Mid-April Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs’ Top 5 Prospects
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The Chicago Cubs are arguably the deepest team in baseball and have homegrown gems littered across the diamond.
With so many studs graduating to The Show, their farm system no longer ranks among the game’s elite. Still, there’s talent percolating in the minors, including some players who are knocking on the MLB door.
As April’s midpoint fades in the rearview, let’s take a stock up/stock down gander at how Chicago’s top five prospects are faring, using MLB.com’s rankings as a guide and skipping over guys who are currently on the 25-man roster.
No. 5: Mark Zagunis, LF/CF/RF
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A third-round pick by the Cubs in 2014, Mark Zagunis hit .288 with an .853 OPS last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
He’s displayed a propensity for getting on base, posting a .396 OBP across all minor league levels, but doesn’t stand out in any other facet of the game.
The 24-year-old’s future is probably as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he’ll have a hard time cracking Chicago’s loaded depth chart, especially after putting up a lackluster .105/.244/.211 slash line with 13 strikeouts through 11 games with Triple-A Iowa.
No. 4: Jeimer Candelario, 3B
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Jeimer Candelario got a taste of the big leagues last season, as he logged 14 plate appearances with the Cubs and registered his first MLB hit.
Now, the 23-year-old is swinging it at Triple-A. Through 13 games, he’s hitting .311 with three home runs, 18 RBI and a 1.159 OPS.
Candelario’s primary position is third base, which is manned at Wrigley Field by a fellow named Kris Bryant. Inevitably, that has sparked talk of a potential trade.
“I’ve seen people talking about it,” Candelario said, per Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register, “but I don’t really concentrate on that because it doesn’t help me [or] any on my game, and I’ve just got to be ready.”
No. 3: Dylan Cease, RHP
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If you like strikeout stuff, you’ll be intrigued and then some by Dylan Cease.
After fanning 91 in 68.2 innings between the rookie league and Low-A, Cease has averaged 15 strikeouts per nine innings in nine frames with Single-A South Bend along with a 1.00 ERA.
Command remains an issue; Cease has walked 5.3 per nine innings in his MiLB tenure.
He’s got a fastball that can tease triple digits, however, and could evolve into a frontline starter if he can refine his secondary pitches.
No. 2: Eloy Jimenez, LF/RF
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Eloy Jimenez was a spring training buzz machine before a shoulder injury put him on the shelf.
He’s returned to action, and cracked an impressive broken-bat double in his first game back with extended spring training, per John Arguello of ChicagoNow.com.
The gifted 20-year-old owns a .297/.338/.469 line through three minor league seasons and went 9-for-28 with two doubles and two home runs in the Cactus League.
“Sky’s the limit,” Cubs vice president of player development Jason McLeod said of Jimenez in February, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. “I think he’s someone who can sit in the middle of a lineup and wreak a lot of havoc on some pitching across the major leagues.”
He’s got to prove the shoulder issue is behind him, but for now Jimenez is back on track and ready to rise through Chicago’s system.
As ESPN.com’s Keith Law put it with tongue presumably in cheek, “It’s so nice to see those downtrodden Cubs have some good news on the horizon.”
No. 1: Ian Happ, 2B
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Ian Happ lit it up this spring, posting a 1.191 OPS with five home runs and 21 RBI in 29 games.
Yet, the 22-year-old was demoted to Triple-A.
In 13 games with Iowa in the admittedly hitter-happy Pacific Coast League, Happ has clubbed six home runs and positioned himself as the next Cubbie up—or an enticing trade chip.
“He hasn’t skipped a beat,” said Iowa hitting coach Desi Wilson, per Gerard Gilberto of MiLB.com. “I think he’s just been making adjustments within the game and he’s still aggressive at the plate, getting good pitches to hit. He’s seeing the ball real well.”
Like other prospects on this list, Happ is blocked at second base and in the outfield, where he’s also seen action, by multiple players. He could be used as trade bait come July.
For now, he’s doing everything he needs to do, and Chicago should be thrilled.
All statistics current as of Wednesday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference.