By: Alex Patt
It felt like just yesterday the Cubs had a top-five farm system. In fact, they still had top-100 prospects in the farm until mid-last year before the trade deadline. Now, things are a bit different.
The top prospects are now either in the majors (Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Baez, Contreras ect.) or they have been dealt for veteran pieces. The Cubs no longer have any top-100 prospects. Weird isn’t it?
That does not mean the system is completely barren. There are some names that have potential to be contributors in the near future, some of which have seen a small sample of the majors. Baseball America and MLB.com ranks all prospects in baseball, while some rankings vary. They give a good idea of who is thought to be valuable in the system.
Here are the players that could make an impact in 2018 from the farm.
Victor Caratini (#6 on MLB.com and #4 Baseball America)
- Cubs fans got a decent taste of him last year when he played in 31 games with the MLB club. He slashed .254/.333/.356 with one home run. He has some work to do, like driving the ball and overall consistency, but the promise is there and he will get more chances to prove himself in 2018. Hopefully veteran Chris Gimenez can also assist him with his fielding.
Mark Zagunis (#8 on MLB.com)
- A MiLB on-base machine, Zagunis was called up and played in seven games last year. His OBP in AAA was .404 with an .859 OPS. In his seven games, he did not get a hit but drew four walks and drove in a run. Watch out for him this season as he may be called up for more playing time. His spring ball performance will also be interesting to observe. It is a crowded outfield, but injuries do happen so his services could be needed.
Dillon Maples (#14 on MLB.com)
- A pitcher with a lot of promise, the hard-throwing righty features a fastball in the upper 90s and hard breaking stuff. Last year he pitched to a 2.27 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 63.1 innings in the minors before serving some time in the majors. He pitched in only 5.1 innings and struggled with walking six with an overall WHIP of 2.25 and a 10.13 ERA. Sample size was incredibly small and he did strike out 11, so it is not something to panic over yet. He could be a valuable asset in the pen if needed.
Jen-Ho Tseng (#13 on MLB.com and #9 Baseball America)
- A lot of Cubs fans probably remember his spot-start last year against the Mets. It was just one of his two MLB appearances last season. His start was odd, in 3.0 IP he gave up five runs on five hits and a walk, but also struck out six batters. Then he got his first MLB win in a relief appearance against the Cardinals, pitching 3.0 innings and giving up no runs or hits and striking out two. He will likely get more MLB time this coming year.
Rob Zastryzny (#24 on MLB.com)
- He has appeared in games with the Cubs in 2016 and 2017, but still a rather small sample size. In 16.0 IP in 2016, he had a 1.13 ERA with a 1.063 WHIP and 17 strikeouts. Last year in 13.0 innings it was not as smooth as he had a WHIP of 2.00 and an ERA of 8.31. He will probably get more consistent time this year and hopefully be a solid lefty in the pen.
Chesny Young (#16 on MLB.com)
- Young has sort of made more of a name for himself recently. He impressed last year during spring training when he slashed .340/.375/.528 in 27 games. From 2014-2016, he had an incredibly successful MiLB run at the the plate between A ball and AA ball. Last year he played in Iowa and had a rather mediocre season, slashing .256/.311/.311. He never had any power, but he is a career .365 OBP hitter. Will he get a shot in the MLB in 2018? Cannot say for sure, but he is one to keep an eye on.