Admittedly, keeping up with the Cubs farm system can be a bit difficult. With the big league team well entrenched in ‘win-now’ mode and former top prospects finding their way to the majors via promotion or trade, the North Side doesn’t have the same excitement for the farm like our South Side neighbors do.
There are reasons to keep tabs on our youngsters, however. While lacking a surplus of intriguing, Top 100 prospects, the Cubs still employ talent in the minors that could make an impact for the Cubs soon — whether by promotion or as a trade chip. Let’s take a look at a few of these players.
Adbert Alzolay out for the season
The season-ending lat injury to Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs number one prospect, is clearly the biggest news out of the minors this season. While we can breathe a sigh of relief that the injury isn’t related to his arm and that surgery isn’t expected, it’s still a big blow to a player that was expected to contribute at the major league level in 2018.
While his numbers in AAA were inconsistent and therefore unimpressive overall (2-4, 4.76 ERA) he was appearing to make strides with his development that had him trending in the right direction. While his injury clearly alters the Cubs’ plans for their #1 prospect, all hope is not lost. Per Patrick Mooney at The Athletic, GM Jed Hoyer offered a few thoughts on Alzolay’s future.
“We love the makeup. We love the stuff. We think he’s going to help us a lot in the future. But obviously there was a setback. He’ll need some development over the course of the winter — and then development in the minor leagues next year — because he missed a lot of time.”
Whether he pitches in the Arizona Fall League or somewhere else this winter remains to be seen. Still, Adbert is still the most intriguing arm in the Cubs system, and should contribute at the big league level at some point in 2019.
Alex Lange continues to develop
One of two pitchers selected by the Cubs in last year’s draft, Lange has shown significant promise in his young career. In 11 starts with Myrtle Beach this year he’s posted a 4-3 record with a 3.28 ERA and a remarkable 2.84 FIP. While the K/9 is pedestrian (7.65) he’s limiting free passes to an exceptional degree (1.56 BB/9), utilizing a good feel for his low 90’s fastball to set up his plus curveball — a pitch that’ll certainly play at the major league level.
While his last start was disappointing (4 ER in 4.2 IP) he strung together three consecutive scoreless starts prior to it, indicating he’s trending in the right direction. Look for the Cubs to promote Lange sooner than later, with a realistic opportunity to crack the big league roster at some point in 2020.
A darkhorse prospect emerges
Miguel Amaya has taken the Midwest League by storm this year, hitting .282/.359/.498 with nine home runs for South Bend. The offensive breakout is a bit of a surprise for the 19-year-old, who last year hit a rather mundane .228/.266/.338 in low-A ball with Eugene.
An international signing in 2015 out of Panama, Amaya has always carried a defensive pedigree. Scouts love his receiving skills, ability to call a game, and leadership potential. While his arm may only pan out as average he has a quick, accurate release that, combined with the rest of his defense, gives him viable big league catching potential.
His offensive emergence will certainly push him up the Cubs’ prospect list at next update, where he currently sits at #10. The issue now isn’t whether he becomes a trade chip but the extent to which sellers at this year’s trade deadline covet him. With a young starter already in Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini tearing up AAA pitching since his demotion (.349/.432/.587), Amaya could very well be expendable in the right deal.
Don’t sleep on the Cubs farm
While the Cubs’ farm system lacks top prospects and significant depth there remains intriguing upside at all levels. Whether by trade or by development there’s considerable hope that contributions will be made in the years to come. It’ll be fun to watch unfold.
Follow Austin on Twitter: @TLS_Austin–Feature Photo Credit: ChicagoNow.com