Chicago Cubs Top 15 Prospects For 2024

A big market team with reason to spend, there's still plenty of young talent making its way to the north side of Chicago.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 14: Owen Caissie #21 of Team Canada bats against Team Colombia during the World Baseball Classic Pool C game at Chase Field on March 14, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Canada beat Colombia 5-0. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

With no shortage of exciting prospects, the Chicago Cubs farm system has become one of baseball’s best thanks to strong drafting and development as well as some savvy trades. Already with five top-100 prospects and loads of other players in the 50 Future Value (FV) range, the Cubs are set up for success for a while, but also have the necessary trade chips if they want to go make a big splash.

An important note: players graduate from prospect status by our standards at 30 innings pitched or 75 plate appearances to keep lists fresh.

1. Pete Crow-Armstrong – OF – (MLB)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 185 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 1st Round (19), 2020 (NYM) | ETA: 2023

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The best defensive center fielder in the minors, PCA has put up well above-average offensive numbers at every stop, earning a big league call-up not long after his 21st birthday. 

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Offense

Starting with an upright stance before sinking into his backside as he loads, PCA uses his lower half well to tap into above average power despite a wiry frame. His athleticism is evident in the box, repeating his moves with ease, which helps him be on time frequently.

A lofty swing geared for pull side lift, PCA has one of the highest fly ball rates among prospects in the upper-minors. As his exit velocities have ticked up, his ability to consistently drive the ball in the air has resulted in more slug, but the loft has also resulted in a bit more whiff in the zone than desired.

After hitting 16 home runs at the lower levels in 2022, PCA matched that total in just 80 games at the upper levels in 2023. Though he has hit over .300 in the minors, the contact rates for PCA are lower than expected, running both a 75% zone contact rate and 68% overall contact rate in 2023. This may in part be due to his aggressive approach, as PCA does seem to have a knack for putting bat on ball, even in left on left matchups, and has kept his strikeout rates at a palatable figure.

With some refinement to his approach, PCA should develop into at least a fringe-average hitter with above average pop. Cutting down on his elevated chase (33%) would likely help his hit tool and overall offensive profile.

Defense/Speed

A plus runner with great instincts, PCA makes an impact both on the base paths and in the field with his legs. Defensively, he has a chance to be a perennial Gold Glover in center field. His reads are great, as are his jumps and there’s no doubt about his closing speed. A plus arm is just the icing on the cake for a guy who should command the outfield as well as anyone in the business once he gets to the big leagues.

On the base paths, PCA has already made his speed known, stealing 32 bases in 2022 and exceeding that total in 2023. There is probably some room for improvement in terms of picking the right spots to run and getting slightly better jumps from first base to aid efficiency, but the speedster should be a 20+ stolen base threat annually. 

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Outlook

There was no doubt that PCA would be a solid, high-floor prospect thanks to his elite defensive potential and speed as a left handed-hitting center fielder. The question seemed to be, “how much upside does he have?”

As we are quickly learning, PCA has the ability to impact the baseball more than many expected and an All-Star ceiling is not outlandish. Even with nearly two lost seasons, he still made his MLB debut at 21 years old. It was not the prettiest of MLB debuts as he probably was a bit rushed and in need of a bit more seasoning in the box to make that leap to the big leagues.

PCA is a hard-nosed gamer who is capable of impacting the game in a myriad of ways. With his uptick in pop, elite defense and strong work ethic, the Cubs’ top prospect has further solidified his floor while raising his perceived ceiling.

2. Cade Horton – RHP – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 211 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 1st Round (7), 2022 (CHC) | ETA: 2025

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One of the pitching breakouts of the 2023 MiLB season, the Cubs’ first round pick in 2022 has flashed an electric fastball with a devastating slider to complement it.

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Arsenal

A power arsenal headlined by a plus fastball and slider, Horton sits 95-97 MPH with his heater, touching 99 MPH on occasion. He picks up plenty of whiffs at the top of the zone with it thanks to the carry and cut the pitch features.

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Horton’s sweepy slider hovers in the mid 80s with around 11 inches of horizontal break. His ability to consistently land it for a strike (65% strike rate) paired with the sharp, late break of the pitch gives him a second plus offering. From the start of the season to Horton being placed on the development list to manage his innings (13 starts), he held opponents to a .110 batting average against it while going to the pitch around 30% of the time.

The third offering is a curveball, also in the mid 80s, which Horton has done a good job differentiating from his slider shape wise since going pro. While it still features some horizontal movement (5 inches), it has much more vertical drop (9 inches).

Though he is not as consistent in landing it for a strike as he is with his slider, Horton’s curveball has flashed the ability to be a legitimate put-away pitch as well. 

Rounding out the arsenal is a changeup in the upper 80s that he recently adjusted to a split grip. It’s a work in progress, but has flashed above average with impressive arm side fade. He only made a few starts with the new changeup grip prior to being temporarily shut down, but he showed the ability to slow the spin, averaging around 1,900 RPMs. With a bit more feel for it and the ability to get the pitch to spin a bit less, it could be an above average or better offering. 

Outlook

A late bloomer on the pitching side of things as a two-way player who had to undergo Tommy John Surgery early in his collegiate career, Horton only tossed 53 2/3 innings at Oklahoma, but showed enough in their College World Series run to sell the Cubs on his upside.

Early returns have Horton proving the Cubs right, as the athletic right-hander has pounded the zone with an electric arsenal. With two plus pitches and a legitimate chance for four big league offerings, Horton has become one of the better pitching prospects in baseball.

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3. Owen Caissie – OF – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’4″, 220 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 2nd Round (45), 2020 (SD) | ETA: 2025

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A big left-handed hitter with some of the best raw power in the minors, Caissie has immense offensive upside while making some progress with his feel to hit.

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Offense

Standing at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Caissie possesses some of the best raw power in the Minor Leagues with potentially more in the tank. Starting upright, Caissie sinks into his back side as he loads with a simple toe-tap for timing.

Caissie has found more consistency with his pre-swing moves as he has compiled at-bats, syncing his upper and lower half more effectively. This has not only helped him hit the ball harder, but also in the air more consistently, cutting his ground ball rate by nearly 10% while seeing his HR/FB rate jump from 12% to 25%. More fly balls and a larger percentage of those fly balls leaving the yard is of course what the Cubs want to see from Caissie.

When everything is in sync for Caissie, you can see flashes of a potentially special power bat. His long levers which help him create his massive power can also result in a bit too much whiff, but the 21-year-old consistently cut down the swing and miss as the Double-A season progressed (and the tacked baseballs were taken out of circulation of the Southern League). 

His average exit velocity of 94 MPH would rank among the top 15 in Major League Baseball, and his 90th percentile exit velocity of 110 MPH is one of the best figures in the entire Minor Leagues. There is foul pole-to-foul pole power potential for Caissie, who may have even more pop in the tank.

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Defense/Speed

Caissie moves well for his size, but his limited experience in the outfield heading into 2022 was evident in his reads and routes. A plus plus arm and more than enough athleticism to be passable in a corner outfield spot, there is plenty of reason to believe that Caissie can develop into at least an average defender or better.

Caissie mentioned in our interview with him on “The Call Up” that one of his offseason focuses heading into 2023 was to gain speed and explosiveness.

Outlook

Already putting on shows with his majestic batting practice homers, Caissie’s big-time power has started to make its way into games more as he gets at-bats under his belt. Despite the whiff concerns, Caissie has handled challenging assignments as one of the younger hitters at each stop. He really enjoyed a coming out party in Double-A, pacing the league in homers as a 20/21-year-old and inspiring more belief that he can tap into his 30+ homer upside. 

Read More: Owen Caissie is Blossoming Into an Elite Power-Hitting Prospect

4. Matt Shaw – 2B – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 5’11″, 185 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 1st Round (13), 2023 (CHC) | ETA: 2025

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A sound offensive profile with a strong track record of hitting through college and on the Cape, Shaw is a high-floor college bat with some thump.

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Offense

Starting slightly closed with a leg kick that varies in size, Shaw has no problem timing up the move with the athleticism to consistently repeat it. When he’s in advantage counts, Shaw will feature a leg kick that is not far off from Zach Neto’s, but when he is behind in the count or simply feels a bit rushed at the plate, he will minimize his stride to see the ball earlier.

Not every player can have that level of adjustability pitch to pitch, but Shaw has had no trouble with it against the best competition in college, as well as in his early days at the professional level. He makes plenty of contact, projecting as an above average hitter with flashes of plus power. Shaw posted exit velocities as high as 113 MPH with metal at Maryland. He can drive the ball hard to all fields.

An aggressive hitter, it will be interesting to see if Shaw’s somewhat high chase rates catch up to him at the upper levels, but he hedges that with an above average hit tool and strong track record. His contact rates seem to get better each time you check in, with an exciting blend of hit and power. 

Defense/Speed

Drafted as a shortstop, the Cubs will likely give Shaw a look at the position for the time being. It seems more likely that he will move to second base in large part due to his below average arm. An above average runner, Shaw swiped 18 bags on 19 tries in his junior season and should add at least some value in that department.

Outlook

Already with above average hit and power, Shaw is a high-floor bat with a chance to tap into plus power. He will likely need to improve his approach some once he faces upper-level pitching, but Shaw could blossom into a .260/.270 hitter with 20-25 homer upside and sneaky wheels. The defensive outlook will be something to monitor, with Shaw’s bat alone being top 100 prospect worthy.

5. Kevin Alcantara – OF – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’6″, 200 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $1M – 2018 (NYY) | ETA: 2025

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Projectable would put it lightly with the 6-foot-6, athletic Alcantara. Acquired from the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo deal, Alcantara has a chance to be a terrorizing middle-of-the-order bat with sneaky complementary tools.

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Offense

Tall, long, and lanky but with impressively quick hands, Alcantara has simplified his moves in the box in order to minimize whiff and it has not come at the expense of his exciting ability to impact the ball. 

Naturally, any prospect with levers as long as Alcantara’s will run into some swing and miss issues, but he has managed the strikeout rate relatively well in his first two professional seasons with tangible adjustments that point towards the possibility for an average hit tool. 

He may just be scraping the surface of his power potential in games, but Alcantara has flashed major impact ability. His 90th percentile exit velocity of 107 MPH is comfortably plus with a max exit velocity of 112.5 MPH. 

Perhaps in an effort to be shorter to the ball, Alcantara’s swing has flattened a bit, seeing his ground ball rate jump from 43% to 51%, but he has also shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields with authority. He can struggle to manage his long levers through stretches, finding himself in between with his timing when things aren’t going right.

Another contributor to his elevated ground ball rate could be his chase rate of 35%, as he tends to swing at pitches below the knees a bit too often as well as off the plate away. If Alcantara can create a bit more leverage with his swing and improve his plate discipline, the sky is the limit offensively, but there is a fair amount of risk. 

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Defense/Speed

Alcantara possesses above average speed thanks to his long strides which allow him to cover plenty of ground. Though there’s plenty of reason to believe he can stick in center, there is a chance that Alcantara could slow down a step as he physically matures. He would project as an above average outfielder in a corner with a pretty good arm. 

His speed translates more into closing speed in the outfield than quick burst base stealing, but Alcantara can still get to his top speed quick enough to steal 10-15 bags annually and provides overall value on the bases. 

Outlook

Prospects with 70-grade raw power to dream on and potential to stick in center field don’t come around every day. Though still a very volatile prospect profile, Alcantara’s solid offensive output at each of his lower level stops and palatable strikeout rates at least chip away a little at the risk. Alcantara is still a project, but the final result could be something special.

6. Jefferson Rojas – SS – (Low-A)

Height/Weight: 5’10″, 195 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $1M – 2021 (CHC) | ETA: 2026

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After a strong showing in extended Spring Training, Rojas earned an aggressive assignment to Low-A shortly after his 18th birthday and put up strong numbers.

Offense

Still a bit raw offensively, Rojas relies on natural ability in the box, making a fair amount of contact and flashing above average power potential. He handled an aggressive Low-A assignment well, posting a .750 OPS as an 18-year-old with steady contact rates (84% zone contact).

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His path could use a bit of work, at times getting too horizontal with a little extra slack, causing hard fastballs to get in on him, but he has also flashed the bat speed and hand quickness to still turn hard stuff around.

Already hitting home runs 107 mph, Rojas has more room for strength and probably has more power in his present fame as is if he can find some more consistency with his lower half. Like so many young hitters, Rojas can leak forward a bit prematurely and is not always connected with us upper half and lower half.

He almost surely will add at least some strength as he matures, pair that with some better swing patterning as he gains experience, above average power seems attainable. His feel for the barrel is good, with the ability to drive the ball to all fields.

As Rojas cleans up his path and learns to control his body a bit better, he could offer above average hit with at least average power, though I’m betting on a bit more.

Defense/Speed

A slightly above average runner, Rojas is more quick than fast, with a good first step and solid range at shortstop. His comfortably above average arm and advanced actions for his age should not only help him stick at the position, but potentially be above average there. He has a good internal clock and instincts which should only help him continue to develop well at the position.

Outlook

It’s very early in the development of Rojas and the way that the Cubs have handled him should be a clue into how excited the team is both about his potential and his maturity. Launching a moon shot off of Zach Davies and putting together competitive at bats against other more experienced arms at extended Spring Training helped his case prior to the assignment to Myrtle Beach.

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If Rojas can clean up some of his moves in the box, there is exciting offensive potential while adding value with the glove at shortstop. Again, it’s early, so the projections can change, but a .270 hitter with around 20 home runs and above average shortstop defense doesn’t seem entirely far fetched.

7. Moises Ballesteros – C/1B – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 5’9″, 235 | Bat/Throw: L/R | IFA: $1.5M – 2021 (CHC) | ETA: 2026

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A bat-first profile, Ballesteros offers an exciting blend of hit and power that helped him climb three levels as a 19-year-old in 2023, but iffy defense behind the dish clouds his profile a bit.

Offense

Starting upright with his barrel resting on his shoulder, Ballesteros gets into his backside with a big leg kick that he starts as the pitcher breaks his hands. Though it’s a big move, he controls it well and starts it early, helping him consistently be on time.

The big gather allows Ballesteros to really utilize his powerful lower half, holding his backside well before unleashing impressive rotational explosion. The degree of controlled violence Ballesteros displayed in 2023 is uncommon from 19-year-old hitters, which is part of the reason why he was able to climb from Low-A to Double-A in a span of 112 games.

His path gives him a wider margin for error, entering the zone deep and maintaining his direction and bat angle well. As a result, Ballesteros has the ability to drive the ball with carry to all fields, with 19 of his 41 extra base hits in 2023 being to the opposite field. The wider margin for error also resulted in an above average 85% zone contact rate while handling aggressive assignments.

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While there may not be much projection on his frame, he could convert some of his mass to strength as he matures, potentially helping his power reach the plus territory. Right now, his pop is comfortably above average, boasting a 90th percentile exit velocity of 104 MPH with flashes of plus pop to his pull side (112 MPH max).

Left-on-left matchups were a challenge for Ballesteros in 2023, posting an OPS below .600. He had no problem hitting velocity against same-handed pitchers, but struggled to pick up spin. Fortunately, the issues against breaking balls seem to be left-on-left exclusive, hitting nearly .330 vs. right-handed spin.

Defense/Speed

Big and bulky, Ballesteros is a work in progress behind the dish. A below average blocker, his thicker build limits his mobility behind the dish. On the brighter side, he has a plus arm, posting average pop times and made some progress with his receiving in 2023.

Standing at just 5-foot-9 with measurements being thrown out an inch in either direction depending on who you ask, Ballesteros would be shorter than your typical first baseman, perhaps increasing the importance of him sticking behind the plate.

Though he has a ways to go to prove he can catch at the big league level, there’s reason to believe that he can become serviceable with some improved conditioning and more reps.

Outlook

The offensive upside from the left side of the plate is enough to make Ballesteros a top 10 prospect in a very strong Cubs farm system, but if he proves that he can stick behind the dish, he could become one of the better catching prospects in the game. Though it seems like an uphill battle, Ballesteros has the tools and has flashed enough ability to instill some belief that he can become serviceable back there.

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If he moves to first base, it will be a 1B/DH profile that will put plenty of pressure on his bat. That said, his blend of above average power and hit with the ability to draw walks could make him a big league regular even without any defensive utility.

8. James Triantos – 2B/3B/OF – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 195 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (56) – 2021 (CHC) | ETA: 2025

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The best hit tool in the Cubs system, Triantos flashed a bit more impact towards the end of the year, but is still searching for his defensive home.

Offense

A quiet and simple operation, Triantos starts with a slightly open stance and his hands in a relaxed spot. His load features minimal movement, just pulling his hands backwards in tandem with a small coil into his back hip.

A contact machine, Triantos has an excellent feel for the barrel with a level of adjustability that allows him to get to what seems like any pitch. Triantos posted a 90% zone contact rate in 2023, and was particularly impressive against four-seam fastballs, hitting .350 with only a 6% swinging strike rate including his AFL stint.

Even when fooled, he showed the ability to just throw his hands at the ball and get a piece. While it is an asset to a hitter to be able to make contact consistently, even when fooled or when the swing breaks down, a consistently productive hitter generally minimizes their “B” swings.

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Triantos has struggled at times to recognize spin, getting caught on his front foot too often with secondaries. Including his torrid AFL stretch, he hit .270 against non-fastballs with an OPS of just .670. While his contact and chase rates are still solid against non-fastballs, his struggles to maintain his “A” swing shows both in the exit velocities by pitch and slug numbers.

He did look far more comfortable against secondary stuff in the AFL, utilizing a slower, more controlled load that starts a bit earlier, likely helping him stay back and not feel as rushed in the box. Though a minor change, that’s all it takes sometimes for hitters with a feel for the stick like Triantos has.

In fact, in his 22 AFL games, Triantos had more extra-base-hits against secondary pitches (4) than he did in his 87-game regular season (3). It’s a small sample, but it bodes well for Triantos as he makes the leap to Double-A in 2024, where the stuff is only going to get better.

With exit velocities encroaching on average and a plus feel to hit, he is a high-floor bat who could hit around 15 homers per year with plenty of doubles. If he sold out for lift a bit more, there could be 20 home run pop, however that could come at the expense of hedging a strength.

Defense/Speed

A fascinating case in the field, the Cubs have tried Triantos out all over the diamond as they continue to search for his longterm defensive home. A decent athlete and runner, he gets great jumps on the bases, swiping 25 bags on 30 tries in 2023.

The mobility on the bases does not quite translate to the defensive side of things, as the 20-year-old struggles with his footwork and reading hops in addition to some stiffness. His arm is comfortably above average, but he has the tendency to be errant with his throws.

The majority of his starts in 2023 were at second base, also seeing action at 3B, CF and LF. It is worth wondering if a move to first base could ultimately be in the cards, but I actually felt as though Triantos made more progress with less reps in the outfield. He moves well enough to cover ample ground in a corner and his arm is plenty strong enough.

Outlook

If he had more power in the tank, maybe the defensive uncertainty would be a bit more palatable. Offensive-minded second basemen who either provide below average defense at second base or a first base/DH role have proven to be valuable (see: Luis Arraez, Edouard Julien, Ty France, J.D. Davis, etc.). However, the offensive output required to be a regular in the aforementioned mold is a high bar.

If Triantos can develop into even a fringy defender at third base, second base or the outfield, a large degree of pressure would be alleviated from his bat. At just 20 years old, there’s still plenty of time, and the offensive abilities of Triantos make him a high-probability big leaguer in at least some capacity. As the Cubs look to whittle down the potential defensive homes for Triantos next season, additional reps in the outfield might be worth considering in place of one of the two infield spots.

9. Jordan Wicks – LHP – (MLB)

Height/Weight: 6’3″, 220 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 1st Round (21), 2021 (CHC) | ETA: 2023

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Selected in the first round out of Kansas State as arguably the most advanced pitching prospect in the 2021 Draft, Wicks rode his elite changeup and feel to pitch up the Minor League ranks, making his MLB debut in his second full season.

Arsenal

The polish of Wicks was immediately evident, quickly finding his footing in pro ball and reaching Double-A within his first 75 innings. The numbers may not jump off of the page dating back to his final season at West Virginia, but he has been good for a sub-4.00 ERA at every stop.

Wicks will somewhat take the “kitchen sink” approach, massaging his way through lineups with his six offerings. His plus plus change is far and away his best pitch, featuring ridiculous tumbling action at around 11 MPH of separation from his fastball.

Even with his changeup being far and away his most effective pitch, Wicks still only mixes it in about 25% of the time with a bump to 30% in his seven big league outings. Across all levels, opponents hit just .165 against the pitch with a swinging strike rate of 22%. He could probably bump the usage up a bit more, though it is a good sign that Wicks is comfortable turning lineups over consistently without over-reliance on the changeup.

A reason for that is his command of his two fastballs, both sitting in the low 90s. Wicks hits his spots and sequences well to help the pitch play up, featuring just enough life on his four seamer to sneak it by hitters when set up properly.

His sinker became a pitch that he relied on more frequently as he climbed, mixing it in 20% of the time over his final 15 starts and 30% against lefties. Averaging about 13 inches of run to his arm side, Wicks is not afraid to go inside on lefties and tie them up even at his lower velocity. He picked up a 68% ground ball rate with his sinker, a figure that balloons to 82% in left on left matchups during the 2023 season.

In 2022, Wicks’ had more comfort and success with mid 80s sweeper while his upper 70s curveball was nothing more than a taste-breaker. Despite minimal changes in the shape or velocity of either pitch, Wicks enjoyed much more success with his curveball in 2023, nearly doubling the chase rate of his slider with a swinging strike rate of 15% compared to 10% on the slider.

In terms of raw pitch data, the slider likely projects as a better weapon, especially against righties, but he totally lost a feel for it as the season progressed, landing the pitch for a strike just 43% of the time over his last 15 starts. When he has a consistent feel the breaking balls, his sweepy slider could play as an average offering left-on-left with the curveball still serving as a decent change of pace pitch to hitters from either side of the plate.

Towards the end of the 2022 season, Wicks started to mix in a cutter in the 87-90 MPH range. Only a few ticks off of his fastball velocity the pitch lacks the bite necessary to be a consistent weapon and opponents have tee’d off on the pitch since he introduced it. With his impressive overall command, there’s some hope that he can consistently hit his spots enough to his glove side to make it a tie-up pitch to righties as his sinker is to lefties.

Outlook

When the Cubs selected Wicks 21st overall in 2021, even they knew that it was unlikely for the left-handed pitcher to become a frontline arm. That said, the Cubs were attracted to the high probability that the Kansas St. standout could be a solid rotation piece in the near future, and he proved them right by making his MLB debut within 200 minor league innings.

Earning high marks for his plus makeup and cerebral nature, Wicks gets the most out of his mostly average arsenal. The ceiling and floor are close in proximity, with him likely winding up as an average No. 4 starter or high-end No. 5 starter.

10. Jackson Ferris – LHP – (Low-A)

Height/Weight: 6’4″, 210 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 2nd Round (47), 2022 (CHC) | ETA: 2026

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A tall prep lefty with plenty to dream on, the Cubs nabbed Ferris in the second round, but shelled out top-25 pick money ($3 million) to sign him away from his commitment to Ole Miss. Like so many projectable prep arms, whether he reaches his middle rotation upside will almost entirely be dependent on his command.

Arsenal

A four pitch mix that is dominated by fastball usage, Ferris has the potential for three above average offerings. Leading the way is his above average heater, flashing plus at 93-95 MPH, touching 97 MPH. Farris generates both good carry and extension with his four-seamer, overpowering Low-A hitters despite going to it more than 60% of the time.

The high fastball usage is a confidence thing, not a matter of secondaries lacking. Ferris threw his fastball for a strike 64% of the time compared to a 50% strike rate across all other offerings. Even though his fastball has the makings of a plus pitch, he likely will not be able to get away with such high usage against more challenging competition.

Of his two breaking balls, his sweeping slider stands out as a potential plus pitch. Averaging 17 inches of horizontal break, Ferris can pick up some ugly swings from hitters when he is around the zone, though the massive sweep the pitch features may be part of the reason why he struggles to land it in the zone.

Only five MLB starters (min. 100 pitches) threw a slider with more than 17 inches of horizontal break in 2023; that number jumps to 14 if you expand to relievers. It’s worth wondering if shorter break and a bit more velocity could help Ferris locate the pitch a bit more consistently in addition to picking up more chase.

Because of his 50% strike rate on breaking balls, hitters mostly went into at-bats ready to shut down anything with spin. It’s a bit easier to do so when the slider is at 79-81 MPH and the curveball is in the mid 70s.

Similarly, the curve has good depth and shape, flashing as an above average offering, with those flashes just being too sporadic. Despite strong characteristics, Ferris does not really give the pitch a chance, with far too many non-competitive pitches and hitters prepared to leave spin and just try to catch up to the heater (32% swing rate on breaking balls). If Ferris can even maintain fringy command of the pitch, it can be a strikeout pitch to both lefties and righties with 11-5 break and some late downward bite.

Ferris will mix in a nascent changeup at 86-88 MPH. It’s firm with a large portion not even being competitive location wise. He started to show a tad more feel for it at the end of the season, but still has a long way to go for it to be a consistent option.

Outlook

A project and an exciting one, Ferris showed well overall in his first pro season, validating the general belief that he had first round stuff. The same concerns were validated as well in regards to inconsistencies and struggles to repeat his mechanics.

The challenge for Ferris is that some of the things that make him so difficult to hit (funky delivery, pitch movement etc.) also play into why he walked 14% of batters in 2023. There’s still something to be said for the way that he battled through those command bouts, pitching to a 3.38 ERA while striking out 30% of batters at Low-A as a 19-year-old for the entirety of the season.

More pitchers are showing that if they miss enough bats and induce enough swings, they can get away with below average command. If Ferris can be around the zone with his secondaries enough to entice more chase, he can overcome somewhat elevated walk rates.

That is not even considering that there could be more stuff in the tank for the young lefty. At 6-foot-4 with the potential to add some strength as well as find a mechanical adjustment that could help him find another tick or two on his fastball, he could become a No. 3 starter who racks up strikeouts. That requires a big leap with the command, making a high leverage relief role a possibility too — a role that he could thrive in as a fallback.

11. Ben Brown – RHP – (Triple-A)

Height/Weight: 6’6″, 225 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 33rd Round (983), 2022 (PHI) | ETA: 2024

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A pair of plus pitches from a surprisingly whippy arm at 6-foot-6, Brown is a force on the mound. Firing from a bit of a cross-body delivery paired with his arm speed and the sheer velocity of his fastball (averaged 96 MPH in 2023), hitters struggle to catch up to it, with strong in-zone whiff rates and a swinging strike rate of 12.5%.

Working off of Brown’s fastball is a hard curveball at 85-88 MPH with shorter, slurvy break. It gives him a second plus pitch that opponents hit just .150 against with a 22% swinging strike rate and 35% chase rate. The third pitch is a slider in the upper 80s that flashes above average but can blend with his curveball at times while also being his most inconsistent of the three pitches.

Entering his age-24 season as well as his second stint in Triple-A, it seems as though Brown could be destined for a high leverage relief role, and his final seven appearances of the 2023 season being out of the bullpen could’ve been an indication of that.

Brown could be a Swiss Army Knife for the Cubs, with the stuff that could play at high leverage along with the ability to go multiple innings in relief or opener situations.

12. Alexander Canario – OF – (MLB)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 210 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $60K – 2016 (SF) | ETA: 2024

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Big power is the name of the game for Canario, launching 37 home runs in 2022 between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A before an ugly fall in the Dominican Winter League resulted in surgery for both his ankle and shoulder.

The long recovery timeline delayed Canario’s return to Triple-A action until mid-July. He managed to shake off enough rust to put up an OPS of .866 in his 36 Triple-A games despite his timing not always being there. With a 90th percentile exit velocity of 107 mph and max of 115 mph, Canario has 30 home run upside if he can hit enough.

While he’s not an aggressive hitter, improved patience and an increase in the free pass department could help take some pressure off of his below average hit-tool. The fact that he is a solid defender in the corners helps his profile. If he walks more, he could be a three true outcome power threat in a corner, but a platoon power bat seems most likely.

13. B.J. Murray – 3B – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 195 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 15th Round (454) – 2021 (CHC) | ETA: 2025

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A good feel to hit from both sides of the plate paired with an extremely patient approach (19% chase), Murray enjoyed a power breakout in his final season at Florida Atlantic University and carried the momentum into his pro debut.

Posting above average numbers at every stop, Murray’s advanced approach and sneaky impact (103.5 mph 90th percentile exit velocity) really stood out at Double-A last season, getting on base at a .382 clip while mixing in 16 homers and 54 extra base hits.

A decent athlete, Murray looked much improved at third base last season, with enough range and a strong enough arm to be an average defender there. He looked particularly more comfortable crashing in on slow rollers and choppers, making difficult throws on the run. He mixed in 14 stolen bases last season.

There’s no plus tool, but Murray also has roughly average tools across the board with the makeup and instincts to maximize his abilities. It’s no surprise that Murray comes from a baseball family with both of his brothers having played professionally.

14. Michael Arias – RHP – (High-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 200 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $10K, 2018 (TOR) | ETA: 2026

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An electric right-hander with a loose delivery and ridiculous arm speed, Arias was initially signed as a shortstop by the Blue Jays in 2018, but was released before registering an at bat. The Cubs picked him up as a pitcher in 2021 and his stuff was immediately evident.

He throws a pair of upper fastballs from his low release point that average 96 mph, touching 99 mph. His four seamer that can flirt with the dead zone a bit, but plays up from his 5.0 foot release and with the sheer velocity. The majority of his fastballs resembled more of a two-seam action, with 16 inches of horizontal movement.

After struggling to throw his fastballs for a strike in 2022, Arias enjoyed a 10% jump in strike rate in 2023, rising to 66%. Working off of the fastball is a changeup with ridiculous arm side movement, at times resembling a screwball in the upper 80s.

Opponents hit just .140 against the offering with a gaudy 24% swinging strike rate, though he struggled to keep in near the zone, landing it for a strike just 52% of the time in 2023. It has a chance to be an elite pitch if he can even develop fringy command of it.

The third pitch for Arias has above average potential as well, a mid 80s slider with short cutterish break. He picked up plenty of swing and miss when he gave the pitch a chance, but it’s the same story with his slider, posting just a 52% strike rate.

2023 was the age 21 season for Arias who is relatively young as is. When you consider the fact that he has only thrown 121 2/3 professional innings as a converted infielder, there is even more reason to be patient. Arias will be a test for the Cubs much-improved pitching development, with the hope that his athleticism will eventually translate into even fringy control.

15. Luis Vazquez – SS – (Triple-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 195 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 14th Round (435) – 2017 (CHC) | ETA: 2024

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A defensive wizard, Vazquez finally broke out offensively in 2023, launching a career-best 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A with an .817 OPS. He enjoyed a three mph jump in his 90th percentile exit velocity, while shattering his previous max exit velocity with multiple 112 mph batted balls last year.

The hit-tool was always going to be fringy and he is an aggressive hitter so the added impact really helps his offensive profile at least carry its weight. The glove at shortstop is what will make Vazquez a big leaguer, with great instincts, silky smooth actions, a plus arm, and comfort throwing from all different angles.

The bat may be stretched thin to be a regular, however his added impact and elite defense could make him an excellent third middle infield option who can plug in and hold it down shortstop.

Other Names to Watch

Brennen Davis – OF – (Triple-A): Davis is fighting a battle against himself, and has been for the past two seasons. Back surgery in 2022 and core muscle surgery in 2023 have zapped any offensive production for Davis, who’s .597 2022 OPS and .604 OPS in 71 games this past season pale in comparison to his .907 and .869 marks in his first two seasons of affiliated ball. If Davis can get anywhere close to where he once was, we may see sporadic flashes of the top-20 prospect in baseball again.

Christian Franklin – OF – (Double-A): After missing all of 2022 with a left knee injury, the 24-year-old Franklin posted strong numbers this past season, with the bulk of his run coming in South Bend. The former Arkansas Razorback has a keen eye, legit power and sneaky speed, but will need to keep the whiff in check to continue to climb towards the North Side.

Drew Gray – LHP – (Low-A): The 20-year-old left-hander was the Cubs’ third round pick in 2021, but Tommy John surgery wiped out his entire 2022 season and limited him to just 14 starts in ’23. He impressed in Myrtle Beach after a ramp-up at the Complex, punching out 45 and limiting hitters to a .196 BAA in 27.2 IP. If Gray’s fastball can sit in the mid 90s instead of 89-91, he could creep his way into the top 15.

Cristian Hernandez – SS – (Low-A): Once regarded as one of the top International Free Agents in baseball and the future top prospect in the Cubs’ system, the $3 million man has struggled to tap into even a sliver of the elite power projection some evaluators placed on him. After slashing .223/.302/.301 in his first 106 games off the Complex, Hernandez may be looking at a repeat season in Myrtle Beach to rebuild his stock.

Luke Little – LHP – (MLB): A once-viral sensation, Little reached the casual baseball fan’s radar by throwing a pitch at 105 MPH in a bullpen session before the COVID-shortened 2020 MLB Draft. The 6’8″ left-hander from JUCO power San Jacinto College in Texas typically sits in the mid-to-high 90s now, pivoting from a starter to a reliever role this past season and climbing like a rocket ship. After punching out 105 and limiting opponents to a .179 BAA, Little earned a September call-up and allowed no earned runs while punching out 12 in his first 6.2 big league innings. There are legitimate closer dreams for the not-so-little Little.

Haydn McGeary – 1B – (Double-A): Now that Matt Mervis has graduated from prospect status, McGeary has taken the crown as the most underrated masher in the Cubs’ system. After hitting .481 with 35 homers in 57 games at DII Colorado Mesa in 2022, the former 15th round pick has slashed .274/.390/.455 with 99 RBI in his first 142 professional games.

Pedro Ramírez – 2B/3B – (Low-A): The 19-year-old Ramírez spent the entire 2023 season in Myrtle Beach and produced a 119 wRC+ with just a 17% K-rate. The teenager split his time fairly evenly between second base (52 starts) and third base (36 starts), showcasing his true utility value on the infield. If the power continues to blossom, this is a prospect that has serious helium.

Josh Rivera – SS – (High-A): College production, especially in the SEC, matters. In a conference with Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes and on a team with Wyatt Langford and Jac Caglianone, the Florida shortstop posted an All-American season in his own right in 2023, slashing .348/.447/.617 with 19 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 70 games before being taken in the third round by Chicago. Rivera didn’t light High-A on fire in his first 25 games, but his high-floor bat could have him settle into the upper levels as soon as this coming summer.

Derniche Valdez – SS – (DSL): The 17-year-old Valdez has so much unknown, but had enough appeal for the Cubs to sign him for $2.8 million in this past IFA cycle. His first 35 games in the DSL were littered with whiff, punching out an absurd 41% of the time, but he showcased some legit pop. It’s far too early to tell with a player born in March of 2006.

Jaxon Wiggins – RHP – (CPX): The 22-year-old Wiggins was the 68th overall pick in this past summer’s draft, coming off of an objectively disappointing year at Arkansas. Not many players will parlay a 6.55 ERA and six walks-per-nine into a second round selection, but at a lanky 6’8″ with a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s, the dream of what could be has evaluators thinking he could be a legitimate back-of-the-bullpen threat.