Outfielders dominate day in Cubs’ 2022 MiLB position rankings
Pete Crow-Armstrong and Owen Caissie – Photo by Todd Johnson
It becomes quite the ritual. At the start of each August, I look at the Cubs’ system by position and gauge the depth of those positions. There is no scientific formula or mathematical sequence, it’s just a pure collection of talent in each position. It’s the same thing I did it at Cubs Central and now I bring it here to North Side Bound.
One thing I take into consideration when ranking them 10 to 1, one being the best, is not only the depth of the position, but also the impact of who is at the top of the position. Could there really be anyone out there who could be an everyday position player? Could someone fit into the starting rotation in the backend, middle or top of the rotation. Are relievers just setting up guys, long relievers, or are there flamethrowers in there.
Let’s continue with number 10, then we’ll go down to number one.
ten. LHRP – This kind of surprised me. Like a year ago, it was a much better positional thought mainly because of Brandon Hughes. You can also throw Scott Kobos and Burl Carraway in there. Some guys have had disappointing seasons while others like Riley Martin are showing promise. The same goes for Chase Watkins and Adam Laskey. South Bend has luxury with Martin and Adam Laskey and so does Tennessee with Pelham and Bailey Horn, which is on fire this month. However, what puts them at number 10 is simply the lack of a dominant left-handed reliever. Who knows, maybe some of them will take a big leap this winter or Kobos and Carraway might have bounced back years. We never know.
9. 2B – It seems like most shortstops stay shortstop. Part of that is down to injury issues, but the number of players impacting second base is pretty low. There are good players like Andy Weber, but there isn’t really a dominant guy that you can see being a major plate force in the majors. Then again, we also have Chase Strumpf moving up to second since Jake Slaughter emerged this summer at 3B. This could change the 2B position if Strumpf stays second. We’re also at that point where Pedro Ramirez could also be a guy for the future. He’s definitely showing that he can hit two levels in the past summers. Whether that carries over to Myrtle Beach next year is another story, as his performance could reshape the position. And, if the Cubs keep Preciado at No. 2 when he returns, he’d be another hard-hitting player.
8. 3B – There is hope here with James Triantos and Luis Verdugo. Both had decent years with Verdugo ending the year strong. One of the biggest surprises was Jake Slaughter’s rise this summer. The fact that he is producing at a high level for the third month in a row should be proof enough that the changes they have made this winter are real and that his bat, which has a much shorter swing path, can be a hard-hitting bat here in the future.
seven. VS – The Cubs have a lot of good receivers in the system. However, they don’t have many good catchers. Pablo Aliendo had a very strong second half this year to go along with his stellar year at Myrtle Beach last year. Bryce Windham has had ups and downs every month; it is currently booming. Miguel Amaya is back as a DH right now and the plan is for him to start working behind the plate this fall, likely in the Arizona Fall League. Depending on his return, they could influence a lot of things for the Cubs’ future, especially if Amaya’s arm returns to form.
6. 1B – This position has really taken off over the past year. Part of that is Matt Mervis, part is Bryce Ball’s success this year with BJ Murray in Myrtle Beach and South Bend. And Felix Stevens has shown some potential once in a while for massive power. He just needs to hit for average more consistently.
5. SS – This position suffered the biggest drop in the rankings this year. It has a lot to do with injuries, in part with other position groups gaining depth. But being ranked fifth in a deep system isn’t a bad thing. The Cubs have a lot of potential at shortstop. From Luis Vasquez, who is now an AAA, to Andy Weber now back at shortstop in Tennessee with Kevin Made, possibly Reggie Preciado, new Christopher Paciolla and Cristian Hernandez, there are plenty of active players. in good health. Ed Howard will hopefully return next year. There are just a lot of guys who are not fully formed yet. And that’s probably the best way to describe the shortstop’s depth.
4. HRRP – This group was number two last year. While they’ve slipped a bit, it’s more for the other groups getting more depth in the draft and in trades. I see Ben Leeper and Jeremiah Estrada doing well this month in Iowa. Danis Correa is now in Iowa, and then we have the trio of Eduarniel Nunez, Zac Leigh and Hunter Biggie right behind. I’m really impressed with how Hunter Bigge’s hard work has paid off. Looks like he did it in 2019 Eugene. The guy who I think will take off next year is Michael McAvene. He’ll be fully healthy and ready to rip some batters.
3. LHSP – Left-handed starting pitchers arrive at number three. I thought about pairing them up because they might have three left-handed starters in the Cubs’ top 10 this winter. You have Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Jackson Ferris and Drew Gray, all set to rebound next year. And if Brailyn Marquez is healthy for a change, you can throw him in there. But I don’t think anyone is counting on it. Still Wicks is doing pretty well in the final starts to start 2023 in Iowa.
2. RHSP – The Cubs have acquired electric weapons by any means possible over the past two summers. They got Cade Horton in the draft this year, they got Hayden Wisniewski, Ben Brown and Caleb Kilian through trades. They went out and acquired Nazier Mule in the fourth round of this year’s draft. And they picked up guys armed with power sliders like Will Frisch, Luis Rujano and projects like Brody McCullough. Combine them with Daniel Palencia, Riley Thompson, Ryan Jensen, Kohl Franklin, Porter Hodge, Luis Devers, Tyler Schlaffer, and Koen Moreno, and you have a parade of electric weapons up and down the system. In about a year it will turn into a flood.
1. OF – The Cubs are stacked at the outfielder. The problem is, you may only need four of the current leads in the near future. And not everyone will reach the majors with the Cubs. Some of them will be traded and used to acquire whatever the big league club thinks they need. It is impossible to have a team made up of Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario, Yonathan Perlaza, Darius Hill, Jordan Nwogu, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Yohendrick Pinango, Owen Caissie, Christian Franklin, Parker Chavers, Kevin Alcantara and Ezekiel Pagan. That’s a lot of talent and the Cubs will get something substantial when they decide the time is right to pack a few of them.
Over the next two winters, the Cubs will use the strength of their prospect capital to get things done. I don’t remember the depth of the farm system being that strong in 2014. What that 2014-15 group had was more elite players like Bryant, Soler and Baez. The Cubs don’t quite have that kind of global outlook although the PCA does. Depending on the draw, they could have this guy next summer, ie Dylan Crews, Max Clark or even pitcher Chase Dollander.
Cubs fans should know that we have reached the bottom of this reconstruction which is not a reconstruction. This winter could see the Cubs move several pieces, but they still have a very solid system capable of regenerating players when needed. With the number of young talents in the system, it’s going to take some time before they’re all ready. The club they built in 2023 could be completed by these guys for the next 5-7 years. I don’t know if everyone understands that part of the plan because Jed Hoyer hasn’t really talked about it.
Having depth and positional redundancy throughout the system allows the Cubs to be flexible in their talent acquisition strategies. The Cubs may not have all the shortstops this time around, but they have plenty of outfielders, right-handed starting pitchers and left-handed starting pitchers who are all valuable currency for their own big league club and for acquiring other players.