The Cubs may not have repeated as World Series champions, but they did reach the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year and still have the best nucleus of young hitting talent in the game. Of the 11 players who got regular at-bats for Chicago, nine were 27
The Cubs may not have repeated as World Series champions, but they did reach the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year and still have the best nucleus of young hitting talent in the game. Of the 11 players who got regular at-bats for Chicago, nine were 27 or younger.
Cracking that lineup could seem like a daunting task. But Cubs outfield prospect Charcer Burks, currently in the Arizona Fall League, sees the franchise's resounding success developing hitters as inspiring.
"It's motivating me a lot," Burks said. "A good majority of those guys came from the Minor Leagues at some point and at some point I've played with them, during the season or in some kind of camp. To see them now, having success in the big leagues when I knew they were in around the same position I am currently, it definitely motivates me and reminds me that in the near future I could be there helping Chicago win a championship."
• Arizona Fall League roster & stats
Coming out of the Houston area, Burks planned on attending McLennan (Texas) CC before an impressive pre-Draft workout boosted his stock in 2013. The Cubs drafted him in the ninth round and signed him for $170,000. Since then he has steadily improved while advancing one level per season.
Burks' best tool always has been his plus speed, which is an asset on the bases and in center field. He does have a below-average arm, though he has worked diligently to make it playable in center. He has a knack for getting on base and has begun to translate the wiry strength in his 6-foot, 170-pound frame into occasional pop.
• Cubs Top 30 Prospects list
As a 22-year-old in Double-A this season, Burks batted .270/.370/.395 with 10 homers and 16 steals in 121 games. While he doesn't see himself as a power hitter, he is trying to cut loose with his right-handed swing when the opportunity present itself.
"That's one of the things I'm just working on, and I think all that's going to start coming together the more I learn the game and learning counts to do damage in and learning counts to just put the ball in play, to drive the ball back up the middle and the other way," Burks said. "Having my speed in my back pocket is always nice too, keeping the ability to run. I think that I'm very happy with the progress that I've made over the years and I don't think I'm anywhere near my full potential yet, so I'm excited."
Cubs hitters in the Fall League
David Bote, 2B/OF -- With his hitting ability, gap power and versatility (he has played everywhere but catcher and center field as a pro), Bote could play a utility role. An 18th-round pick from Neosho County (Kan.) CC, he batted .270/.351/.436 with a career-best 14 homers in 127 Double-A game this year. His hot start to the AFL season earned him Player of the Week honors.
Ian Rice, C/1B -- Rice also set a career high for homers, smacking 17 while hitting .230/.353/.423 in 119 Double-A contests. The 29th-rounder from Houston in 2015 stands out most for his pop and his eye at the plate, though his defense is still a work in progress.
Jason Vosler, 3B -- Another Cubs prospect who set a personal best in homers in Double-A, Vosler went deep 21 times in 129 games and batted .241/.343/.429. Signed as a 16th-rounder from Northeastern in 2014, he offers left-handed power and is turning into a solid defender at third base.
Cubs pitchers in the Fall League
Adbert Alzolay, RHP -- The best advanced starting pitching prospect in Chicago's system, Alzolay backs up a 92-97 mph fastball with a hard curveball. Signed out of Venezuela in 2012, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA and a 108/34 K/BB ratio in 114 1/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A.
Pedro Araujo, RHP -- Araujo spent four years in Rookie leagues and didn't get to full-season ball until 2016, five years after he signed out of the Dominican Republic. He used a lively 91-95 mph fastball as his primary weapon while recording 10 saves, a 1.76 ERA and an 87/18 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings, mostly in high Class A.
Alec Mills, RHP -- A 22nd-round choice by the Royals from Tennessee-Martin in 2012, Mills joined the Cubs in a February trade for outfield prospect Donnie Dewees. A control-oriented starter with a solid fastball and changeup, the Cubs' No. 20 prospect injured his ankle in mid-April and made just seven starts during the regular season.
Jake Stinnett, RHP -- Stinnett showed a plus sinker and slider at Maryland, which got him drafted in the second round in 2014, but his stuff regressed in pro ball. He missed the first three months this season with an injury, then he posted a 1.19 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings as a reliever, mostly in Double-A.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.