Analyzing Cubs' prospect trio going to Futures Game

July 8th, 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 -- The Cubs have not been afraid to challenge their young prospects with aggressive assignments in recent seasons. In multiple cases, the organization has pushed some of its top talent to affiliates where they’ve represented some of the youngest players at that Minor League level.

Three such prospects -- infielder Matt Shaw (Cubs' No. 2 prospect, MLB Pipeline's No. 29 overall), outfielder Owen Caissie (Chicago's No. 3 prospect, No. 34 overall) and catcher Moises Ballesteros (Cubs' No. 5 prospect, No. 60 overall) -- are each authoring a strong campaign that has been rewarded with a place on the All-Star Futures Game roster. Ballesteros will also be participating in the first Futures Skills Showcase as part of the event.

“We have guys at high levels at really young ages,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said recently. “I do think when you look at it, not only are these guys performing, but they’re doing it at ages where they’re a couple years younger than the league. I think there’s a lot of really good hitting performances going on. I’m glad people are taking note of that.”

The seven-inning Futures Game featuring American League and National League prospect rosters is set for 3 p.m. CT on Saturday on MLB Network, MLB.TV, or in the MLB App. The Futures Skills Showcase will be aired on tape delay at 9 a.m. CT Sunday on the same MLB platforms.

With Double-A Tennessee this season, the 22-year-old Shaw is nearly two years younger than the average position player at that level. In 68 games for the Smokies, the Cubs’ top pick in the 2023 Draft (13th overall) has slashed .251/.361/.428 with 10 homers, nine doubles, 35 RBIs, 19 steals and a 20.3% strikeout rate, compared to a 13.7% walk rate.

Shaw has bounced between third base (334 innings), second (158) and shortstop (52 2/3), and he has seen his offense tick up as the season has progressed. After posting a .683 OPS in May, Shaw hit at a .289 clip with a .901 OPS in June.

“His ability to make adjustments [has stood out],” Cubs assistant general manager Jared Banner said recently. “He had a little stretch there where he wasn’t at his best. To be able to work through that, he continued to get on base and take walks through that period while he was figuring some other things out. He’s really taken off recently.”

Caissie (who turned 22 on Monday) -- acquired in the Yu Darvish trade prior to the 2021 season -- has spent this season with Triple-A Iowa, where he is more than five years younger than the average position player. Caissie has slashed .279/.387/.443 with eight homers, 18 doubles, 46 RBIs and 47 walks through 76 games. He has mostly played in the outfield corners (301 1/3 innings in right and 255 1/3 innings in left), but he also had a brief stint in center (17).

“It’s awesome to watch what he’s doing,” Cubs director of player development Jason Kanzler said earlier this season. “He takes his work very seriously. He’s years beyond what his age would indicate.”

That sentiment would also apply to the 20-year-old Ballesteros, who opened the year at Double-A (where he was more than six years younger than the average position player) and is now at Triple-A (nearly four years younger). Ballesteros has slashed .306/.369/.486 with 10 homers, 47 RBIs and an .855 OPS in 71 games overall, while catching (323 2/3 innings) and playing some first base (71).

“What really stands out,” Banner said, “is he continues to control the strike zone really well and find his barrel very consistently. We’ve been really impressed with that and his diligence on the defensive side of the ball.”