Our days of teasing you about our 2016 Chicago Cubs top prospect list are finally over. Over the course of the week we will be releasing parts of the list. You will notice that we have changed things up a bit, which Ted touched on in our primer that was released yesterday. Not all lists are created equal. This list was a group effort, and with that brings some challenges. If you asked us where we would have these guys individually, we would all probably give you different answers. Ultimately, compromises have to be made in order to complete a list like this and everyone has to pull their weight with their write-ups. Enough rambling, here's our Tier 4, prospects ranked 22-30:
22. Tyler Skulina
Height: 6’5” Weight: 230 lb.
Stats (FV 40)
This is an aggressive placement for Skulina, especially given his age, but the former Golden Flasher has flashed the pitches to start when healthy. He has suffered through tendinitis in his left knee in the past, and due to all of his time off the field it has led to inconsistencies while on the mound. Skulina ended the year pitching 78.2 innings, mostly for the Pelicans. He had a 3.11 ERA and struck out a little less than one batter per inning.
Skulina has the perfect body to start and eat innings when healthy. In my viewing in May, his fastball rested in the 89-91 mph region with cut to it. However, there were reports of him in the 92-94 range later on in the season. If he can regain that velocity, watch out. He also has a curveball that sits in the high 70’s and a changeup that he hasn’t thrown too much. Skulina has a very fluid delivery and uses his height well, though he does fall of towards first base, which sometimes leads to inconsistencies in his fastball command. If he can stay on the field for a whole season, Skulina could be on the brink of the majors by the end of next year. The primary goals for Skulina are staying healthy, regaining his velocity and working on the development of his change. - Ted
23. Chesny Young
Height: 6’1” Weight: 180 lb.
Stats (FV 35+)
Selected in the 14th round of the 2014 draft, Young has excelled in pro-ball due to his great barrel control. This season, split between South Bend and Myrtle Beach, he showed off his great feel for the bat and the strike zone, slashing .321/.390/.386. Included in those impressive numbers is a Carolina League record 44 game on-base streak. On the diamond Young played a versatility role for the Pelicans, which included him playing at least one game at 3B, SS, 2B, LF, and RF.
The slender-but-athletic Young has a smooth, level swing at the plate but fringe average bat speed. He’s not your toolsy prospect, but Young has produced at each level thanks to his knowledge of the strike zone and great bat-to-ball skills. This offseason he is working to improve his strength, and if he can muscle out more than seven homers per year (only knocked one out this year) he could develop into a fringe-average everyday starter. However, his most likely spot is in a utility role, which the Cubs have been grooming him as. This season with the Pelicans he played a multitude of positons, though he is most comfortable at second and third base. In the field he has a sleek glove and a quick glove-to-hand transition which helps to make up for his slightly below-average arm. When I saw him, he worked hard at each position in warmups and could be capable of handling multiple positions aptly. Next season he’ll start in Tennessee, and if he keeps on hitting he’ll be on the cusp of the majors going into 2017. - Ted
24. Jeremy Null
Height: 6’7” Weight: 200 lb.
Stats (FV 35+)
Heading into the 2015, we pegged Jeremy Null as a sleeper and he made good on that prediction. Null was drafted in the 15th round out of Western Carolina during the 2014 draft. During the 2015 season, he split time between Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach. Between the two levels he racked up 117.1 innings pitched, surrendered 44 earned runs, and gave up 128 hits. His combined ERA was 3.38. Null doesn’t strike many out, but he also doesn’t walk many. He only walked 11 batters all season (0.8 BB/9) and struck out 82 (6.3 K/9).
Null’s game is centered around his ability to induce weak contact and hit his spots. He is very good at generating ground balls thanks in part to the downward plane he gets on his fastball, which sits in the upper 80’s to low 90’s. He also throws a slider and changeup, but both pitches will require more refinement for him to succeed at the next level. If all goes right, Null could end up being a back of the rotation starter or a middle reliever. - Cameron
25. Jake Stinnett
Height: 6’4” Weight: 202 lb.
Stats (FV 40)
A tall righty, Jake Stinnett was drafted in the second round by the Cubs in 2014. After impressing in a short stint in Boise at the end of 2014, he spent his entire 2015 season at South Bend, and struggled to find his groove. He ultimately lacked the consistency that he needed to move to High-A Myrtle Beach. Throwing in the low 90’s, Stinnett has yet to fully develop his changeup, although his slider has flashed above-average with great depth to it. He really lacked consistency in his delivery, which led to awry command throughout the season. On the plus side, with the assumption that Stinnett finds his footing in A-ball soon, he should be able to shoot up through the system as an advanced pitcher. While he may not be a top of the rotation pitcher for the Cubs, he could provide future support as long-reliever or back-end starter. - Dan
26. Trevor Clifton
Height: 6’4” Weight: 170 lbs.
Stats FV (35+)
Trevor Clifton is the definition of a work in progress. His numbers aren’t the flashiest, but that’s not what you should focus on with a player like Clifton. In 2015, the 6’4” Clifton was a sleeper pick of ours, but a lot had to come together for him to make his way into the ranked portion of our list. One of the biggest things for Clifton has been the refinement of his mechanics. Slowly but surely, they have become cleaner and more fluid. While there is more work to do, he’s heading in the right direction. Clifton still works in the low 90’s with his fastball, but he is capable of running it up into the mid 90’s when needed. His fastball also shows decent arm side run and it is his best pitch right now. In addition to his fastball, he features a mid to upper 70’s curveball with sharp breaking movement, and a changeup that still needs work. Despite his ranking, Clifton has one of the higher ceilings in the system, but he also has quite a ways to go to reach that ceiling. - Cameron
27. Victor Caratini
Height: 6’1” Weight: 215 lb.
Bats: S Throws: R
Stats (FV 35)
The switch-hitter Victor Caratini was drafted in the 2nd-round of the 2013 draft, and was acquired by the Cubs at the 2014 deadline, when they were still in a “Seller's” mindset. He ended 2014 at Kane County, and moved up to High-A Myrtle Beach for 2015. Although his batting average fell from 2014 to 2015, his on-base percentage stayed above-average. However, Cubs management is still awaiting a huge power surge from Caratini, who bulked up quite a bit from when he was drafted, adding about 20 pounds. His future may or may not be at catcher, depending on what the Cubs need, but with the emergence of Willson Contreras as a star-catcher at AA, Caratini may be pushed through the system with his bat somewhere in the infield. At the moment his swing mechanics are inconsistent and he has an approach that is too passive. He'll have to find a remedy for these as it's tough to see his bat playing in the majors. - Dan
28. Wladimir Galindo
Height: 6'3" Weight: 210
Bats: R Throws: R
Stats (FV 35+)
Coming in at number 28 on our list is the incredibly young and talented Wladimir Galindo. Signed in 2013, Galindo was just one of the highly touted international prospects the Cubs would go on to acquire. At only 17 years-old in 2014, he made a statement in his first professional season for the Cubs rookie league team in Venezuela. In 62 games, Galindo slashed .276/.356/.462 with 7 homeruns and 18 doubles. Galindo looks comfortable at the plate while his stance and swing are extremely controlled and quiet.
His defense on the other hand is where he has struggled. The large frame is ideal for third base, but in 46 games at the hot corner he committed 23 errors contributing to a .857 fielding percentage. His size could allow him to make a move to a corner outfield position or first base, but it is still too early to make any big moves just yet. In 2015, Galindo played in 19 games in the Arizona League where his offensive numbers continued to shine but the defense still wasn't there. Given his young age and potential, it is tempting to rank him higher, but we haven't quite seen enough. I think Galindo could take the same path has Eloy Jimenez and open up 2016 in Eugene for short-season Low-A. Galindo needs to continue to work on his defense and see if his game can come full circle. - Josh
Video Credit: Eric Longenhagen
29. Rob Zastryzny
Height: 6’3” Weight: 205 lb.
Stats (FV 35)
For a second straight year, Zastryzny has failed to put up good numbers. In just 60.2 IP with the Smokies (he was sidelined much of the year after getting knocked out by a comebacker), Zastryzny posted a 6.23 ERA. Many of his problems come as a result of his poor command which led to an undesirable 4.2 BB/9 and has contributed to his high home run numbers. Fans of the KATOH projection system may already know the inverse correlation between high home run numbers in the minors and future major league success.
If Zastryzny can get his command in check, he still has potential in the back of the rotation. First and foremost, he is a lefty with a plus changeup, which is a great building block. Second, his fastball shows a good amount of movement and can reach the low 90's. If his command continues to suffer in 2016, start looking for Zastryzny as a bullpen option rather than as a starter. - Joe
30. Brad Markey
Height: 5’11” Weight: 185 lb.
Stats (FV 35)
Don’t let Brad Markey’s size fool you. In fact, height has little to do with a pitchers success, and plane? Well, that’s more about arm slot than height. Despite Markey’s size, he’s very much like Ryan Williams and Jeremy Null in that, he relies on his control and command, both of which are very good. Markey doesn’t have one pitch that’s better than average, but he knows how to use them and that’s worth something. With some tinkering, he may be able to sharpen up his curveball that would generate a few more whiffs, but that’s just speculation. Markey features a three-pitch mix: Fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball sits in the upper 80’s to low 90’s, while his curveball sits in the upper 70’s to low 80’s, and his changeup sits low 80’s. With Markey so reliant on his control and command because of his lack of stuff, his ceiling will be limited to that of a back of the rotation starter or possibly a long man. - Cameron
Stay tuned for part two, which will be out tomorrow morning at 8 am cst.