Spring Training was officially in full swing today (finally), with the whole squad finally holding a legitimate scheduled practice. We generally know the Cubs’ eventual 25-man roster by this point, and even, to some extent, the potential backups. There’s really little room for speculation on that front.
The team’s future, on the other hand, is something that’s always up for discussion. Though there are plenty of non-roster invitee spots currently being held by players who will probably never make a major league impact, a few names stand out as the potential future of the team.
Maybe they don’t have a shot at making the 2018 Opening Day roster, but some quite possibly may make an appearance at Wrigley when the rosters expand in September, and some may end up sticking around for years to come.
The biggest prospect name you’ll be hearing this March is that of Thomas Hatch. Hatch was the Cubs’ top pick (3rd round) in the 2016 draft out of Oklahoma State, but was kept off the mound that summer due to a very high innings count during the college season combined with fears concerning a 2015 UCL sprain.
The former Big 12 Pitcher of the Year picked up at A-Adv Myrtle Beach in 2017, and pitched to a 4.04 ERA across 124.2 innings. Those numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he did show promise in other areas; he struck out 126 (more than one strikeout per inning) and only surrendered a pair of home runs the entire year.
His fastball is his best pitch, hovering in the low-to-mid-90s with impressive life that makes it very hard to hit. He offers a plus slider with excellent location along with a capable changeup. The 23-year-old is relatively new to the Cubs’ system, but has the age and stamina to make an impact soon.
Another imminent major leaguer in camp is Chesny Young, who was also on the Spring Training roster last year. Conversely to Hatch, Young has been a member of the Cubs’ system for a relatively long time, ever since he was drafted in 2014.
The infielder is best known for his hitting ability, as he hit above .300 every season until last. His short swing has been extremely successful both in college and the pros, and it’s the main reason that he has a good shot at breaking into the MLB at some point in the next two years.
The only two significant issues with Young are his lack of power and decline.
He sprays the ball well and has no trouble getting on base, but has never been able to put up power numbers, evidenced by his minor league career .368 SLG, only three points higher than his .365 OBP.
Further, though his batting average has always been high, it has fallen every year as he’s progressed through the pipeline, ultimately dropping to .256 in 2017. Clearly that trend is going to have to change for success to happen, and Spring Training may be an indicator of potential change – or continuation – of that.
Finally, a name that was only added to the list of NRI’s this past week, outfielder Charcer Burks.
Burks has been a member of the Cubs for even longer than Young, being drafted in 2013. His primary tool is his speed, which aids his above average defense in center field. His bat, however, has slowly developed, along with traces of sneaky power. He spent the entirety of 2017 at Double-A Tennessee, where he slashed .270/.370/.395 and stole 16 bases.
His 10 homers don’t sound like anything special, but when you see that he hit 11 in 2016 and a grand total of four in the three years prior to that, his development becomes obvious. He probably isn’t the Cubs’ next all-star prospect, but he is noteworthy, and can provide a major league team with a capable bat and more-than-capable speed.