Breaking down the Cubs' new Top 30 Prospects

August 14th, 2023

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 -- During the past two years of rebuilding and focusing on player development, the Cubs overhauled and greatly improved their farm system. In fact, four of Pipeline’s top five prospects for the ballclub -- led by top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong -- were acquired via trade in that timeframe.

With the Major League team now focused on a postseason chase, this year’s Deadline included shipping two prospects to the Nationals in order to land an impact bat in Jeimer Candelario. Chicago lost two Top 30 prospects (DJ Herz and Kevin Made), but their system remains deeper than it has been in several years.

“I'll give the scouts and the player development guys a lot of credit,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said after the Deadline. “I do think we've worked amazingly hard the last few years to build up our farm system. And to be able to give up talented guys, but also be able to protect sort of our top 10-15 group was incredibly important for us.

“The last couple of years of the Deadline have helped that, honestly. We've been able to build up a farm system where we felt like we could make that kind of move.”

At the same time, the Cubs have been building a better farm system to hopefully turn a 2023 playoff run into a sustained period of contention for years to come. With that in mind, here is how the revised Pipeline rankings for the Cubs’ farm shakes out.

Here’s a look at the Cubs’ top prospects:

2. Cade Horton, RHP (No. 30)

5. Ben Brown, RHP (No. 91)

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the preseason list:

Jump: Jefferson Rojas, SS (Preseason: NR | Midseason: 11)

The Cubs signed Rojas out of the Dominican Republic with a $1 million bonus as part of the ‘22 international class. Chicago loved his offensive upside and defensive versatility. Rojas, 18, hit at a .303 clip in his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in ‘22. Through 49 games with Single-A Myrtle Beach this season, he has hit .257/.343/.393 while splitting shortstop duties with Cristian Hernandez.

Fall: Brennen Davis, OF (Preseason: 3 | Midseason: 20)

It has been a trying couple of seasons for the 23-year-old Davis, who headed into ‘22 as Pipeline’s No. 1-ranked Cubs prospect. A back issue limited the outfielder to 53 games in ‘22 and he has been sidelined since June this year due to core muscle surgery. Davis was a second-round pick in the ‘18 Draft and the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game MVP in ‘21, but health setbacks have stalled his path to The Show.

New to the list
Here are the players added to the Top 30 from outside the organization:

No. 6: Matt Shaw, SS (2023 first-round Draft pick)

No. 23: Josh Rivera, SS (2023 third-round Draft pick)

No. 25: Jaxon Wiggins, RHP (2023 Compensation Round Draft pick)

Impact callup -- RHP Caleb Kilian (No. 24)
In a Pipeline story on this topic earlier this month, Brown was the clear choice as a potential callup to impact the Cubs down the stretch. Brown is currently sidelined with a left side issue and his timeline is unclear, so Kilian fits the next-man-up mold here.

Kilian was recently promoted to offer an additional, multi-inning bridge arm for the bullpen. In his last eight outings at Triple-A prior to the most recent callup, Kilian had a 2.85 ERA. As a group of Cubs relievers face career-high workloads down the stretch, Kilian could be a helpful piece for managing innings in lower-leverage moments.

Best tools
(Players are graded on a traditional 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.)

Hit: 55 -- James Triantos (Moises Ballesteros, Crow-Armstrong, Rojas, Shaw, Derniche Valdez) 

Power: 65 -- Caissie

Run: 60 -- Crow-Armstrong

Arm: 60 -- Alexander Canario (Cristian Hernandez, Matt Mervis, Rojas, Luis Vazquez)

Defense: 80 -- Crow-Armstrong

Fastball: 80 -- Daniel Palencia

Curveball: 60 -- Brown

Slider: 65 -- Horton

Changeup: 70 -- Jordan Wicks

Control: 55 -- Wicks (Horton)