CHICAGO -- When MLB Pipeline recently unveiled its revamped Top 100 prospects list for the start of the 2024 MLB season, the Cubs led the way with seven players in the rankings.
The North Siders’ Top 100 group was assembled through trades (four players) and the MLB Draft (three), and it features a few who project to impact the Major League club this year. Let’s run down the list and look at how soon these seven standouts could join the Cubs in Chicago.
Already considered one of baseball’s elite defenders in center field, the 21-year-old Crow-Armstrong will vie for an MLB job this spring. Even if the Cubs re-sign Cody Bellinger, there may be a place on the big league roster for a player with PCA’s skill-set. If Crow-Armstrong does open with Triple-A Iowa, expect him to find his way to Chicago again this year after his brief taste of The Show last September.
Last season, between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa, Crow-Armstrong hit .283/.365/.511 with 20 homers, 26 doubles, seven triples, 82 RBIs, 98 runs scored and 37 stolen bases.
It would be foolish to draw any sweeping conclusions from PCA’s 13-game, 0-for-14 stint with the Cubs. During Cubs Convention last month, the rookie did acknowledge that he needs to keep honing his skills against heaters up in the strike zone.
Horton, 22, flew up three Minors levels last season, ending with a 2.65 ERA and 117 strikeouts against 27 walks in 88 1/3 innings. The righty had a 1.22 ERA in eight Double-A starts (including a pair of postseason outings). There is certainly a scenario in which Horton forces his way up to the big leagues as soon as this summer, but 2025 may be more realistic, given he made a return from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in '22 and is still building up his innings.
The Cubs have a need for lefty power in the big leagues, but the 21-year-old Caissie is likely still a year away from reaching the Majors. Widely viewed as one of the top power prospects in the game, Caissie hit .289/.399/.519 with 22 homers, 31 doubles, 76 walks and 84 RBIs in 120 games at Double-A in 2023.
With Seiya Suzuki entrenched as Chicago’s right fielder and signed through 2026, the quickest path to the bigs for Caissie right now might be via the DH slot.
During Cubs Convention, new Cubs manager Craig Counsell said Busch had done "everything you could possibly do in Minor League Baseball," declaring the rookie “ready” for an MLB opportunity.
Expect the 26-year-old Busch to get a real look as Chicago’s new first baseman. Last year in the Dodgers’ system, Busch hit .323/.431/.618 with 27 homers, 26 doubles, 90 RBIs and 88 strikeouts against 65 walks in 469 plate appearances at Triple-A Oklahoma.
After being drafted by the Cubs, Shaw stated his intention to prove he could swiftly climb up the Minor League ladder. In his pro debut, the 22-year-old infielder soared up three levels, reaching Double-A while hitting .357 with 21 extra-base hits, 27 runs, 28 RBIs and 15 steals in 38 games.
Shaw played mostly shortstop and second base, but he noted at Cubs Convention he has spent this offseason focusing on third base. With Gold Glovers Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner up the middle and signed to long-term deals, Shaw could keep his rapid rise going by showing he can handle the hot corner.
The 21-year-old Alcántara played 95 of his 102 games with High-A South Bend last year, ending his season with a .284/.345/.466 slash line overall. The 6-foot-6 outfielder has five-tool potential, but he could wind up moving to an outfield corner, given Crow-Armstrong’s presence in center. Being on the 40-man roster plays in Alcántara’s favor, but he is likely still a year or two away from reaching the big leagues.
Triantos showed off some of the best bat-to-ball skills of the Minors last year, posting a Cubs system-leading 10.7% strikeout rate. The 21-year-old infielder hit .287/.364/.391 in 83 games between High-A and Double-A, then he was named the Arizona Fall League’s Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .417 (1.174 OPS) in 22 games. Triantos made the move to second base from third last year, and he is still likely a few years away from the Majors.