Checking in on the Cubs' 2023 Draft class

June 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO – After an overwhelming offensive showing in his pro debut last season, earned an invitation to Major League Spring Training this year and made a strong impression with the big league staff. It made it fair to wonder how swiftly the infield prospect could find his way to Wrigley Field.

Two months into his return to Double-A Tennessee this season, Shaw (MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Cubs prospect and the No. 42 overall prospect) has experienced some of the natural ebb and flow that happens within a full season. The overall numbers might not be as eye-popping as a year ago, but Shaw is piecing together a solid campaign.

“Overall, he's having a good season, and I expect it to get better and better as the season goes,” said Jason Kanzler, the Cubs’ director of player development. “Obviously, he's not destroying the league like he did last year in High-A, but at the same time, there's a lot of really promising things that he's doing that, in our opinion, will help him in the future in the big leagues."

The Cubs took Shaw with the 13th overall pick in the first round of last year’s Draft out of the University of Maryland, where he hit .341 with 24 homers and a 1.142 OPS in 62 games in ‘23. Shaw then had stops with the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League, High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee last year, hitting .357 with eight homers, 21 extra-base hits, 15 steals and a 1.018 OPS in 38 games.

Shaw is nearly two years younger than the average position player at Double-A this year and has hit .234/.360/.389 through 48 games. He has six homers, 12 extra-base hits, 13 steals, 22 RBIs, 28 runs scored and 31 walks (compared to 44 strikeouts). Shaw has hit .344 (11-for-32) in his past eight games, following a 32-game stretch in which he hit .164 with a .482 OPS.

“The Double-A assignment is aggressive, but it's for a reason,” Kanzler said. “We believe that Shaw has more than enough skill and talent and the mind to succeed there and to work and to do what he needs to do. In terms of his season progressing, I think every baseball player goes through some hots and some colds.”

With the exception of Triple-A Iowa, where there are no players from Chicago’s 2023 Draft class, let’s check in on some of last year’s draftees at other levels.

Triple-A Iowa: OF

Without a 2023 Draft selection at this level, let’s look at how the 21-year-old Caissie (the Cubs’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 35 overall prospect) is faring in his first season at Triple-A. Through 50 games, the lefty slugger has hit .302/.421/.453 with four homers, 13 doubles, 27 RBIs, 35 walks and 54 hits.

“I actually don't mind the slight dip in power currently, only because I know that, intrinsically, it's there,” Kanzler said. “He didn't lose his ability to hit the ball hard. He's obviously just producing in a different way. But he hasn't sacrificed anything permanently. Overall, it's awesome to watch what he's doing.”

High-A South Bend: OF

An eighth-round pick in 2023, Bateman (the Cubs’ No. 29 prospect) has hit .307/.440/.399 with 10 extra-base hits, 14 steals, 16 RBIs and nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (36). The fleet-footed center fielder has rattled off 47 hits in 42 games.

“I love that he's not trying to be something that he's not,” Kanzler said. “He's embracing the things that he's very good at. And it's obviously paying dividends. With that being said, he's still 22, so there is some amount of physical maturation still left there.”

Single-A Myrtle Beach: RHP Nick Dean

The 22-year-old Dean was promoted to South Bend on May 22, but this is a chance to revisit how well he performed with Myrtle Beach before that bump. A 19th-round pick in 2023 by the Cubs, Dean posted a 2.33 ERA with 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 27 innings (four relief outings and three starts) for the Pelicans. He has added 10 scoreless innings in two games since moving up to High-A.

“He dominated that league. It was time for a promotion for him. Very well deserved,” Kanzler said.

Arizona Complex League: RHP

The 22-year-old Wiggins (the No. 19 Cubs prospect) was a second-round pick in 2023 out of Arkansas, even amid a comeback from Tommy John surgery. The pitching prospect is back in games in the Arizona Complex League and has logged seven innings in four starts. Command has been an early issue (12 walks), but that is not uncommon for players early in the comeback process.

“We've been very pleased with his recovery,” Kanzler said. “And he's showing some great things that we had expected when we acquired him. All the reports from Arizona are excellent. I love the fastball velocity. This stuff is great. Anytime a guy's coming back from TJ, it's just making sure not only is their body right, but that their mind is prepared and ready and confident.”