2017-18 Offseason Cubs Prospect Rankings: Tier 4

In previous entries I took you on a tour of the higher upside players throughout the Cubs system.

Prospect Series Links: TOR/All-Star Regular, MOR/Above Avg Regular, BOR/LIR, Avg Regular/Semi-Regular

In today's installment we focus on the players with ceilings likely to top out as spot or swing starters, middle relievers or bench players. It is a group that may not excite the masses, but these players can still make valuable contributions to the club in the future. After the 16 full prospect reports below I also take a quick run through a group of fringe prospects throughout the system, including a few prospects once rated highly looking to return to form after injuries have sidetracked their careers in recent seasons.

2017_18_prospect_tiers_update2Included in today's reports are names very familiar to regular readers of the Minor League coverage on Cubs Den, and several players that have received invites to Major League camp this spring. It is always possible that a couple of these players exceed my expectations, be it a reliever with borderline electric stuff like Craig Brooks, assuming he can harness his control. Or maybe Duncan Robinson can mix-and-match enough with his five pitch arsenal to grab a full time rotation spot down the line. If you are looking for a potential sleeper on offense, 2017 draftee Austin Upshaw already made a strong impression and jumped into full season ball after signing last year.

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Fringe Prospects

In the final installment of this series next week I will examine some of the raw prospects the Cubs had developing in the Rookie Level complexes in Arizona and the Dominican Republic, as well as some of the higher profile IFA signings from last year's class that will be debuting this season. It is a group of players that I have little data on, and even less first hand knowledge of, but as they begin percolating up the system into short and full season ball this year I will draw a more complete picture of each.

Before we leave the full season affiliates however, I want to touch on a handful of fringe prospects that just missed my rankings. In particular, there are three pitchers working their way back from injury that have shown up in previous offseason rankings lists: relievers Corey Black and Jose Rosario, as well as starter Ryan Williams.

Black is completing rehab from his second career TJS this offseason, and there have been encouraging reports from Black himself, who says he is throwing pain free for the first time in years, as well as Cubs Director of Player Development Jaron Madison. Once a Top 10-15 prospect, when healthy the 5'11" righty features a mid-90s fastball, above average slider and average changeup. It is a solid starter's repertoire, but his stature, high effort delivery and lack of command always held him back in that role. Now a full time reliever, Black could work his way back into the picture as bullpen contributor if he performs well in Iowa upon returning.

In 2016, Jose Rosario pulled off the same feat Dillon Maples did last season in starting the year as an afterthought in the Myrtle Beach bullpen before catapulting himself on to the 40 man roster. Maples capped his campaign by making his MLB debut in September, while Rosario had to settle for finishing 2016 in Iowa. He was expected to compete for a bullpen job last spring, but nagging injury and a bout with major control issues ruined his season and he found himself removed from the 40 man roster and unclaimed on waivers by the end of the year. But if he can recapture his mid-to-upper 90s gas and power curve, he to could draw consideration once again.

The future is less certain for Ryan Williams. Once a fast mover through the system and a prime candidate to replace John Lackey at the back of the Chicago rotation, shoulder injuries the past two seasons put his career in doubt. I will continue to root for him to one day regain his plus command and heavy sinking fastball that once made him so intriguing, but the Cubs have signed a number of veteran options to fill out the Iowa rotation this year, so it seems the club is not counting on any contributions from him this season.

There are additional arms listed below that remain interesting follows. I am particularly intrigued by a pair of 2017 draftees: Ricky Tyler Thomas and Ben Hecht. Both possess potential plus secondaries, a changeup for Thomas and slider for Hecht, that could one day make them exciting bullpen options. Thomas could prove especially valuable given the Cubs lack of left handed relief options throughout their system.

The Cubs have also collected a number of athletic middle infielders that may one day develop into useful utility players. Yeiler Peguero made his full season debut in South Bend at just 19 years of age, and actually made the MWL All-Star team at midseason, but his play quickly fell off. Look for him to repeat that level this season, or at least begin the year there, as he looks to get his career back on the fast track. Beyond the athletic up-the-middle-infielders the Cubs also drafted an intriguing corner man out of MIT of all places last season. Austin Filiere shows some range, but lacks ideal fluidity in the field. His career will be determined by his bat however. Right now he is a three true outcomes (power, walks, strikeouts) hitter that needs to learn how to make contact with good breaking balls.

In addition to the athletic infielders, the Cubs also have a bunch of prime physical specimens in the outfield that they are trying to round into true prospects. Speedy Zach Davis learned switch hitting on the fly last season, showing many positive signs. Former pitcher Chris Pieters and former football player Joe Martarano are a pair of big and strong athletes with untapped potential.

Starters: Zach Hedges, Rollie Lacy, Eric Leal, Tyson Miller, Peyton Remy, Manny Rondon, Ryan Williams

Relievers: Luis Aquino, Corey Black, Scott Effross, David Garner, Yapson Gomez, Justin Hancock, Ben Hecht, Chad Hockin, Marc Huberman, Mark Malave, Brad Markey, James Norwood, Manny Rodriguez, Jhon Romero, Jose Rosario, Wyatt Short, Ricky Tyler Thomas, Daury Torrez

Catchers: Tyler Alamo, Michael Cruz, Jhonny Pereda, Will Remillard

Infielders: Jhonny Bethencourt, Austin Filiere, Vimael Machin, Andruw Monasterio, Rafael Narea, Yeiler Peguero, Jared Young, Delvin Zinn

Outfielders: Zach Davis, Brandon Hughes, Kwang-Min Kwon, Joe Martarano, Chris Pieters


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  • Michael, I've really enjoyed this series. If you were GM for one of the other 29 clubs and Theo offered you "pick two" from this fringe list as an leveler in a trade, who do you take? To avoid the opposing team need factor issue, maybe pick two arms and two position players. Thanks.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Just from the fringe list? I'd go Corey Black and... Peguero? Assuming Black is healthy he would be a low risk, near MLB-ready bullpen arm with some upside as well. Peguero flashes a solid hit tool, and of the middle infielders he probably has the most offensive upside. Williams was my favorite of these guys, but two shoulder injuries doesn't give me much faith in his future health.

    From the Tier 4 list? If I'm shooting for upside I would go with Rice and Upshaw offensively, Robinson and Brooks as pitchers

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    The cubs lower tier of prospects is what you end up with when your hands are tied with the IFA cap imposed for two years and a low or virtually bad draft position the last three years. You have to realize each year there are maybe 75 -100 players added to the system and players either have to improve or be left go, get better or be dropped.
    The cubs farm system should get an influx of talent this year from the IFA, I believe the cubs will try to get extra pool money to beef up their pool, drafting where they are probably going to be for the next 4 or 5 years it is imperative to stock young players from the only talent that will be available. The IFA is where we can grab high end talent....

  • In reply to tater:

    They will blow past the IFA limits this year. I'm not sure if they get 2 of the top 5 guys like they got in 2013 with Torres and Jimenez, or if they spread it around a little more like they did in 2015 and got a ton of top 50 guys like Albertos, Ademan, etc

    They will also have a big draft class. They get an extra pick from losing Davis, will get another when Jake signs elsewhere. Assuming they don't lose a pick signing Cobb, they will have a ton of draft capital as well and could target some HS kids down in the draft that they can buy out of college commitments with big over slot deals.

    System should get a big shot in the arm this summer

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael -- Thank you for these profiles. Even if you try to watch minor league games throughout the year (as I and many here do), it is nearly impossible to get this thorough of a view and analysis on this many players. Truly an unmatched resource of information!

    One note -- under the new CBA, teams can't go over the spending cap for international free agents. You can trade for more money and use it (as before) but cannot go over. (Otherwise, Otani would still have been a $300mm signee!) Unlike the magical 2013 class, Cubs don't appear connected to any of the top players this year, but hopefully these early reports are incorrect.


  • In reply to springs:

    Yeah, I forgot about the new spending caps. Cubs have been in the penalty the last couple of years so I haven't really haven't had to think about the IFA spending recently. The hard caps are in place now. I still rust this FO to make the most of it though, especially considering the brand new facilities they have in place down the DR, their commitment in recent years to Mexico/Panama and other under served countries, and now with two AZL teams ready to give guys ample playing time the Cubs should be an attractive destination.

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    It's really amazing the amount of turnover the cubs have from year to year, most fans don't realize the players let go after the first year, it is really the Peter Principle, that is a indirect statement while conversing from Jason McCloud, 5 years ago..

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    Not really sure what you mean by blow past the limits, that will cost them draft picks , I don't for see them doing this, the rules were implemented to stop this, doing so would put us in a bad situation for the next 2 years....

  • In reply to tater:

    You're right. Still had my mind on the old CBA.

  • Thanks Michael you made my Friday Morning! Love the in-depth look at the guys in the system. Hoping some of the speed guys especially the OFs can improve their hit tools. I'm really intrigued by Duncan Robinson love his size and his pitch repertoire.

  • In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    It would be cool to see Robinson join Hendricks as a pair of Dartmouth guys in the rotation. Add Filiere (MIT) at some point and there would be a lot of brain power in the locker room.

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    With a very snowy day this is great reading Michael. I have no idea of the work involved but it is really appreciated.
    I read somewhere the other day about Corey Black. You said he's pain free but I seem to remember that he did very well in the winter and if he is cured then he could be a big help in the BP. It seems like there is talent in the system and I have trust in this FO and minor league instructors so that a few of these players will develop and show themselves this year. Has Bailey Clark not developed at all? He was one I thought could go through the system fairly quickly but he still is allowing more hits than innings. thanks again Michael.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Clark has kind of been treading water for two years. His draft year he began the season as Duke's top starter, but really struggled and ended up getting dropped to the pen. Cubs took a chance they could get him to discover some consistency. Last year Clark was battling some injuries and was also still working on his degree (he now has it). He had a few good outings, but his velo and command were still inconsistent.

    I'm still holding out hope that now that he has a full offseason free from injury and without school on his plate he can make strides this season. I still think he ends up a reliever rather than a starter but there is untapped potential with him. He really does need to show something this year though if there is going to be any chance of him sticking as a starter.

  • This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who is a scout for the Rangers when our kids were playing HS baseball. The HS team was a top 20 program in Illinois and were fun to watch. The field is roughly MLB size and the kids could hit, field, and throw quite well. Then we talked about all the levels of baseball above this - Florida / Texas HS baseball, college, top 20 college, Rookie, A, A+, AA, AAA and finally MLB. Each level has those who will progress to the next level and those who get left behind. Sometimes, the margin is very small between those two.

    So even watching the HS kids who were pretty good (won state one of the years), they are many levels down from the ultimate goal. Its a reminder of just how damn good MLB players really are.

  • In reply to Senator Blutarski:

    Yes, which is a big reason you can't scout a stat line. Guys who blow up HS or college ball fail in A ball all the time. Guys who star in A ball flame out in AA all the time. Guys who dominate AA can make it translate in MLB all the time.

    Camargo is a good example of a guy listed above that was an all star in the NWL but may struggle before he even reaches the majors because he really only has one thing to rely on, his changeup. Now sometimes a guy can still make that work, and sometimes they can make strides in another area that can diversify his game.

  • Don't know how many of these prospects will make it, but good
    to have so many to develop.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    If we can get two hitters and two pitchers to contribute out of all the players listed we should be happy. If the Cubs can fill holes internally with these type of depth players it can make a huge impact, and would free up additional money for big free agent signings or trades. This is the primary reason I think the Cubs system may not provide a big impact in the form more young stars to add to the core, but it can still impact the team in valuable ways. And the Cubs system has enough of these flyer types that it is reasonable to expect some to make it

  • Don't know how many of these prospects will make it, but good
    to have so many to develop.

  • The draft and international slot money are very big in our future plans

  • Speaking of fringe guys in the system, more heartbreaking news out of Venezuela: 26-year-old Cubs P Williams Perez was involved in the accidental, fatal shooting of former coach Cesar Quintero, 52. Perez was apparently handing his legally owned and permitted gun to Quintero when it accidentally discharged. Perez has been arrested and is reportedly cooperating with authorities, who do not suspect any foul play.

    Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Quintero.

    Although reports are preliminary, I can't help but wonder if the unrest and threats facing professional players in Venezuela played a part in Perez's perceived need to arm himself. In this offseason of frustrating inaction over signings and contracts, I'm reminded again that players from other parts of the world are dealing with issues much larger than simple physical preparation and potential dollar amounts.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Wow. Thanks for the heads up. I had not heard that news.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    On a similar note, I'll repeat my call out to my personal muse Chad, AKA Copinblue. You out there, my friend? Haven't heard from you in a while. Hope you are OK in a dangerous profession. You are a great friend to Cubs Den, and I wish you well.

  • Know it was from a comment in a different thread but absolutely love your ideas about changes to free agency Michael. Non guaranteed contracts for age 35+ and free agency by age instead of service time would make too much sense so no way an idea like this would ever be given a real chance lol. On a sadder note just awful news about Williams Lerez accidentally shooting his former coach Cesar Quintero.

  • Perez not Lerez

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I had just commented on the Perez/Quintero situation, but the filter got it. Very sad situation, indeed.

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    MLB reports the Cubs have signed Darvish for $126 M and a 6 year contract. I guess the Cubs blinked first, but we have our guy.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I think it was a meeting in the middle rather than who blinked first. Term was to the Darvish camp liking, but AAV is surprisingly low and clearly in the Cubs favor.

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    According to Ken Rosenthal it can reach $150 M with incentives. This is breaking now.

  • Year longer than pundits thought he'd get.

  • Be interesting to see if there are opt outs or no-trade clauses

  • Told y'all cubs were getting darvish :)

  • In reply to bolla:

    So did barstool carl, and that dude on the Brewers' board. :)

  • In reply to bolla:

    Glad you were right. :-)

  • That contract appears fair. Yu gets his years and money if he stays healthy and Cubs get 24m protection if he doesn't. Still probably more years than the Cubs where hoping for.

  • Darvish has to win multiple cy young awards to get the 150 million according to ken rosenthal

    So it's a win win deal for the cubs because 21 aav for darvish is great and the cubs are still 12-14 mil below the luxury tax

  • In reply to bolla:

    If Darvish gets multiple cy young awards, the contract will be worth it.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yes indeed. I don't care about the back end of the contract because the cubs make a lot of money so it won't handicap them at all and by then some of the young pitchers will be up

  • He's projected to have 6 years om his arm per experts.

  • So does this mean Gimenez is our back up catcher?

  • In reply to good4you:


  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Cubs prioritize defense out of that roster spot. Caratini can still work on his defensive game in Iowa and provides outstanding depth and/or trade piece. You need C depth. We saw that the past two years. Cubs didn't have a great 3rd option prior to Gimenez signing

  • Will the Brewers and Cardinals respond with their own additions?

  • Just read the brewers forum. They're pretty dejected :-)

    Now they begrudgingly want to sign jake(according to their insider it may happen). they are also calculating how much money the cubs can spend in the future and hoping harper is not an option now. They obviously don't understand the cubs are raking in huge amounts of money are still below the luxury tax which rises to 206 next year. The cubs and yankees were the only teams in mlb to bring in 150 million more than operating costs last year.I think I'm saying this wrong but I read something about both teams making way more than everyone else. The cubs are financially in great shape a 126 million dollar contract won't affect that AT ALL.

  • In reply to bolla:

    LOL "their insider". Bolla I believe you know more what's going on in baseball then that Brewers "insider".

  • In reply to bolla:

    It was actually fun having the Brewers thought they cut the gap far more than they really had. The Cubs almost outscored them by 100 last year with a few down years and nobody really going off. On the other hand they had career like Thames. There is no way that Yelich and Cain are closing that gap. Oh, and if Bryant consolidates his 16 and 17 and Schwarber reproduces the 2H they could more or less offset the Brewers gains.

    For pitching the Cubs gave up 2 less runs, Nelson is out for a while and his comeback is a question mark. The Cubs have likely improved their staff. The Brewers are likely a good bit behind the Cubs, to the point they need to Cubs to have an injury problem or they need to even have more career years than they got in 17.

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    IMO Brewers have another move to make.

    Cards at least one move, maybe 2.

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    Cubs were better before this move, and they just grabbed the best available player on the market. One, even two moves by either team doesn't close the gap, unless there is a SP available in trade I don't know about.

    And even if one of those two do surprise, the Cubs should still be in prime position to secure a WC spot. Cubs just need to take care of their own business and not worry about Cards/Brewers

  • Glad to have Darvish. Arrieta still has amazing stuff but can’t control it the way he did during that amazing 1 1/2 year run. When Lester misses on a pitch, it is an inch or two off the plate - where many hitters will still take a swing. When Arrieta misses, it is 10” off the plate where only the worst hitters will take a swing.

    IMO, that was the difference between him throwing no hitters and leaving in the 6th inning after 110 pitches. Again IMO, that cross step delivery is probably a big part of the cause. When it works, it’s works very well. When it doesn’t, the pitches are off the plate and the pitch counts go up. The more complex the delivery, the more things that can get slightly out of whack.

  • I’ve got a comment stuck with the administrator.

  • In reply to Senator Blutarski:


  • What's gonna happen with alzolay? He is being prepared for 2019. He May be a bullpen addition in late 2018 if he does well in iowa. Assuming the cubs starters have no significant injuries how is alzolay gonna be a starter when they have their rotation set til 2020?

  • In reply to bolla:

    I won't go into the worst-case scenario of a busted UCL, but these things have a way of working themselves out. Remember when we had too many shortstops?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:


  • Crasnick says darvish has an opt out after 2 years.

  • I wanna bust up some old Stones lyrics and celebrate. I'm sure someone on the staff is working on this massive news. We got Darvish!

    Go Cubs!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Probably the Cards and Brewers are singing " I can't get no satisfaction" about right now.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    With due apologies to Mr. Jaggar and Mr. Richards:

    "Yu can't always get what Yu want.
    Yu can't always get what Yu want.
    Yu can't always get what Yu want.
    But if Yu try some times,
    Yu just might find,
    Yu get what Yu need."

  • I can't believe how many people are reacting with "I wish the cubs brought jake back instead of signing darvish" Arrieta numbers are all trending in the wrong way and have been since 2015

    That cy young season was peak arietta . He is not the same pitcher, I did not want jake back just like I didn't want wade davis back. They both are trending down. Go look at ariettas #'s since 2015 hits per 9,hr's per 9,fip,whip,era,walks etc literally every category is going up.That is a scary trend that I wanted no parts of

  • There is always a sense of giddiness when the Cubs sign a big-name free agent, but the jury is out for me. I’ll be curious what Cobb signs for and how he and Darvish compare over the length of that contract.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I remember being giddy that Alfonso Soriano was on our team, but I hated the contract the moment it was announced. Same with Jason Heyward. Great to have him, not so much that commitment. We are in an era of Cubs' ball none of us have ever experienced before. We are (kind of) defending a crown and will be for several more years. These aren't superstar contracts to put fannies in the seats. This is a different concept, and I'm cool with it. We are big boys now, and we will be for several more seasons. I kinda like it.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    There are many reasons to be insecure about labor peace going forward. There are obviously sticking points now. Nobody knows what the new terms will be when the CBA expires in December 2021, or even if there won't be amendments made before then. Top organizations are playing by the rules known at this time.

    I have followed the Cubs FO religiously, trying to learn from the best. I have been somewhat disappointed when they refer to a seven-year window. I would like to believe that a top, large-market franchise could compete forever. As much as I would like to think so, their words and actions are telling me no.

    This brilliant FO seems to believe that in the current climate, and with ever-changing and even unknown future rules, you should try to maximize and go "all-in" at a certain point. Identify your window, and seize it. That is where we are at.

    As per the current CBA, penalties for exceeding the luxury-tax threshold compound every year you go over. It begins with simple monetary fines but quickly escalates to lost draft picks and lost slot money. The penalties can be reset in a single year, under current rules, by simply bringing payroll under the current threshold, which is what many teams are doing and has led to much of the slow pace of this offseason.

    The Cubs have, successfully, remained under the luxury-tax threshold so far. We have left ourselves some cushion for bonuses and in-season moves. We are in good shape, for this year.

    Next year, all bets are off. We will blow by the threshold, and drink beer and sing songs as we do it. We will be a year closer to the end of a window I don't yet agree with, but who people supposedly smarter than me agree to. We will continue to print money, be facing down a new windfall of a TV contract, and, by the way, be sitting on a core of young talent all hitting their prime who can rival anyone in baseball history.

    This is our last year under the threshold. We don't have much coming of the books next season, and a whole lot of arbitration raises. We are going to target, and get, one of Harper or Machado. The way the contracts of Zobrist and Heyward are set up promises that. We may have to eat some, but we will.

    Bottom line, this is the most awesome time to be a Cubs fan I have ever experienced in my life. Of course we won a Championship and I cried, but this is so cool. We could actually do this again. And you know what's even more crazy a thought than that? We could even do it again. Many of us, in dreaming of our dynasty a few years ago, said we would be happy with two titles in five years. I think I'm still cool with that, though I wouldn't mind being greedy.

    I've been writing and haven't said anything. I think we are in a Championship window and we will not be out-organized. We have spent future resources that will soon begin to bloom in baseball's spring air, but we have already cashed those checks. We are now big boys, and will spend and compete like nobody's business to win Championship after Championship! Or at least until 2023, when we might have to tear it all down and do it all over again.

    Go Cubs!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think this off-season will factor into the next CBA significantly. But I really think that the players available this off-season over-estimated their value. Teams are getting better and better at forecasting future production (with obvious caveats for injury). And are better and better able to put a dollar value on that production. I think Darvish and Arrieta thought they would be looking at David Price/Max Scherzer type offers. When those didn't come rolling in in December they should have been able to read the writing on the wall.

  • Cobb is a 3-4 starter who doesn't even use his splitter anymore. Don't care how much he gets or where he signs adding middle of the rotation starters isn't how you win championships.

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