Here are the Cubs' 2020 Top 30 Prospects

March 4th, 2020

Five years ago, the Cubs had baseball's best farm system and one of the best collections of position prospects in recent memory. When they ended their 108-year World Series championship drought in 2016, they appeared poised to win multiple titles.

Instead, Chicago lost in the '17 National League Championship Series, faded down the stretch in '18 and fell in the NL Wild Card Game, then collapsed in September last year and missed the playoffs. Its farm system has declined as well, which is somewhat inevitable for a consistent winner, but the Cubs' inability to develop pitching prospects may lead to their window of contention closing earlier and with fewer Commissioner's Trophies than expected.

Since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over baseball operations in October 2011, Rob Zastryzny tops all of their homegrown pitchers in big leagues innings with a mere 34 1/3 from 2016-18. Chicago received just 45 innings last year from arms it signed and developed and has been forced to import most of its pitching. It has spent heavily on the free-agent market, including nine-figure contracts for Jon Lester and Yu Darvish, and sacrificed a lot of young talent (Gleyber Torres, Jorge Soler, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) in trades for Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Jose Quintana.

The Cubs recognized their shortfall of pitching prospects and tried to compensate by stockpiling college arms in the 2016 and 2017 Drafts, which haven't panned out. They've acknowledged their difficulties in finding mound help and have pivoted, putting less of a premium on strike throwers with clean deliveries and spending their 2019 first-round choice on right-hander Ryan Jensen, who had the best fastball in last year's college class.

Chicago also reshuffled its front office during the offseason, moving Jason McLeod from senior VP of amateur scouting and player development to senior VP of player personnel, Jaron Madison from farm director to special assistant and Matt Dorey from scouting director to senior director of player development. Former Athletics assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz came aboard as vice president of scouting.

Most of the Cubs' best current prospects are position players, led by middle infielder Nico Hoerner, outfielder Brennen Davis and catcher Miguel Amaya. Left-hander Brailyn Marquez broke out last summer but is still a couple of years away. The best in-house hope for bolstering the 2020 rotation is right-hander Adbert Alzolay, though lat, side and biceps issues have limited him the last two years.

Here's a look at the Cubs' top prospects

  1. Nico Hoerner, SS/2B/OF (MLB No. 51)
  2. Brailyn Marquez, LHP (No. 68)
  3. Brennen Davis, OF (No. 78)
  4. Miguel Amaya, C (No. 95)
  5. Cole Roederer, OF
    Complete Top 30 list »

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list:

Jump: Kohl Franklin, RHP (2019: NR | 2020: 7) -- The nephew of former All-Star Ryan Franklin added velocity to his fastball and developed an effective breaking ball in his first full year in pro ball.

Fall: Aramis Ademan, SS (2019: 6 | 2020: NR) -- He has struggled with aggressive assignments since ranking as the organization's top position prospect two years ago, posting OPS of .563 and .652 in high Class A at ages 19 and 20.

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 60 -- Hoerner
Power: 55 -- Davis (Christopher Morel, Nelson Velazquez)
Run: 60 -- Davis (Rafael Morel)
Arm: 65 -- Kevin Made
Defense: 60 -- Amaya
Fastball: 80 -- Marquez
Curveball: 65 -- Chris Clarke
Slider: 55 -- Cory Abbott (Clarke, Yovanny Cruz, Ryan Jensen, Marquez, Michael McAvene, Tyson Miller, James Norwood, Keegan Thompson)
Changeup: 55 -- Kohl Franklin (Thompson)
Control: 55 -- Thompson

How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 13 | Trade: 1

Breakdown by ETA
2020: 6 | 2021: 6 | 2022: 11 | 2023: 5 | 2024: 2

Breakdown by position
C: 3 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 1 | 3B: 1 | SS: 5 | OF: 3 | RHP: 12 | LHP: 4