already have some of the most power in the system. The Puerto Rican has loads of raw talent, but harnessing the hit tool will control how far he goes – the ceiling is high.

13. Mark Zagunis, OF
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Zagunis had his first 18 major league plate appearances in 2017, but he failed to get his first major league hit (he still got on base four times). The outfielder excelled in Triple-A with a .267/.404/.455 slash line and should see some appearance in the majors again in 2018. Still, barring a big leap, the Cubs might not have much room for him in the outfield. If another team likes what they see, Zagunis could easily be on the move.

14. Bryan Hudson, LHP
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Hudson threw for a 3.91 ERA and 1.56 K/BB over 124 1/3 innings in Single-A. There’s still a lot of potential left in this 6-foot-8 southpaw.

15. Cory Abbott, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Abbott was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Loyola Marymount University. Abbott pitched only briefly in 2017 and he’s someone who could move up this list fast in 2018 with a solid all-around repertoire.

16. Alec Mills, RHP
Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Mills missed some time in 2017 dealing with bone chips in his elbow. The issue does not cause too much alarm and Mills was pitching in the Arizona Fall League before too long. Along with Tseng, Mills has the greatest chance of seeing the majors in 2018 among the Cubs’ farm arms.

17. Brailyn Marquez, LHP
Age: 18
2017 Highest Level: Rookie League
Marquez is a 6-foot-4 lefty out of the Dominican Republic and has touched mid 90s on the radar gun. Marquez threw 44 innings in 2017 for a rough 5.52 ERA but with a 4.33 K/BB ratio. He still has a ways to go, but Marquez at least has the big-young-lefty thing going for him.

18. Michael Rucker, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Rucker converted to a starter mid-year and was outstanding in 2017. Over a total of 106 innings, Rucker threw for a 2.38 ERA and 5.43 K/BB. Rucker will be 24 in April and he could move quickly if his success continues.

19. Jose Paulino, LHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Paulino spent all of 2017 in South Bend and threw for 123 2/3 innings with a 4.51 ERA and 2.24 K/BB. Paulino can boast a blazing heater, but he has shown command that produces results.

20. Erich Uelmen, RHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Uelmen was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and threw a solid 17 2/3 innings in Low-A for a 2.04 ERA and 2.56 K/BB.

21. Dillon Maples, RHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Maples saw his first major league action in 2017 and fared quite well other than one particularly rough outing. Maples started the year in High-A, but he rifled through the ranks in 2017 and could see more time in the major league bullpen in 2018.

22. Trevor Clifton, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Clifton ranked sixth on this list a year ago after a breakout 2016. Unfortunately, 2017 was a big step back for the righty. Clifton threw just over 100 innings for a 5.20 ERA and a 1.91 K/BB ratio. Clifton also saw a loss in velocity and he’ll have to find his 2016-self if he wants to ever have a chance at the bigs.

23. Ricky Thomas, LHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Thomas was selected in the seventh round by the Cubs in the 2017 draft. He tossed 19 1/3 innings in Low-A for a 2.33 ERA and 1.85 K/BB.

24. Justin Steele, LHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Steele was having a great year in South Carolina, but his season ended early in August and he underwent Tommy John surgery. The southpaw may be lucky to see the mound in 2018, but he left us with a glimpse of what could be after throwing for a 2.92 ERA with a fastball touching 94 mph in 2017.

25. Duane Underwood Jr., RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Underwood had a decent 2017 where he showed his durability and threw 138 innings. Still, there are rumors of a move to the bullpen in hopes to put his fastball on the next level.

26. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Rookie League
Estrada was drafted by the Cubs in the sixth round in 2017. He’s capable of hitting mid-90s with his fastball, but his best pitch might be his changeup.

27. Zack Short, SS
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Short split time evenly between Single-A and High-A in 2017 and hit for a combined .250/.383/.419 slash line with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Short’s well-rounded ability should keep him moving through the minors.

28. Jason Vosler, 3B
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Vosler had a full year in Double-A and hit .241/.343/.429 for a solid 21 home runs after hitting just three long balls in 2016. Vosler proved he’s making changes and improving, but he’ll have to continue further on the current trajectory to stick as a corner infielder in the majors.

29. Charcer Burks, OF
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Burks has been fairly consistent in the minors and had a solid year in Double-A hitting .270/.370/.395 with 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Burks’ all-around ability keeps him interesting and he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2018. A little breakout from Burks could go a long way.

30. Austin Filiere, 3B
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Filiere was taken in the eighth round of the 2017 draft by the Cubs. He hit a solid .261/.392/.443 in 49 games of Low-A ball.

31. Rollie Lacy, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Lacy was picked in the eleventh round of the 2017 draft and threw 29 1/3 innings between rookie league and Low-A for a 2.45 ERA and 6.75 K/BB. Rollie isn’t a terrible name for a pitcher either.

32. Chesny Young, 2B/3B
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Young played a full year in Triple-A, but had his worst year as a minor leaguer. After never batting below .300 in the minors, Young hit .256 in 2017. If Young can find his contact skills again, he could have a place as a utility player in the majors.

33. Wladimir Galindo, 3B
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Galindo had a solid season in Single-A hitting .290/.350/.432, but he only lasted 44 games before going down with a leg injury. Galindo has the power to excel at any level, but he needs to put it all together over a full season to be higher on this list.

34. Ian Rice, C/1B
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Rice hit a solid .230/.353/.423 with 17 home runs while handling duties behind the plate in 2017.

35. David Bote, 2B/3B/OF
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Bote had a solid 2017 hitting .272/.353/.438 with 14 home runs over a full year in Tennessee. Bote’s bat is quite good, but lack of a solid defensive role leaves a murky outlook. He did shine in the Arizona Fall League slashing .333/.395/.536/.931 with 4 HR and 14 RBI.

36. Keegan Thompson, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low-A (Eugene)
Thompson was selected in the third round of the 2017 draft after missing 2016 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Thompson was impressive in his 19 innings in 2017 throwing for a 2.37 ERA and 5.75 K/BB.

37. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Sepulveda started the year struggling in High-A batting just .196/.272/.214 over 28 games before he landed on the disabled list. Sepulveda did get in nine games in Arizona in the fall where he fared much better and hit .324/.390/.378 in a small sample size.

38. Eddy Martinez, OF
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Martinez hit .244/.297/.366 with 14 home runs and six stolen bases over a full year in High-A. Martinez has some solid raw talent, but he needs some more consistency to fill out his projection.

39. Dakota Mekkes, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Mekkes had a terrific 2017 throwing for a 0.98 ERA and 2.71 K/BB over 73 1/3 relief innings between Single-A and High-A.

40. Brad Markey, RHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Markey threw for a 2.85 ERA and a 5.21 K/BB in a mix between starting and relief roles.

41. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Zastryzny struggled in the majors this past year more than I struggled typing out his name. Over four middle relief appearances, Zpaghetti got torched for 12 earned runs in 13 innings. After an excellent showing in 2016, the left-handed Canadian will have to regain his prior form.

42. Jake Stinnett, RHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Stinnett moved to relief in 2017 and may have found his sweet spot. Over 14 2/3 innings in Double-A, Stinnett gave up just one run.





Tier 5:

43. Duncan Robinson, RHP
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Not actually a San Antonio Spurs legend, Robinson threw a stellar 126 innings for a 2.21 ERA and 3.43 K/BB across two levels.

44. Daury Torrez, RHP
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Torrez threw for 77 1/3 innings in Double-A almost all in relief for a 1.40 ERA and 4.31 K/BB.

45. Bijan Rademacher, OF
Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Rademacher had a full year at Triple-A and hit .294/.375/.436. He’ll be 27 in June, but he’s in a position to possibly get a taste of the majors at some point.

46. Luis Ayala, OF
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Single-A
Ayala hit a solid .281/.360/.373 while swiping 24 bags over a full season in South Bend in 2017.

47. Erling Moreno, RHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Moreno spent time on the DL in 2017 on multiple occasions and threw for a 4.22 ERA over 64 innings in South Bend.

48. Zach Hedges, RHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Hedges was solid in Double-A in 2017 and earned a promotion in June. He was back in Double-A by July.

49. Ryan Kellogg, LHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: High-A (Myrtle Beach)
Kellogg took a step back from a excellent 2016 and threw for a 5.12 ERA and 1.89 K/BB over 103 2/3 innings.

50. Jhon Romero, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: Single-A (South Bend)
Romero just turned 23 and pitched for a 0.86 ERA and 4.82 K/BB over 41. 2/3 innings in relief.

About Dan Hogan 11 Articles
My name is Dan Hogan and I’m the freak holding down the Cubs talk around here. I’ve been playing fantasy sports for over ten years, but more recently dove into dynasty baseball. I have a healthy interest in data and statistics, and baseball is certainly a great sport for all that jazz. Twitter: @BelowTheBenthic

5 Comments

    • Rucker’s age suggests if he has continued success that he’ll move up quickly. He was seen as good enough to start, but he always has relief to fall back on. As a reliever to start 2017, Rucker struck out 38 over 23 innings while walking just two. Two!

      He could excel as a starter and end up in Triple-A by July – or he could struggle and end the year as a 24-year-old reliever in High-A or Double-A. I like his current trajectory, he just has to keep proving himself.

  1. Hi Dan,
    I just joined a 16-team dynasty league. My team is awful but we can have up to 50 minor leaguers so I’m starting on a rebuild. I inherited Maples and Little. You seem pretty high on them. Think they could be part of a rebuild in two years? In a deep league like ours, pretty much the top dozen or so prospects are already taken. Any under-the-radar guys you might suggest?
    thanks,
    Jeff

    • With such a deep league I would tend to look at the younger guys already making their names known after the top farm guys are taken. I mean I would just aim for the lotto tickets with higher ceilings. Especially bats like Nelson Velazquez.

      I like Little, but I worry Maples will be a middle bullpen piece at best.

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