PCA highlights Cubs' loaded system

April 4th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Craig Counsell had heard plenty about the Cubs’ improved farm system, but Spring Training really gave the manager an opportunity to see it for himself. What jumped out to Counsell was the volume of potential impact prospects steadily climbing up the organizational ladder and approaching the big leagues.

“I think the great thing that the Cubs have going on right now,” Counsell said during the spring, “is that there's a lot of kids you can talk about. And that's fun, because they're all on this journey to try to become guys.

“And some of them will. Some of them won't. But, there's enough of them that the odds are really in our favor that there's going to be that guy. And our job is to help all of them and take part in that journey.”

MLB Pipeline ranked the Cubs’ farm system -- one featuring six Top 100 prospects -- No. 2 in baseball entering the 2024 season. Here’s a quick glance where some of Pipeline’s Top 30 Cubs prospects are opening this season.

Triple-A Iowa

Player to Watch: OF Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 1/No. 16)

Crow-Armstrong is big-league ready when it comes to his defensive ability in center field. The 22-year-old has room to grow offensively, but Crow-Armstrong has the potential to be a dynamic bat with plus speed when he makes his return to Chicago.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP

Wesneski has graduated from Pipeline’s prospect rankings, but he is still a developing arm for the Cubs. The righty serves as a reserve option for Chicago’s rotation, but could also be utilized as a multi-inning reliever.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Owen Caissie (No. 3/No. 45), OF Alexander Canario (No. 11), 1B Matt Mervis (No. 14), INF BJ Murray Jr. (No. 17), SS Luis Vazquez (No. 19).

Double-A Tennessee

Opening Day: 6 p.m. CT on Friday vs. Rocket City

Player to Watch: RHP Cade Horton (No. 2/No. 25)

Horton, 22, cruised up three levels in his pro debut in ‘23, logging a 2.65 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 27 walks in 88 1/3 innings at Single-A, High-A and Double-A. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Cubs’ 2022 first-rounder reaches Chicago this summer.

Pitcher to Watch: INF Matt Shaw (No. 4/No. 51)

Shaw hit .357 with 21 extra-base hits and a 1.018 OPS in 38 games between the Arizona Complex League, High-A and Double-A after being picked 13th overall in the ‘23 Draft. He impressed the Cubs in big league camp this spring, especially in how he tackled learning third base.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: OF Kevin Alcántara (No. 5/No. 61), INF James Triantos (No. 6/No. 69), C Moises Ballesteros (No. 7), Michael Arias (No. 13), 1B Haydn McGeary (No. 20), C Pablo Aliendo (No. 22), RHP Brandon Birdsell (No. 26), RHP Porter Hodge (No. 28), INF Josh Rivera (No. 29), RHP Kohl Franklin (No. 30).

High-A South Bend

Opening Day: 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday at Quad Cities

Player to Watch: SS Jefferson Rojas (No. 9)

The 18-year-old Rojas has impressed the Cubs with his maturity on and off the field since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2022. He was roughly three years younger than the average position player in his stint at Single-A in ‘23, but held his own and could be a Top 100 prospect before too long.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Brody McCullough (No. 27)

McCullough, 23, was a 10th-round selection by the Cubs out of Wingate University in the 2022 Draft. Last season, the right-hander posted a 3.44 ERA with 108 strikeouts against 31 walks in 86 1/3 innings (21 starts) between Single-A and High-A last year.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: LHP Drew Gray (No. 16), INF Pedro Ramirez (No. 18)

Single-A Myrtle Beach

Opening Day: 6:05 p.m. CT on Friday vs. Fayetteville

Player to Watch: INF Alexis Hernandez (No. 24)

The younger of the two Hernandez brothers who are working their way up the Cubs’ system, Alexis will be making the move to Myrtle Beach this year. In the Arizona Complex League last year, the 19-year-old Hernandez hit .315 with three homers, nine doubles, 25 RBIs and a .922 OPS in 37 games.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Nazier Mule

The 19-year-old Mule has fallen out of the Top 30 for the Cubs, but he remains an intriguing prospect. The ‘22 fourth-rounder is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but will be a name to watch when he makes his mid-season return.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: INF Cristian Hernandez (No. 23)