I'm sure some fans will look at these lists and despair, or at least lament the loss of impact hitters during the past two trade deadlines. Not all hope is lost however. There is still plenty of depth throughout the Cubs system. The lower levels contain a strong group of raw athletes with high upside. The upper levels include an array of potentially useful depth pieces.
The Cubs have young stars firmly established in their lineup that should form the back bone of the offense for the near future. What they will require from the farm system the next couple of seasons are injury replacements and complimentary pieces that fill specific bench roles. One of the strengths the Cubs have relied on the past three years has been their depth. They have had starting capable players ready on their bench and Major League ready prospects ready for recall from Iowa at a moments notice. 2018 will be no different. Iowa will deploy four infielders (Ian Rice, David Bote, Chesny Young, Jason Vosler) and three outfielders (Charcer Burks, Jacob Hannemann, Mark Zagunis) with the potential to contribute in various ways in Chicago should the need arise.
In the long term, the Cubs will look to develop those raw athletes in the lower levels into polished baseball players that can hopefully slide into starting roles just as members of the current roster becomes expensive. Unearthing a diamond from the current crop will give the organization greater flexibility as the core enters their final arbitration years and nears free agency. If a prospect is ready to take over at a certain position it could affect which members of the core the team is willing to commit long term.
I have included quality of contact, batted ball, directional hitting statistics this time to help give a more accurate picture of the type of hitter each player was last season and highlighted some of the more interesting numbers in orange.
One of the figures that sticks out the most is the FB% for Jason Vosler, a player that has taken the launch angle phenomena to heart. His extreme fly ball ways in 2017 led to a huge jump in power production. In 2016 his FB% was around 40 and he managed just 3 HR on the season, while a 55.7 FB% helped him to a system leading total of 21 HR in 2017.
Meanwhile, his Smokies teammate David Bote hit the ball on the ground over 50% of the time in 2017. He still managed a career high 14 HRs despite those numbers. He has spoken during his breakout AFL stint of working with Tennessee Hitting Coach Jacob Cruz about lifting the ball more frequently throughout the second half of the season. If he can accomplish that mission on a consistent basis Bote would be a good pick to join the 20+ homer club next year.
As with the pitchers in the previous post I have divided the hitters into tiers based on what I believe to be realistic upsides for the player. Unlike with the pitchers, you will notice the top tier, colored in purple, is empty. The Cubs no longer have an impact positional player in their system after the deadline deal that sent Eloy Jimenez to the Southside. The second tier, which represents players with above average everyday potential is divided into two sections, a dark blue for polished prospects (again, empty) and then a lighter blue for raw players with that upside. The third tier, colored in gold and yellow for polished and raw, is reserved for players with low end starter or platoon potential.
Because the position player list is significantly shorter than the pitcher list I went ahead and added a bottom section including the stats of some of the Rookie Level and DSL players that I am often asked about. These are players I have yet to see in person, or even on video in some cases, so I can't contribute first hand judgement of their potential.