Chicago Cubs Top Prospects: The Dirty 30 – Part 2: #3-8

Chicago Cubs Top Prospects Part 2

So part one was called THEM DUDES because I think that those two guys have the potential to be DUDES. I don’t know if this is a 100% fit because we are going to touch on some risky prospects but let’s call this part of the list the Brick Layers.

Chicago Cubs Top Prospects: The Brick Layers

3. Ed Howard

  • Age: 21
  • B: Right
  • T: Right
  • HT: 6’2”
  • WT: 185 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: 1st round 16th pick in the 2020 draft out of Mt. Carmel High School (IL)
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/High Floor

First Thoughts

The Cubs took the hometown kid in this year’s past draft. He is a native of Chicago and a lot of Cubs fans were excited with this pick. I was as well because, for a high school shortstop, he is a relatively safe prospect. He is a high IQ very athletic kid with the potential to put some muscle on and still be a good runner. I have seen him play in person and I really like what I saw. I don’t see him being on Javy Baez level type impact but he can be a piece to build on for the Cubs.

The Bat

So Howard’s bat is going to be what can make him or break him so to speak. If his bat develops then we are looking at a guy that will spray line drives to all fields and make a lot of solid contact. You will also see some pull side power which he already possesses. If his bat doesn’t develop you are going to see some Andrelton Simmons or Dansby Swanson like production at the plate. He is advanced at the plate for a prep bat so I do think we will see it develop but the latter is a possibility. He does have good bat speed which will create that hard contact that we want.

Tendencies

It is hard to touch on tendencies because I have only seen him play two games and some youtube footage. On top of that he hasn’t debuted yet due to the minor league season being canceled. From what I have seen and what I see on video is a line drive oriented swing that is able to use all fields. He is really strong for a prep kid so that is where that pull side power comes into play but that could develop into something more because he finds a lot of barrels and hits the ball really hard already. 

Mechanics/Stance

He almost sets up like Justin Upton just a little more crouched. He has a short compact swing but he does wrap his barrel behind his head just a bit in his load but his bat speed negates that so far in his career. In pro ball that is something that I would look for the Cubs to change. This wouldn’t be my prospect list if we didn’t talk about Ed Howard not using his legs too much in his swing and once again the Cubs will fix this. It is a swing that I really like because of how short, compact and line-drive oriented it is. 

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Athlete/Defense

Here’s the deal, the kid is a shortstop through and through. He has good actions at short and a strong arm. On top of that he is a good runner and an even better athlete so he will cover some ground. I don’t see him playing anywhere but short in the minors because defensively I don’t worry about him. We may see him play some second or third but he might be the best defender in the system and he hasn’t even debuted yet.

The Worry

I touched on it a bit already but if he turns into a Darwin Barney type hitter, that is the worry for me. Can he build on the swing he already has and develop 15-20 home run power? If so, that 16th overall selection is going to look really good. Other than that I don’t worry much about Howard because the swing is simple and he is already a really good defender. 

Future

Ed Howard might be your next franchise shortstop behind Javy Baez. They are two completely different players thus far but I like Ed Howard as a prospect and he seems like a high school kid who might move through the minors leagues quicker than other prep guys will. You may see Ed Howard and Nico Hoerner as your Shortstop and Second base combo in five years.

4. Miguel Amaya C

  • Age: 21
  • B: Right
  • T: Right
  • HT: 6’2”
  • WT: 230 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: Signed out of Panama for $1,000,000 in 2015
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/High Floor

First Thoughts

I was able to watch Amaya a decent amount while he was playing in the Arizona Fall League this past fall. He didn’t have a good fall at the plate but he showed pretty well behind the plate. He is built exactly like a catcher should be and has always played as one of the younger guys in his respective league. He was the youngest qualified hitter in the Carolina League A+ at 20 years old. I think he is another relatively safe prospect if he continues to build on his game.

The Bat

The approach is advanced for his age. He is only 20 years old and he had a .351 OBP in a league where he was -2.7 years younger than the leagues average. He struck out 69 times while walking 54 times on top of him catching 91 of the 99 games he played in. He has lowered his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate in the past three seasons so that is trending in the right direction. He isn’t going to hit for a ton of power but he has big power when he gets into it. He hit some moonshots in Myrtle Beach in 2019 to left and left center. When he is fully developed he will probably be a 20 home run type bat.

Stance/Mechanics

Amaya sets up pretty similarly to Willson Contreras. Mechanically some handsy movements in his swing that I would like for him to clean up a bit. He does wrap his bat before he explodes to the ball and that is another thing for him to clean up. He his short to the ball and has good control of the zone as well.

Tendencies

Two big knocks on his bat for me are he is very pull happy and he hits a ton of ground balls. In 2019 he started to go the other way more but was still pulling 45.8% of the pitches he hit. He hits ground balls at an Eric Hosmer type rate 45.8% last season. If he can start to use all fields just a little bit more and get the ball in the air a bit more, we could have another pretty good hitting catcher. Those are rare to find these days so mix that with his defensive skills and we could be looking at a solid catcher.

Athlete/Defense

Miguel is a big kid but he is a decent athlete for his size with very quick feet and hands behind the plate. He has a very good arm that threw out 35% of base stealers in 2019. He is going to stick behind the plate he will just have to keep building on the pitch framing. He also is a good pitch blocker because his feet work so well behind the plate.

The Worry

The worry for me is the pull approach and heavy ground ball rates. If he doesn’t fix those a little bit we could see a defense first catcher with very little offensive output because big league pitching will expose both of those things. The defense I don’t worry about because Willson Contreras was a butcher behind the plate and the Cubs got him right this season. Amaya is more advanced behind the plate then most catcher the Cubs have had come through the system recently.

Future

Miguel Amaya may see some big league time this season. If the Willson Contreras trade rumors are true then he absolutely should get some time with the Cubs. At peak he could be a .250-.260/.340/.450-480 type slash line and you take that all day out of a catcher. I would look for Amaya to come up this season and be good behind the plate and maybe struggle with the bat a bit but he will take some walks. This is another building block for the Chicago Cubs and Amaya is going to be a good contributor for them.

MORE: Chicago Cubs Top Prospects Part 1

5. Adbert Alzolay RHP

  • Age: 25
  • B: Right
  • T: Right
  • HT: 6’1”
  • WT: 208 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: Signed out of Venezuela for $10,000 in 2012
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/Medium Floor

What He Means/Could Mean for the Chicago Cubs

We have seen a decent amount of Bert at the big league level (33.2 innings between 2019 and 2020). He will be in the rotation this season as the number 3 or 4 starter so he won’t be on this list much longer. We also have seen two different pitchers between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. 2019 you saw a guy who wasn’t commanding really any of his pitches and finished the season with an ERA above 7.00. Then in 2020 you saw a guy who was striking guys out at 12.2 per nine innings. If he can show more of what he did in 2020 than he did in 2019, we are looking at a number 3 or 4 starter for the Chicago Cubs.

First Thoughts

Admittedly, in 2019 I watched one of his starts in Pittsburgh and I was immediately out on Bert. He looked like when Brian Schlittler or Dallas Beeler would come up and eat innings from AAA. Then he comes up in 2020 and he is a different guy. When he came up the billing on him was that his curveball was a plus pitch and his changeup was average at best. Then he starts pitching in the big leagues and his curveball is bad and the changeup is getting guys out. Then this year he adds a slider that turns into a plus pitch. So this bodes the question of, who is Adbert Alzolay?

The Stuff

Adbert shows you legit strikeout stuff. If him and Brailyn Marquez end up being what we all want them to be, this rotation will strike out a ton of guys. Bert showed a three pitch mix of fastball, changeup, and curveball in 2019. This past season he added a slider to that mix and dropped his curveball. Twenty two of his twenty nine strikeouts were on the slider. The slider is a legit out pitch for Bert. The changeup can get firm at times for him and he predominantly throws it against lefties. With the addition of the slider, I really like what Bert is featuring if he can better sequence his fastball and sinker. 

Mechanics

Adbert is a high effort pitcher, meaning he uses a lot of effort in his delivery. I believe this leads to his high walk rates in his short time as a big leaguer. That could lead to giving up a lot of home runs because he has been a flyball pitcher his whole career in the minors. Last year his fly ball percentage was down but it was a small sample size. He throws from a ¾ slot and falls off to the first base side.

Stats/Tendencies

As I mentioned earlier, Bert is an extreme fly ball pitcher and his walk rates have seen an uptick in the big leagues. Those two are not going to work well together. Walk rates typically mean shaky command/control and that can lead to the big fly. Also, in order to reach his potential he is going to have to get his walk per nine down (5.9 B/9). He also owns a 11.2 K/9 in his big league time so there is some good with the bad. He likes to use his fastball a lot but I would bet that the Cubs will have him use the slider and the changeup more because those two pitches were really effective for him the past two years.

The Worry

My biggest worry for Bert is that he is the guy we saw in 2019. That was a lot of walks and a lot of walks and a lot of hits given up. His command wasn’t there and he was pretty much a two pitch guy. He was behind in a lot of counts and that made him attack the zone with shaky command and that led to some bad pitching. If we can get more of 2020 Bert then we will have a solid number 3 starter.

Future

Well Bert is going to be in the rotation this year for 162 games. He is out of options and after this past season I am excited to see what he can do over 30 starts. I am expecting Bert to be somewhere in the 3.80-4.00 ERA range with big strikeout numbers and probably some issues with the walk. I think as he gets more comfortable in the big leagues you will see the walks go down because he has been a strike thrower in the past. Here is my prediction for Bert this season: 8-10 3.95 ERA 160.0 Innings 185 strikeouts 65 walks.

6. Cole Roederer

  • Age: 21
  • B: Left
  • T: Left
  • HT: 6’0”
  • WT: 175 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: 2nd round 77th pick in the 2018 draft out of William S. Hart High School (CA)
  • Risk: High
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/Low Floor

First Thoughts

I think I am higher on Roederer than most people in the prospect world. I really like what Roederer does in his swing. He has a bit of a leg kick and really strokes the baseball. He is listed at 6’0” but I have seen him in person and I’d say he is more like 5’10”. He is a good athlete that has a chance to centerfield depending on how much weight he can add. He is an average runner but he is a good base runner so he will take an extra base and gets good reads. He stole 16 bases in his South Bend debut. 

The Bat

Roederer’s bat is what will get him to Wrigley. He is a smaller guy but he has really good bat speed and has some raw power in his bat. He has 25-30 home run potential once he starts to reach his peak years. Here is a disclaimer for the rest of this list: if you show me the ability to take walks, that tells me you have an idea of what you are doing at the plate and that you can be a well-rounded hitter. So, guess what Roederer did as a 20 year old in his debut in full season ball? He walked at an 11.6% clip. He did struggle in his debut because he was trying to pull and launch everything. 

Tendencies

As I just mentioned, he tried pulling everything in South Bend and he did it at a 52.1% clip. He also had a 43% fly ball rate. I am okay with the fly ball rate as long as he can turn some of those into line drives. The pull rate has to change if he is going to climb the minors ranks. I would like to see that go down to the 40% clip at the highest.

Yes, that is a big change so realistically if he can get down to 45 ish% then that can steal him some hits. He struck out at a 25% clip in full-season ball. If he can get that down to the 20-22% clip with his already high walk rate, that can be a power hitting on-base guy out of the centerfield position.

Mechanics/Stance

His stance is similar to Cody Bellingers, just a little more crouched. He uses a leg kick for his load then explodes to the ball with some very good bat speed. He uses his legs a little bit with his leg kick but he can get more out of them as he is a strong kid. He has a very short compact swing that is aimed at lifting the baseball. A lot of his video has him selling out for pulling the baseball but with how short his swing is, he can adjust a bit and backup the baseball to take it the other way.

Athlete/Defense

He is a good, not great athlete and the Cubs see him as a center fielder because of his instincts. His arm is pretty average so he may see some time in left field as well if he puts on some more weight. He is an average runner right now but he is a smart runner and has s decent stolen base numbers thus far in his career.

The Worry

The dead pull approach and the lift and launch approach that he took on in South Bend is the worry for me. If those two can’t change he may turn into a prospect who gets lost in the shuffle and guys like Jordan Ngowu or Owen Caissie pass him up. 

Future

As I mentioned, I am higher on Roederer than most because I think the bat is for real. On top of that he has a good glove and he is an average runner. He can have a pretty similar bat to Ian Happ or Trent Grisham. I know Cubs fans would be happy with that and that would keep the homegrown outfielder trend going for the Cubs. 

MORE: Cubs Offseason Moves

7. Kohl Franklin RHP

  • Age: 21
  • B: Right
  • T: Right
  • HT: 6’4”
  • WT: 190 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: Drafted in the 6th round 188th overall out of Broken Arrow High School (OK)
  • Risk: High
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/Low Floor

First Thoughts

This is a big high school righty that reminds me physically of Matt Manning who is a top Tigers prospect. He was drafted in the 6th round for overslot money so the Cubs really like him to give him that kind of bonus. I will just throw this out here, this is my sleeper prospect to break out this season. He had been solid in his first two seasons in the minor leagues and he has adjusted some grips on his pitches that have paid off for him.

The Stuff

Right now he is throwing a fastball, curveball, and a changeup. His fastball runs all over the place and sometimes he struggles to throw strikes with it because it runs so much. He has touched 97 with the fastball but he will work in the low 90s. His fastball also features a ton of sink so it may look like a sinker in some outings.

His dad didn’t want him throwing the curveball much in high school but the Cubs switched him to a knuckle curve grip and it started to get really impressive depth. The changeup is my favorite pitch he has with some really good fading action. A high school arm who already has a plus changeup is something to be excited about. 

Mechanics

Franklin does a great job of throwing downhill from a ¾ arm slot. He does have some effort in his delivery but he does a good job of repeating it. He has some odd movement with his glove when he is going through his delivery but it doesn’t seem to affect him much. He pitches from the first base side of the rubber so that fastball that he throws could give some lefties fits. Also, it is an athletic delivery and that bodes well for repeating his mechanics.

Stats/Tendencies

So far he has thrown 50.2 innings across three levels and he has struck out guys at a 10.4 K/9 clip. He also has walked guys at a 4.4 per nine clip so that will have to be cleaned up. Part of that is he threw three innings in his South Bend debut and he walked five guys. His debut in Eugene was very very good. That is a league where a lot of new draftees and high school guys will go and he was very advanced for the level. He has been a ground ball pitcher for the most part and that will always play up in Wrigley.

The Worry

He is a high school pitcher so what isn’t there to worry about? (lol). If his curveball continues to develop I think he can be a mid-rotation starter for the Chicago Cubs. He has a good fastball-changeup combo already that could probably play in a bullpen regardless of the curveball but that will be crucial to his development. The knuckle curve really played up for him in 2019 so let’s hope it continues to develop.

Future

It is no secret that the Cubs haven’t been able to develop a home grown pitcher recently but I think that will change between Marquez, Bert and Franklin. I think we have a legit shot at seeing all three of these guys in the rotation sometime soon. Franklin won’t be a guy that moves fast but you may start seeing him popup in the backend of some top 100 lists.

8. Chase Strumpf 2B

  • Age: 21
  • B: Right
  • T: Right
  • HT: 6’1”
  • WT: 191 pounds
  • Drafted/Signed: 2nd round 64th pick in the 2019 draft out of UCLA,
  • Risk: Moderate
  • Ceiling/Floor: Medium Ceiling/High Floor

First Thoughts

This guy screams building block to me. He is a second baseman who has a short compact swing and a lot of bat speed. He has a fringy arm at second base and probably wouldn’t be able to play the left side of the infield because of it. He is a stocky 6’1” who is an average runner but makes up for it with his bat. Something about Chase Strumpf just says Chicago Cub second basemen to me. 

The Bat

This is what will get him to Chicago. A line drive oriented swing that can spray it to all fields even though he was dead pull in his 2019 debut. He has good bat speed that can create some home run power for him but he is ultimately a hit over power guy. Makes a lot of hard contact that leads to double gap power for him. Has some swing and miss in there but he also walked 23 times in 39 games.

Tendencies

I want to start with the dead pull approach because that is really all he did in his 39 games as a minor leaguer so far. That isn’t indicative of the hitter he is and could be. With his swing he is going to spray line drives all over the field. His biggest sample size comes from his time in Eugene. Eugene is a short season league and a league he should have done really well in. He did show out in Eugene where he struck out at 25.2% and walked at 13.5%.

That strikeout rate is too high for an advanced college hitter. I’d expect that to drop some this coming season. The most intriguing thing about his small sample size his how often he was putting the ball in the air. He hit 45.2% fly balls and 29.0% line drive rate. I love that! I’d like to see the line drive rate a tad higher but that is being picky.

Mechanics/Stance

He sets up like a right handed Cole Roederer. His swing is very simple with a calm load and not much usage of his legs. He has a small leg kick and explodes to the ball. Strumpf is very short to the ball and has good bat to ball skills.

Athlete/Defense

He is a decent athlete with a fringe arm. He isn’t a great fielder but he won’t hurt you either. He is going to be similar to a Cavan Biggio at second base. He isn’t going to steal many bases for you but the Cubs don’t steal much anyway. The carrying tool here is the bat.

The Worry

There isn’t much to worry about with Strumpf. He is a grinder at the plate and he is going to hit anywhere he goes. My worry for him is going to be the pull percentages and the strikeout rate but in a 39 game sample size, you can’t really trust those numbers until we see a full season out of Strumpf. 

Future

I am a big fan of Chase Strumpf and I think we could see him debut at some point during the 2021 season because of how good his bat is. He could be a long term option at second base if Nico turns into a utility player because of his versatility. He looks like a quick mover through the minors for me and we could see him at Wrigley as early as this season.