2022 Chicago Cubs Top 5 Prospectsby Andersen Pickard February 8, 2022 1 comment
The Chicago Cubs put on a show when they orchestrated a fire sale at the trade deadline in 2021. Among other moves, the team’s July transactions included trading Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Craig Kimbrel. Considering the Cubs likely won’t be content with a long rebuild, is their farm system strong enough to propel the team back to upper-level status in the near future? Let’s answer that question by looking at Chicago’s top-five prospects heading into the 2022 season.
Make sure to check out all of our other Top Prospect Articles.
1. Cristian Hernandez, Shortstop
An elite candidate from the 2020 international class, MLB Pipeline hears that the Cubs believe Henandez “offers more upside than any international player they’ve signed in recent memory, including Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres in 2013.” Regardless of the validity of that statement, it’s a clear testament to the promise that Hernandez shows in the field and at the plate. The 18-year-old hit .285 with five homers, 22 RBI, 30 walks, 39 strikeouts, and 21 stolen bases through 47 games at the Rookie-level last year.
Hernandez is a talented hitter with impressive power upside, too. It’s not quite clear what type of slugging output he could be capable of in the majors, but there’s reason to believe he’ll be more than worth the $3 million bonus he fetched a year ago. The 18-year-old also has speed on the basepaths and in the infield, as well as a slick glove and very strong arm. He’s still several years away from the majors, but it’s impossible to ignore the upside that Hernandez offers Chicago.
2. Pete Crow-Armstrong, Outfielder
The Cubs acquired Crow-Armstrong last summer in a trade that sent Javier Baez to the Mets. Although he hasn’t played a game in Chicago’s system due to shoulder surgery, there is no denying his monumental upside. Through just six games in the Mets’ organization, the former first-round pick went 10-for-24 with four RBI, seven walks, six strikeouts, and a pair of stolen bases. He should return to game action in early 2022, giving the Cubs a chance to see the phenomenal talent they acquired last summer.
Crow-Armstrong is a phenomenal fielder, and his glovework should keep him in center field for a long time. He also has incredible speed, an above-average hit tool, and a strong arm that should nicely complement his talents in the outfield. There was once a belief that Crow-Armstrong was a glove-first, bat-second type of player. That may still be true, but the impressive stat line he posted during his small sample size with the Mets could change some critics’ views on his hitting ability.
3. Brennen Davis, Outfielder
Davis, a second-round pick back in 2018, is closing in on his MLB debut. He made it all the way from High-A to Triple-A this past season, totaling a .260/.375/.494 slash line with 19 homers, 53 RBI, 50 walks, 118 strikeouts, and eight stolen bases through three levels of the minors. He has progressed nicely since being drafted by the Cubs and, assuming his development continues as expected, he could make his MLB debut in 2022. Chicago is certainly not too far away from getting Davis on its major league roster.
As evidenced by his full slate of 55 grades, Davis is quite a well-rounded player. He is intelligent in the batter’s box, speedy in the outfield, and boasts some impressive glove work. He could benefit from being a bit more aggressive on the basepaths, but otherwise, there aren’t too many glaring holes in Davis’ game. The Cubs should feel very excited about the idea of getting someone like Davis in its lineup within the next six months or so, assuming the work stoppage ends and a season does happen.
4. Brailyn Marquez, Left-Handed Pitcher
Marquez debuted in 2020 and struggled, but it came during a small sample size. Then, in 2021, a battle with COVID-19 preceded a shoulder strain, holding him out of game action for the entire season. He’ll surely need some time to ramp back up in the coming months, but he should return to the majors this year. Signed in 2015, the southpaw tallied an impressive 128 strikeouts, 1.30 WHIP, and .224 OBA through 22 starts between Single- and High-A in 2019.
Other than Marquez’s shoulder injury, the clear concern with the pitcher is the fact that he didn’t spend any time in Double- or Triple-A before reaching the majors. In fact, he has just five High-A starts under his belt. Still, the 23-year-old has demonstrated an elite fastball that peaked at 102 mph. He’s still working on a slider and changeup, but both show promise and have some solid power behind them.
5. Jordan Wicks, Left-Handed Pitcher
Just last season, the Cubs used their first-round draft choice on Wicks. The 22-year-old southpaw struck out 118 batters in one collegiate season, and his changeup deserves a good chunk of the credit. Wicks deploys his offspeed pitch off of his 97 mph heater, meaning hitters get lulled into a sense of flamethrowing ability before the Kansas State product baffles them with his lethal changeup. It’s his best pitch, but the fastball is pretty nice, too. In addition to sitting just below triple-digits in velocity, Wicks’ heater has good rising action and solid spin rates.
Wicks also throws a slider and curveball as his breaking ball offerings, though they remain his tertiary and quaternary selections, respectively. They can simply be used to change up his tempo and keep hitters honest. Additionally, Wicks has good command and control, as evidenced by his impressive strikeout totals throughout NCAA competition. Further, since he’s already 22 years old, Wicks isn’t excessively far from reaching the majors. A late-2023 debut remains very much in the conversation.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Cubs don’t have a plethora of top prospects coming up in the next year or two, but that’s okay. Sure, executive Theo Epstein stepped away from the team after 2020 and highly-regarded development and scouting guru Jason McLeod joined the Diamondbacks this winter. However, the franchise remains in good hands with Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins at its helm. This team wants to win, so one would imagine that it will only be a couple of years (at the very least) before Chicago reaps the rewards of its top prospects and returns to a very competitive status in the National League.
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