Chicago Cubs: 2016 Top Prospects 1-4

Chicago Cubs: 2016 Top Prospects 1-4
Gleyber Torres when he was with the South Bend Cubs. Photo Credit: South Bend Cubs/

We've reached Tier 1, a collection of the Chicago Cubs 2016 top prospects. For the most part this group includes advanced hitters who have performed well in minor league action. We hope you all enjoyed our coverage of the Cubs system, as it was as much fun making the list as it was for you all reading it. We look forward to providing the readers with even more information on the Cubs prospects and their trek through the minors. Now, onto the front part of the top 30.

1. Gleyber Torres

Age: 19
Height: 6’1” Weight: 175 lb.
Position: SS
Bats: R Throws: R

Stats  (FV 60)

The unanimous #1 prospect in the Cubs system, Torres had an incredible year in South Bend and finished the season off as part of the Pelicans Mills Cup winning squad. In 126 games (119 with the South Bend Cubs), Torres hit .287/.346/.376 while showing off an advanced approach and innate bat-to-ball skills with the barrel. He accompanied the strong showing with the bat by playing solid defense at short, which led many evaluators to think he may be able to stick at the position long-term. Most impressive, he did it all at the ripe age of 18.

At the plate, the Venezuelan has a slight wiggle of the bat before unleashing a quick, line-drive oriented swing. He has great contact skills and a solid plan at the plate, leading to an 8.4% BB% while with South Bend. Torres uses the whole field well, although most of his power is to the pull side. At the moment, the power lags behind, but it is important to remember his age. He has good strength and has been tirelessly working with the Cubs’ strength and conditioning trainers. In the future Torres may grow in to average power, but the additional weight could push him off the shortstop position. The one big knock on Torres defensively is his average range, but he makes up for it with smooth hands, good footwork, and sharp throws. Heading into 2016, Torres is likely a top 30 prospect in all of baseball and should start the year with the Pelicans with a chance to be promoted to Tennessee, all as a teenager.

Via 2080 Baseball

2. Willson Contreras

Age: 23
Height: 6’1” Weight: 175 lb.
Position: C
Bats: R Throws: R  (FV 55)


Willson Contreras, in my opinion, is the most major league ready prospect the Cubs have in their farm system. He put together an impressive 2015 season in double A with the Tennessee Smokies. In 126 games, he slashed .333/.413/.478 with a career high 8 homeruns and 75 RBI’s. His advanced stats were even more impressive has he produced a 156 wRC+ with a .413 wOBA. After finishing up in Tennessee, he moved on to the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox. While in Arizona he was elected to the fall leagues All Star team and was selected by managers to the Top Prospect Team.

There is a lot to like about Contreras other than his offensive game. He is extremely athletic behind the plate and comes out of the crouch quickly. His arm action is quick and short but still has strength behind his throws to second. He still needs to refine some of the nuances of catching, but with time in AAA he should be about an average catcher. He will begin his 2016 season in Iowa, and there is a solid chance that he is a September call up. Miguel Montero said himself on twitter that Contreras is an all star level major league catcher. He would know best, he rehabbed in Tennessee during the Cubs 2015 season and was able to see first hand. With a catcher like David Ross entering the last year of his career, and Montero coming off an injury plagued 2015 it seems everything could line up perfectly for Contreras to contribute to the Cubs in 2016.

Via Mike Rosenbaum

3. Duane Underwood

Age: 21
Height 6’2” 215 lb.
Position: SP
Throws: R

Stats  (FV 50+)

Slow and steady would be the best way to describe Duane Underwood’s progression through the minors. It’s all for a good reason though. Underwood was extremely raw out of high school and was more of a thrower than a pitcher, but that’s all changed. The Cubs have helped him make the transition from thrower to pitcher. Underwood’s 2015 season was cut short due to an arm injury, luckily for him no surgery was necessary. He logged 73.1 innings for the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He gave up 52 hits, 21 earned runs, walked 24, and struck out 48. His ERA was 2.58 and his FIP was 4.16. However, with Underwood, focusing on his stats won’t tell you much about him. In fact, they don’t look all that pretty.

Because Underwood is still developing his pitches, he’s throwing one more than the others. That is good for his future, bad for his stat line. When pitchers work in game like this, hitters can hone in on that one pitch, essentially meaning they know what’s coming. Despite the statistical outcome, the development outcome has been far greater for Underwood. His fastball is located better now, his curveball has become more consistent, and his changeup is a very usable pitch. In fact, all three pitches are average to plus at this point, and they generate swings-and-misses. His fastball sits 92-95, and he can run it up higher. His curve is thrown in the upper 70’s with hard breaking action, and his changeup shows nice fading action. Of the pitching prospects in the system, Duane Underwood has one of the highest ceilings and could be a number two starter when all is said and done.

Via Baseball America

4. Ian Happ

Age: 21
Height 6'0” Weight: 205 lb.
Position: OF, 2B
Bats: S Throws: R

Stats  (FV 5o+)

In the 2015 draft, the Cubs continued their trend of drafting dynamic college hitters when they took Ian Happ with the 9th overall pick.  With a muscular build and excellent bat speed, Happ hits the ball long and hard when he squares it up.  Happ's greatest assets are his power and hitting tools, both flashing as plus attributes.  The power may come at the expense of a slightly inflated K-rate, but his plate discipline should be able to offset the strikeout numbers to some degree.  As it stands, Happ is much more polished as a left handed hitter.  Unlike recent first round selections for Chicago (looking at you, Bryant), expect Happ to follow a more traditional path to the majors as some of his tools are still raw.

Defensively, I see Happ eventually settling in as a corner outfielder, but his future position is still a bit of a question mark.  His defensive instincts are holding him back from becoming a strong option at second base.  If the Cubs do decide to keep Happ at second, it's fair to expect extended time in the minors while he figures out the position.  Coming out of a non-traditional baseball conference in college, it will be interesting to see how Happ adjusts to a more rigorous season in his first full year of professional baseball.  Despite gaudy numbers in his final season at the University of Cincinnati (.369/.492/.672), it wasn't Happ's college play that piqued the interest of scouts; it was his performance against higher competition in the Cape Cod League.  In addition to his natural talents with the bat, he has plus speed and many have lauded his makeup.

Via 2080 Baseball

You can find previous entries for our Chicago Cubs 2016 Top Prospects List below:

Tier 2: Prospects 5-11
Tier 3: Prospects 12-21
Tier 4: Prospects 22-30
Honorable Mentions

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