Cubs lead way with 7 prospects on Top 100 list

January 27th, 2024

MLB Pipeline revealed its Top 100 Prospects list heading into the 2024 season on Friday, marking the 20th year of ranking the best players in farm systems across baseball. What the list shows is that the future looks bright for many teams, but the organization with the most prospects among the Top 100 is the Cubs, with seven.

Led by heralded outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, the seven Cubs prospects who landed among the Top 100 include three outfielders, three infielders and one pitcher. Here’s a breakdown of each player’s ranking and profile:

Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, No. 16
Armstrong was a first-round Draft pick of the Mets in 2020, and he joined the Cubs’ organization by way of the trade that sent Javier Báez to New York just prior to the Trade Deadline in ’21. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound outfielder has plus speed and is considered the best defensive prospect in baseball, receiving a score of 80 in the fielding category on the 20-80 scouting scale.

At the plate, the left-handed hitter has developed more power, as demonstrated by his .511 slugging percentage and 20 home runs in 107 games last year between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. Add that to his speed on the basepaths, which translated into 37 steals in 2023.

With the power surge came a significant increase in strikeouts, meaning Armstrong will need to find the right balance, particularly as he faces tougher pitching at Triple-A and in the Majors. The 21-year-old made his MLB debut last September, going 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts.

Cade Horton, RHP, No. 26
The Cubs chose Horton with the seventh overall pick in 2022, and he has advanced through the system rapidly, reaching Double-A last year in his first professional season. In 21 starts across three levels, the 22-year-old finished with a 2.65 ERA and struck out 33.5% of the batters he faced.

Horton was one of the best two-way players in the country coming out of high school, but he chose to play football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma. He features a 94-96 mph fastball that can touch 98 mph with carry and armside run, along with a wipeout slider, a curveball and a changeup that is a work in progress.

Owen Caissie, OF, No. 47
Caissie made a significant jump over last year’s preseason rankings, vaulting 17 spots from No. 64. A second-round pick out of high school by the Padres in 2020, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound outfielder was traded to Chicago in the deal that sent Yu Darvish to San Diego.

Caissie had a breakout campaign with Double-A Tennessee last year, posting a slash line of .289/.398/.519 with 22 homers in 120 games. His calling card is raw power from the left side, and his exit velocities were described by MLB Pipeline as “astounding” in his age-20 season. He is an average runner and has a solid arm, and he profiles as a corner outfielder in the Majors.

Michael Busch, 3B, No. 51 
The Cubs acquired Busch along with reliever Yency Almonte from the Dodgers in exchange for a pair of prospects on Jan. 11. The first-round Draft choice from 2019 has shown prodigious power all along the way in the Minor Leagues. He was named the Pacific Coast League MVP last year after launching 27 homers with a 1.049 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Busch, 26, has a smooth left-handed swing and a good eye at the plate, as evidenced by his 13.2% walk rate in four Minor League seasons. MLB Pipeline sees a Max Muncy comp in Busch’s profile at the plate, noting that Busch is “a better pure hitter.” Defensively, he likely profiles as a first baseman in the Majors.

Matt Shaw, SS, No. 54 
Shaw made a quantum leap from the 2023 rankings, going from No. 96 to No. 54. That’s due to the incredible start he has enjoyed in his professional career. This guy was drafted just last year -- the Cubs took him with the 13th overall pick out of the University of Maryland. He slashed .357/.400/.618 with eight home runs and 15 steals in 38 games across the Rookie, High-A and Double-A levels.

The 22-year-old hits for both average and power from the right side without sacrificing contact for slugging. Defensively, he has been at shortstop and has the range to stick there, but might profile better at second base in the Majors because of his average arm strength.

Kevin Alcántara, OF, No. 65 
Arriving in the Cubs’ organization via the 2021 trade that sent Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees, Alcántara has been impressive since making his pro debut in New York’s system back in 2019. Last season, he slashed .286/.341/.466 with 12 home runs and 15 steals over 95 games for High-A South Bend before a late-season promotion to Double-A. He then slugged five homers in 21 games in the Arizona Fall League.

The 6-foot-6, 188-pound 21-year-old has a projectable frame. When he fills it out, he could be a 30-homer threat at the next level. With tall players like Alcántara, there can be a concern that the swing can get too long. But he has shown a short, compact stroke that does damage. Defensively, he has played mostly center field, but he might end up being a corner outfielder in the Majors, especially with Crow-Armstrong in the organization.

James Triantos, 2B, No. 73 
Triantos, who will turn 21 on Monday, has hit consistently in the Minors, though after showing some power early on in his pro career, that has faded. In 80 games at High-A South Bend last season, he hit .285 with a .363 on-base percentage but slugged only .390.

Still, Triantos was impressive over 22 Arizona Fall League games, hitting .417 with three doubles, five triples, three homers and nine steals. MLB Pipeline notes that his bat-to-ball skills compare favorably to Astros star Alex Bregman and former Mets star David Wright. Defensively, Triantos has shifted from third base to second, a spot where he’ll profile better as he seeks to advance.