2017-18 Offseason Cubs Prospect Rankings: Tier 3 Position Players

In the first entry of this series I gave an overview of the entire system along with a scouting report on my top prospectJose Albertos. I moved on to the next tier of prospects earlier this month, covering five potential middle of the rotation starters and three teenage position players with the raw tools necessary to thrive in the big leagues if they can refine their games in the coming years.

As you can see in the rankings summary below the number of players in this tier swells dramatically. In order to keep the information to a manageable level for both me as the writer and you as the reader I have chosen to break this group into two installments. I will highlight the position players today, then cover the pitching prospects next week.

Once we reach the Tier 4 group comprised of players with limited ceilings I will scale back the detail within the reports and cover all of the players in one posting. In early February I will also provide a rundown on the recent IFA signings and draft picks to keep an eye on in the lower levels, as well as some fringe prospects that could surprise.

2017_18_prospect_tiersYou have surely seen the Cubs fall to the bottom third of organizational rankings in national publications this offseason. Numerous Top 100 lists have come out without including a single Cubs prospect. I agree with these rankings by and large, although I could certainly make compelling arguments for the inclusion of Albertos and Adbert Alzolay on a Top 100, but these type of lists and rankings due not properly shine a light on the strength of the Cubs system: its depth.

Today we begin examining both the low-ceiling/high-floor players along with the contingent of athletic boom/bust prospects present throughout the organization. We've discussed the idea of the Cubs addressing the development of pitching through sheer volume many times, but this philosophy extends to position players as well. The Cubs collect as many middle of the diamond athletes as they can. Some will stick there, while others will outgrow those positions and move to the corners. This focus provides a greater safety net because if you draft a corner guy who outgrows his position or takes a step back physically he can't fall back on any other position.

Collect enough maybes, especially the hard working, good character types the Cubs value, and sooner or later a few of those players will percolate to the Major League roster and contribute. We are already seeing contributions from this group, as Victor Caratini made his MLB debut in 2017, and is penciled in as the backup to Willson Contreras heading into spring training. Mark Zagunis and David Bote are both members of the 40 man roster and will be just a phone call away in Iowa. These three are offense-first players, but below them in the system comes a number of prospects, especially outfielders, with the physical tools to not only impact the game on offense, but defense as well.

For those clamoring for more speed in the Cubs lineup, here is a taste of what D.J. Wilson and Kevonte Mitchell could bring in the future. I'm clocking both guys just over 11 seconds home-to-third. This is extremely impressive for a player of Mitchell's size, especially coming from the right handed batters box, and reminiscent of Kris Bryant running the bases. For reference, the top 2016 time in MLB was Billy Hamilton registering a 10.45, while the league average was 12.01.

And just for fun, here is Zack Short going home-to-home in about 15.5 seconds:












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  • Michael.......Thanks for the great information. I still find it hard to believe all of the Cubs Den writers have full time jobs and families, yet find a way to research, refine, organize and write informative, compelling articles.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Thanks. Some of the writers here have aspirations to make a living at the profession so their commitment is understandable.

    For the hobbyists, like myself... well, I think we all know people who spend a lot of time on their hobbies. That is as charitable to myself as I can be.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Hmmm......God knows any of you guys need job references you would get plenty from here:)

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    Thanks again Michael. I love these columns and charts and the 20-80 scales so we can see where they are now and possibly in the future. I would say the only tangible ratings are speed and arm strength, unless arm strength can be improved on.
    As anyone who has read Cubs Den for a while knows I love speed and that it's a difference maker both on offensive and defense. We have some fast players (Wilson, Mitchell) but really no plus-plus and by that I mean at least a 70 on that scale. Where would you say Kelli is on that scale?
    One other unmeasurable is heart and or desire--how hard someone is willing to work and could change most of those indicators. We could look at Willson Contreras's chart looked at he beginning of his career and where he is now.
    Again, keep these coming Michael. I imagine it's a lot of work but it is greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Wilson and Hannemann are probably the two fastest off the top of my head. I haven't seen Kelli myself and I have not seen a grade on his speed by anyone else.

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    Duensing is signing with Cubs for 2/14. I could be wrong on the money.
    I read an article on RHP Jeramiah Estrada. It was about every teams most under hyped prospect. Even though he's low A, is there any truth to that?

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    In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I think it's 2/7 now. Not 2/14. If it's 2/7, good signing imo.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Dabs will have a post on it soon.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Estrada was highly thought of as a HS Junior and expected to be one of the top prep players available in last year's draft. His senior season did not progress as expected and so his stock dropped a bit and apparently some scouts question his ceiling. He also had a fairly strong college commitment but the Cubs took the chance on him and signed him for overslot. He is known to be a polished and intelligent pitcher that could move quickly, but you are probably not looking at a future ace, so perhaps a good comp would be Tseng. I have yet to see Estrada yet myself, so he will definitely be a guy I keep an eye out for this spring, and when the short season play starts. He could be Arizona, but I think he likely gets a crack at Eugene.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thank you. I looked him up on fangraghs & his bb rate was high, but his LOB was like 90%. That was rookie ball though. The Tseng comp was good.

  • It is 2/$7. Turned down more money elsewhere, so must like the dance studio a lot. Roster at 38, room for a starter and a catcher. And sufficient remaining funds to do both while avoiding any penalties-- even with a July acquisition.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    I feel more like dancing myself. Good to have Duensing back.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agree Slug!

    In my best Aldo Raine:

    “Do I make that deal?........Yeaaaaaaaa, I make that deal. Good deal?......Damn good deal!”

  • I really enjoy your hobby. One of my hobbies is reading the Cubs Den.

    I do wish the org had more impact types in there system. We could trade foe Yelich. Also, I've noticed those impact players are a necessary ingredient for winning in the mlb.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Role players are also necessary. The Cubs have impact players (could still use a SP). Those impact players are all under contract for multiple seasons as well.

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    Duensing re-signs.

  • Thanks again Michael I too love these in-depth looks at the Cubs prospects. With the weather in STL in the single digits looking forward to spring training more then ever. Especially since the Blackhawks are not doing much this winter to distract me from baseball.

    Any thoughts on an under the radar starting pitcher the Cubs could take a chance on? I am not one for signing Cobb hate losing the draft pick and international signing money.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    I think the Cubs end up with one of Darvish, Arrieta or Cobb. I don't think they would really consider anyone else. If they are going to take a chance on a guy in the 5th slot it will be Montgomery.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The chance of using Montgomery as a starter may have increased a little by signing Duensing. Duensing can help fill the role of LH bullpen arm.

  • In reply to John57:

    If Montgomery is the 5th starter the Cubs are in serious trouble. Montgomery could pitch into the 4th inning with about 90 pitches. Then you would need the bullpen to pitch 4+ innings. That's a lot of strain on the bullpen every 5th day.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Montgomery would be an average #5 SP. #5 pitchers are not the best. Last year the Cub fifth starter was Anderson. I think Montgomery is better.

  • In reply to John57:

    Anderson started 6 games last year. Pitch 22 innings for the Cubs. I would not call him the #5 starter. I think Montgomery pitches better out of the pen. Would prefer to keep him there. Maybe be a spot starter through the season.

    TexasCubsFan, not sure the Cubs would have a spot on their 25 man roster for Butler. I am just saying I prefer someone else as the number 5. Like Darvish, Arrieta or Cobb.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I would prefer Darvish/Cobb/Arrieta too and I am guessing they get one of them.

    As for Butler he would have to stick with the team out of ST. He has no options left. Would be a good problem to have if Butler finds consistency that he has lacked in the past.

  • In reply to John57:

    Grimm is in the same boat as Butler. Out of options. It should be interesting how it shakes out.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I'd love a tandem starting approach at the #5 spot. There were a few games last year that Montgomery and Butler pitched a tandem game with solid results. If the team could get 8 innings out of a Montgomery/Butler tandem every 5 days that would lessen the wear on the bullpen long term. I don't think the tandem approach has been utilized in MLB for more than a start here or there. The purists hate the thought of it. It could be an efficiency in the long term.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Adding Deunsing lessens the down side of moving Montgomery to the rotation if that is needed.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Maybe, I think the Cubs have drawn a strong line on the number of years that they are willing give any of those three.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Whether the Cubs sign any of Cobb, Darvish, of Areatta or not, I really like the comfort level of having Duensing in the pen.

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