The Top Tier
The organization doesn't have a high profile prospect with a sustained track record wrecking the Collegiate or the Minor League ranks the way Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber did. They do have some talents capable of building themselves into a prospect of this caliber, something we recently saw Willson Contreras accomplish, but as of yet those projects are still works in progress.
They may not become stars but there are a handful of potential above average everyday players or middle of the rotation starting pitchers in the system:
Can Nico Hoerner eventually contribute at a similar level to an Addison Russell or Ben Zobrist, and can Miguel Amaya offer a potential blending of the skills provided by former catching tandem Miguel Montero and David Ross?
Yes, that is a reasonable expectation.
The question most Cubs fans are interested in though, is whether Adbert Alzolay or Brailyn Marquez are potential future replacements for the likes of Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana in the middle of the rotation? Again, I do believe that is a reasonable outcome given their talent levels. Even if they come up short of reaching their full potential, each offers a fall back option as potential impact relievers.
One concern is the lack of experience with this group. Alzolay offers the most certainty in that regard, but even he missed several months due to injury in 2018. Three of these guys played the entire 2018 season at 19-years old. We saw a perfect example of the fall young prospects can take last year. Jose Albertos was in a similar situation at this time in 2017, showing flashes of greatness as a 19-year old, and we all remember how 2018 ended up playing out for him.
Potential MLB Contributors
The Cubs may currently lack sure things in their system, but one thing they don't lack is maybes:
This is where the strength of the Cubs system lies: their depth. A recent Fangraphs article breaking down the future value of farm systems ranked the Cubs just 25th in baseball. It was not an unreasonable conclusion given the lack of high end prospects, but there was an interesting bit of info buried in that table which could offer the organization hidden value. The total number of prospects (27) the Cubs had ranked by Fangraphs was tied for 12th overall. Still modest, and a great distance from the terrific depth belonging to San Diego at the top, but with a talented core of still relatively young players in place on offense, the Cubs have compiled plenty of internal options to function as stopgaps and potential cheap filler for the bottom of the roster that will allow them to direct funds toward the rising salaries of their arbitration eligible players in the future.
And hey, some prospects exceed expectations, so amassing as many maybes as possible increases your odds of such an occurrence. Just because a position player may appear to top out as a platoon option doesn't mean he can't provide a team a significant boost in that role. And some pitchers that project as fifth starters eventually become more. You never know what can happen if someone develops a new pitch or tweaks their delivery.
I'm also beginning to wonder if the baseball may be heading toward scenarios where a team carries 3 or 4 top starters capable of working deep into games, and then instead of trying to stretch a 5th starter incapable of running through a MLB order multiple times, they will instead employ a piggyback approach. We saw the Cubs run with a setup like this for a while back in 2017. Eddie Butler worked through the first 3 to 4 innings before handing the game over to Mike Montgomery for the next 3 to 4. The Cubs have a ton of guys in their pipeline nearing the Major Leagues that could thrive in that sort of role.
Great athletes or great arms who have not managed to stay healthy, and/or consistent and/or productive:
I won't dive too deeply into this group of players. Often discussed in the Minor League Recaps throughout the year, each has at least one plus tool, but also at least one major concern that could hold them back from achieving their full potential. This is the boom-or-bust crowd.
There are a couple fairly new names some fans may not know. Riley Thompson ($200K) was the Cubs 11th round pick this past summer. A 1st round caliber arm, he is a big and talented righty capable of mid-90s or better velocity along with the ability to spin quality breaking balls. Injury and inconsistent control held him back as a collegian but he already showed some progress and production in his brief stint with Eugene after signing. Lefty Chris Allen ($150K) and outfielder Edmond Americaan ($208K) are a pair of JUCO draftees the Cubs directed some of their left over slot money toward in the bottom half of the draft. Each put up strong numbers in the AZL and could see time with South Bend next season.
The Next Wave
Let's call this the Under-20 Top 20 group:
The Cubs went above slot in the second round of the draft to land a pair of toolsy prep outfielders. Cole Roederer provides a well-rounded set of above-average tools and already put each on display in his pro debut this summer. Brennen Davis offers a little more risk, but potentially higher upside. The former two-sport prep star has yet to tap into his raw power during games as his swing is currently geared toward line drives but he showed off plate discipline and speed in abundance playing alongside Roederer in Arizona.
He may not offer the athletic profile of Roederer or Davis, but middle infielder Reivaj Garcia put his impressive hit tool (.302/.365/.355) and instincts on display in Arizona as well, and did so as a 16-year old for most of the summer. It is a notable accomplishment to produce at such an age at that level. Not to compare the two prospects, but just to give some perspective, Gleyber Torres was several months older when he made his AZL debut (.279/.372/.377) back in 2014. He doesn't come with the same IFA pedigree or upside, and may be limited to 2B, but the Cubs may have unearthed a hidden gem, or at least a prospect worth keeping a keen eye on moving forward.
Yovanny Cruz broke out in the Arizona Rookie League before seeing a late season promotion to Eugene. Kohl Franklin is the nephew of former MLB closer Ryan Franklin and represents the Cubs above slot expenditure on the pitching side in the 2018 draft. The big prep righty out of Oklahoma missed time due to injury which kept his pre-draft hype to a minimum but the Cubs speak in glowing terms in regards to him.
The final five names in the list above represent the Cubs big ticket items in the current IFA class. Jose Lopez ($1.5M) is an athletic center fielder with wiry strength. Although Lopez received the largest bonus, RHP Richard Gallardo ($1M) is potentially the better prospect. He is rated as the top starting pitcher in the 2018-19 class by MLB Pipeline and second best by Baseball America. Joel Machado and Rafael Morel are both seen as Top 50 prospects in the class as well.