I figured this would be a good time to make a Chicago Cubs Top Prospects list because this is going to be a hot button topic for the foreseeable future. This list doesn’t have a lot of top-end talent and it isn’t the deepest list you will see, but there is a lot to like.
This is my first crack at a top 30 list. The format will be the same for every player and I will put a risk level on every guy because every prospect list you read has one so why not? I am a nerd about these prospects for whatever reason and I have been able to watch some of these guys in person.
Some of them I have seen in minor league baseball and some of them I have seen when I worked in the Arizona Fall League. This will be a series as I break these guys down into tiers, so let’s hop into tier one.
Chicago Cubs Top Prospects: The Dirty 30
Tier One: The DUDES
Let’s start with this, prospecting is very subjective and it is very open to discussion. This first tier is going to be the dudes of this system. Guys that I think the Chicago Cubs can build around and be the next core set of players.
1. Brennen Davis OF
- Age: 21
- B: Right
- T: Right
- HT: 6’4”
- WT: 175 pounds
- Drafted/Signed: 2nd round 62nd pick in the 2018 draft out of Basha high school (AZ).
- Risk: Moderate
- Ceiling/Floor: High Ceiling/High Floor
I have seen Brennen Davis on the backfields of Sloan Park doing some hitting drills with Cole Roederer who we will dive into later in this list. Two things jumped out at me: Projectable and baseballs are damaged when he makes contact.
He is 6’4” 175 pounds which means he could probably put 10-20 pounds of good weight on and still be a plus runner. When he makes contact the ball explodes off of his bat because of his bat speed. This could be the Cubs CF/RF of the future.
I touched on it a little bit in the first thoughts but Davis is a guy that makes really loud contact. When he is taking BP, you will know it because it is a lot of loud hard contact. Why is that so important? Hard it baseballs equal hits and chances to drive in runs.
He slugged .525 in the Midwest League as a nineteen year old in 50 games. Sure that is a small sample size but that is not an easy league to hit in as it is known for bad weather and a lot of college more advanced type arms. He had 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 8 home runs in 50 games.
I can’t stress enough how impressive that is given his age and the league he was in.
Davis has a profound pull rate in his 68 games (small sample size) at 44.1% and 45.2% in AZL and the Midwest League. He has shown power to all fields but he was a bet on the athlete fairly raw draft pick so this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. In his 50 games in the Midwest league he had a 45.3% flyball rate, 36.7% ground ball rate and a 18.0% line drive rate.
That very much explains the slugging percentage being .525. If he can lower the groundball rate a smidge and up the line drive rate a bit you are looking at an elite 30 homer 30 double type bat. He has shown the ability to take a walk as he has walked 28 times and struck out 50. This is very encouraging from a young bat that played in a much older league in his full-season debut.
Davis has a David Bote type stance but much more athletic as he is a plus athlete. He does a really good job of finishing high in his swing which will lead to more line drives and fly balls down the road. Like a lot of young hitters, he can still get into his legs more which will tap into his raw power. The Cubs basically did a swing change from his high school days to now as you can see below.
One thing you won’t have to worry about is his athletic ability. He is a plus runner with super-long-glidey type strides that allow him to cover some ground in the outfield. He has played 33 games in center, 23 in left, and 6 in right across two levels.
I have never seen him play the outfield or throw and I won’t pretend to know what he looks like out there but if you read anything about his defense it grades out above average. Everything I have read says he has a good arm so he could play some right field if he ends up gaining that good weight.
Every prospect has something to worry about and so far it has been his health. I don’t worry about his bat and with a guy like Davis that is often the worry. The bat is special. He has dealt with injuries across two seasons which has limited him to 68 games and this will be his fourth year in the Cubs system (reminder he was at the alternate site this past season and no stats were kept but he was healthy) so that is the worry.
Cubs fans should hope that he becomes your everyday cornerstone outfielder to go along with Ian Happ. My ideal scenario is Ian Happ as your leadoff hitter in left field and Brennen Davis somewhere at the top of the order in center field or right field. He has a middle of the order potential bat and he has 10 steals in 12 attempts but the Cubs don’t steal too much at the big league level. He could be the guy that everyone wanted Brett Jackson to be BUT better in my opinion.
Chicago Cubs Top Prospects: The Dirty 30
2. Brailyn Marquez LHP
- Age: 21
- B: Left
- T: Left
- HT: 6’4”
- WT: 185 pounds
- Drafted/Signed: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $600,000 in 2015
- Risk: High
- Ceiling/Floor: High Ceiling/Low Floor
Who was the last homegrown (drafted and developed by the Cubs) to throw 100+ innings in back to back years? (Hint for my Cubs prospect nerds, it isn’t Hayden Simpson). Read on and find out!
What He Means/Could Mean for the Chicago Cubs
This is the guy that Cubs fans need to be some semblance of a pitcher if they want homegrown pitcher. We have two immediate options between Marquez and Adbert Alzolay. Marquez is a bit of a unicorn for the Cubs because there hasn’t been a guy like this with this much promise in a long time. Just taking a look at recent drafts they haven’t been able to draft a hard throwing lefty and develop them.
Guys like Bryan Hudson and Brendon Little haven’t really developed since drafting them in 2015 and 2017. Recent picks of Davidjohn Herz, Burl Carraway, and Luke Little are lefties with big stuff. Essentially Marquez could break the trend and be a DUDE.
I sadly haven’t seen Marquez throw in person but we did see him debut this past season after not pitching above High A (that should tell you a lot about how the Cubs feel about Marquez). He debuted against the White Sox in a game where they were up big so it was perfect timing for a Marquez inning. He is big, he throws really hard and he doesn’t always know where it is going. Those are the easy first thoughts and that is a very short summation of who he is.
Fangraphs shows that he featured a fastball, changeup, and slider in his debut against the Sox. I have rewatched some of that inning he threw and all I saw was a fastball and slider but the video didn’t show every pitch. The fastball would be an 80-grade pitch if he had better command. Out of the bullpen he was anywhere from 97-100 with it and it has some arm-side run.
From the video I have watched, his changeup is tunneled pretty well with his fastball but it can get a little firm. The slider can produce some ugly swings but it isn’t a consistent pitch yet and the command isn’t there. He hung one to Nomar Mazara and he shot a line drive into left field. All of his pitches flash plus but shaky command and control limit him at times.
Marquez is very loose in his delivery and it is very low effort. He throws from a low ¾ arm slot which I think leads him to the shaky command and his struggles to repeat his delivery. The low effort delivery is a massive plus to his development because those guys are typically more durable which he has been in his young career.
His career stats in the minors look like this: 16-12 3.19 ERA 257.0 IP 101 BB 287 K 1.296 WHIP 10.1 K/9 3.5 BB/9. Look at those stats and realize that he is 21 and has debuted already. He has only given up 14 home runs in 4 minor league seasons.
That is a hilarious stat that he has only given up that many home runs in 257 innings. A day and age where the home run is emphasized so much by teams he essentially doesn’t give up any. Marquez has a pretty insane ground ball rate that has hovered around 50% during his time in the minors. His walk rate has been good at times and it has been as high as 4.3 per 9.
There are two big worries with Marquez. One is that his delivery doesn’t get cleaned up and he continues to walk guys at a high rate and becomes a AAAA player. The other one is that the walk issues turn him into a reliever. We don’t want him as a reliever because he has been durable as a starter and he has been really good as a starter.
If Brailyn Marquez can improve his control and command you are looking at a top of the rotation type arm. If he can limit the walks and get them down to 2.5-3.0 walks per nine on the high side he can be a huge asset to the rotation. That is a lot of ifs, I am aware but that is the fun about prospecting. To me there are two outcomes with Marquez. 1.
He will be in the Cubs rotation for a long time with some years where he is an all-star and some years where he walks a lot of guys and his ERA hovers around 4.50. 2. He can’t limit the walks and he becomes a shuttle bus reliever. I truly believe in Marquez and his ability to start so give me option one has the more likely scenario.
Chicago Cubs Top Prospects – Tier One: The DUDES
Yes there are only two guys on this list because I think there are only two guys who are huge upside cornerstone-type players. I am not sure how many tiers this will end up being but let me know your thoughts on tier one!