CHICAGO – The last couple of seasons have been trying for Cubs fans, who have watched a series of stars and core players head to other teams via blockbuster trades. What cannot be denied is that Chicago’s farm system has been greatly enhanced in the process.
Over the past two years, more than half of the players on MLB Pipeline’s newest Top 30 list for the Cubs were acquired via trade, international signing or the MLB Draft. It has been an aggressive push by president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and his front office to reel in players who can be part of what he has called “the next great Cubs team.”
“Depth, I think that’s probably the thing we’re most proud of right now,” Hoyer said recently. “Right now, I don’t think we have anyone sort of in that Top 25 grouping, but I think the depth really does stand out. We’re winning [in the Minor Leagues]. … We’re hitting well, we’re pitching well. I think from top to bottom, we have real depth. I think that’s what really sticks out.
“We have real confidence in our player development system. Hitting, pitching, defensively, we’ve had a lot of really good performances this year. A lot of guys have really improved, and that’s the most important thing. I think through that depth, our hope is certainly that we’ll churn out a lot of big leaguers that will impact here.
“And I feel really good that our eggs aren’t just in a couple baskets. We’re not a one-, or two- or three-player farm system. I think we’re really deep and I think that stands out.”
Let’s break down the updated Top 30 list for the Cubs’ farm system.
Here’s a look at the Cubs’ top prospects:
1. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF (No. 31)
2. Brennen Davis, OF (No. 51)
3. Kevin Alcantara, OF (No. 91)
4. Cade Horton, RHP
5. Jordan Wicks, LHP
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the preseason list:
Jump: Moises Ballesteros, C (Preseason: NR | Midseason: 15) – Shortstop prospect Cristian Hernandez garnered the most attention among the Cubs’ 2021 international signing class, but Chicago also reeled in a talented catcher in Ballesteros ($1.2 million signing bonus). This year between the Arizona Complex League and Single-A Myrtle Beach, the 18-year-old Ballesteros was batting .256/.359/.504 with eight homers and 20 RBIs through 41 games. That includes an .891 OPS in 32 games in the ACL before being promoted.
Fall: Brailyn Marquez, LHP (Preseason: 10 | Midseason: NR) – The hard-throwing Marquez appeared in one game for the Cubs late in 2020 and appeared poised for big things for the North Siders. That was before a series of health setbacks across the ’21-22 seasons kept him out of games entirely. This year, the 23-year-old Marquez underwent a season-ending left shoulder procedure in June. The big lefty once had a high ceiling as a starting prospect, but he may be forced to try to carve a path as a reliever.
New to the list
Here are the players added to the Top 30 from outside the organization:
No. 4: Cade Horton, RHP (2022 MLB Draft)
No. 7: Ben Brown, RHP (Trade with Phillies)
No. 8: Jackson Ferris, LHP (2022 MLB Draft)
No. 12: Hayden Wesneski, RHP (Trade with Yankees)
No. 23: Nazier Mule, RHP (2022 MLB Draft)
No. 24: Christopher Paciolla, INF (2022 MLB Draft)
Impact callup: Hayden Wesneski, RHP
Though he got shelled in his first Triple-A start after coming over from the Yankees in the Scott Effross trade, Wesneski has little left to prove at that level after recording a 4.24 ERA and 85/30 K/BB ratio in 91 1/3 innings. He throws strikes with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a 92-94 mph sinker, a four-seam fastball that peaks at 98 and a sweeping low-80s slider.
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: 55 -- James Triantos (Moises Ballesteros, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cristian Hernandez, Yohendrick Pinango)
Power: 60 -- Brennen Davis
Run: 60 -- Pete Crow-Armstrong (Cristian Hernandez)
Arm: 60 -- Ed Howard (Owen Caissie, Alexander Canario, Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Made, Matt Mervis, James Triantos)
Field: 70 -- Pete Crow-Armstrong (Ed Howard)
Fastball: 75 -- Daniel Palencia
Curveball: 55 -- Jackson Ferris (Kohl Franklin, Drew Gray, Caleb Kilian, Daniel Palencia)
Slider: 65 -- Cade Horton
Changeup: 65 -- Jordan Wicks (D.J. Herz)
Control: 60 -- Caleb Kilian