Chicago Cubs Top 30 Prospects

February 16, 2024

The 2024 Preseason Top 30 lists are built around the idea of certainty and future Role. Similar to industry projection systems such as Future Value (FV), Overall Future Potential (OFP), and Grade, Role is a way to describe to what degree a player will add value to his organization at peak.

Our scale is a bit more conservative than other grading systems. We take into account recent seasonal performance, proximity to impact, metric/data analysis, and industry conversations to build a case for the most likely outcome for any given player.

It is important to note these Role labels are fluid and can change as a player moves up the developmental ladder. It is not uncommon for a player to change his role projection over even one month. Players jump from a Role 35 to a Role 40 quite quickly.

Things like mechanical adjustments and physical maturation can alter a player’s projection seemingly overnight. Players change. Keep that in mind.

Below is our Role chart used to place future projection on players.

20No organizational value. Non-prospect.
30Organizational value, filler. Likely peaks at Triple-A or below.
35Potential up-and-down, Quad-A prospect. Has some tools. Development necessary to secure prolonged MLB role.
40Back-up at MLB level. No. 5 starter on non-competitive team. Depth.
45Potential starter on contender. Bench player for championship-level team.
50Starter on a championship-level team. Lacks star ceiling. Steady. Potential No. 4 starting pitcher.
55Potential all-star. Some impact. Above average big-league regular. Mid-rotation starter on a contender.
60All-star level player. Impact. Middle-of-the-order bat. No. 2 starter on good team.
70Perennial all-star. Will contend for seasonal awards. Potential MVP/Cy Young upside. No. 1 starting pitcher. Ace.
80Hall of Fame upside. Generational. MVP/Cy Young Favorite some years. Organizational pillar who can carry an entire franchise at times.

You will not find players with a sub-50 Role on our Top 100 Prospect List. You are also unlikely to find any sub-35 Role players on a Top 30 board. Generally, organizations will have at least 30 players with big-league projection.

All rankings and roles by Joe Doyle
Player notes by Jason A. Churchill

The Cubs have rebuilt their system in the last three years using every way to acquire talent. In their Top 10 alobe, the club drafted Cade Horton and Matt Shaw, traded for Pete Crow-Armstrong and Owen Caissie, and signed Jefferson Rojas via the international route.

Going back to 2013, the Cubs’ first-round success is as goos as any in the league: Kris Bryant, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, Jordan Wicks, Horton, and Shaw, and they had a top 10 pick just once since they took Happ at No. 9 in 2015.

Considering the club’s big-league trade and free agency efforts in addition to the state of their farm, Chicago appears to be on the brink of a run in the National League Central. If they play their farm right, they may find enough impact to compete with the elite in the circuit.

1Pete Crow-ArmstrongOF60
2Cade HortonRHP55
3Matt Shaw3B55
4Owen CaissieOF50
5Michael Busch2B50
6Moises BallesterosC50
7Ben BrownRHP50
8Jordan WicksLHP45
9Kevin AlcantaraOF45
10Jefferson RojasSS45

Crow-Armstrong was acquired at the deadline in 2021 when the Cubs sent Javier Baez and Trevor Williams to the New Yor Mets. He’s likely to be the centerfielder to open the season after getting a taste late in 2023.

He’s hit enough in the minors to suggest at least average offensive ability, though there are some contact concerns — 24% in Double-A a year ago, then nearly 30% in Triple-A — but he’ll be 22 in March and there’s enough bat speed to not only get to average power but to cover for some of the discipline ineffciencies as he learns to command the zone against big-league arms.

He’s at least a plus runner with an above-average arm and tremendous defensive instincts. He may be the best defensive centerfielder in baseball right away. Even if he doesn’t hit all that much erly, PC-A will be a value with elite defense and a chance to swipe 40 bags if he plays regularly.

Horton is mostly 93-96 mph with optimal carry and bore into right-handed hitters, missing bats and setting up a 65-grade slider and a curveball with a chance to be average. His changeup has flashed too, giving him a chance at four pitches led by huge fastball value.

Horton did pretty good job throwing strikes in his first pro season in 2023, especially considering how little he’s pitched since high school. He’s a former two-way player and that athleticism showed on the mound last year and should continue to help him improve his command.

It’s a potential No. 2 profile for Horton, whose floor as an elite reliever who could get out right now in the majors makes for a pretty darned good pitching prospect.

Shaw doesn’t have a loud tool, but is solid-average in the two that make the biggest difference: hit and power. He reached Double-A in his first season by hitting the ball hard consistently and handling breaking stuff in the lower minors.

He’s a natural shortstop who almost certainly ends up at second base to fit his arm, and if he rakes early in 2024 it’s not out of the question the Cubs find a way to use him in the majors.

Alcantara, 21, has 70 raw power and is a good athlete. After his limited debut in pro ball in 2019, he’s shown power in games, despite being young for the level each of the last two seasons.

He projects to play in a corner, hit .260 with some walks, and 30-plus home runs is on the table. He’ll start 2024 in Double-A Tennessee at age 21 looking to improve contact rates a bit, but there’s been no red flag for the 6-foot-6 Dominican native the Cubs acquired in return for first baseman Anthony Rizzo in 2021.

11James Triantos3B40
12Alexander CanarioOF40
13Michael AriasRHP40
14Drew GrayLHP40
15Luis VazquezSS40
16Jaxon WigginsRHP40
17Matt Mervis1B40
18Luke LittleLHP40
19B.J. Murray3B35
20Porter HodgeRHP35
21Cristian HernandezSS35
22Pablo AliendoC35
23Caleb KilianRHP35
24Josh RiveraSS35
25Pedro RamirezSS35
26Will SandersRHP35
27Alfonsin RosarioOF35
28Brandon BirdsellRHP35
29Brennen DavisOF35
30Christopher PaciollaSS35

Canario has produced better batting averages and on-base marks than his contact rates suggest are repeatable, but he did it again in Triple-A last year once he got healthy.

It’s probably plus power if he can get to it with improved contact, but until then he’s a solid power option off the bench and good depth for a winning club.

Gray is a projectable lefty now firmly into the low-90s with his fastball following 2022 UCL surgery. It’s a pitch with good shape nand life up in the zone and to his arm side.

There are two potential big-league breaking balls here in a tight-spinning curveball and a slider with horizontal impact, both with a chance to miss bats. His changeup is a ways away, but it should end up at least a fourth ofering.

Murray was the club’s 15th-round pick in 2021 and has reached the upper minors with his bat, showing power from both sides of the plate.

He’s limited defensively at third and belongs at first, but in a bench role could play both spots well enough to warrant a roster spot as long as he hits.

Birdsell threw strikes in his pro season, flashed an inconsistent but occsionally plus slider he commands pretty well, and sat 93-96 mph most times out.

He’s likely a back-end starter, but could also move to the pen to focus on his two best pitches, and the fact he’ll be 24 in March after stay in school for four years, the Cubs may have big-league plans for him in 2024.

Joe Doyle
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