No one can argue that the Chicago Cubs have the same star-studded minor league system that they had back in 2015, but for those who closely follow the farm there’s not much debate when it comes to the quality depth the organization has now heading into the 2023 season. Specifically, for the first time in a while, fans actually have a few pitching prospects to get excited about coming up to the big leagues and potentially having an immediate impact in the starting rotation.
We keep saying how the depth is good and nothing proves that point more than several different prospects appearing in different top-100 lists. In the latest prospect rankings, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel had three Cubs on his list, and for the first time left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks made an appearance on a top-100 prospects list.
Wicks was ranked 51st on McDaniel’s top-100. Here’s what the ESPN insider wrote about the Cubs lefty.
Type: Lefty with (newly) above-average stuff and (same) feel, devastating changeup.
Wicks went No. 21 overall in the 2021 draft as a high-floor lefty from Kansas State with a plus changeup and above-average command but a fastball, slider, and curveball that were all fringy. It was a different story in 2022 as his velo jumped a couple ticks to 91-94 mph with good ride and the same standout command. The added arm speed also improved both breaking balls, and the changeup is a plus to plus-plus weapon.
Wicks might be big league-ready by midseason and is looking like a midrotation starter with the risk being that the velo bump regresses and he ends up more of a steady backend type.
Hey, hey! Not bad, especially when you consider how underwhelming the selection of Wicks felt back in 2021. His initial stint in the minors after getting drafted was rough, as Wicks only tossed seven innings with South Bend in 2021 and had a 5.14 ERA in four games. Then, in 2022, Wicks’ numbers improved, posting a 3.65 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 66.2 innings prior to his promotion. Wicks had big strikeout numbers, whiffing more than 11 batters per nine innings in A-Ball, and continued that strikeout rate in eight more starts pitching for the Tennessee Smokies at Double-A to end the season.
But one thing that’s always difficult when trying to discuss prospects is that much of the time fans, myself included, are scouting the numbers instead of the actual development that’s being made. Wicks isn’t a fire-throwing lefty and his ceiling isn’t being an ace, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good starting pitcher in the big leagues either. He has a good change up and if Wicks continues to throw his fastball around 94mph, then the Cubs are going to be happy with his development.
Of course, after a while, the results will have to match the adjustments made behind the scenes before fans can truly get hyped up for Wicks. Who knows, as McDaniel stated, Cubs fans may see Wicks knocking at the door of the majors by the summer this year.
To no one’s surprise, outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong was the top Cubs prospect on McDaniel’s list. He was ranked 36th. Meanwhile, fellow outfielder Kevin Alcantara was the third player in the Cubs farm system in ESPN’s top-100, coming in at 77th.
The one big name who was left out of McDaniel’s list is Brennen Davis. The right-handed hitting outfielder missed most of the 2022 season after having surgery to address nerve issues in his back. Davis did return from that procedure, but struggled at Triple-A and then had a stress reaction in his back during the Arizona Fall League in October. Hopefully Davis can put the injuries behind him this year and get back to his pre-2022 hype. Still has so much potential. I mean, Davis was the No. 1 Cubs prospect a year ago.
Finally, McDaniel named other prospects that didn’t make his top-100 list, but that he considers 50 FV prospects. Here’s a quick explanation on that.
This 20-80 scale also applies to the FV (future value) used to sum up a player’s overall value. A 50 PV (present value) is a 2.0 to 2.5 WAR player. FV of a prospect who is big league ready maps to this pretty well: the top tier (65 FV this year) of prospects are projected to have multiple peak seasons of 4-to-5 WAR while the MVP winner is usually around 7-8 WAR.
Anyway, four Cubs made the list of McDaniel’s other 50 FV prospects.
Cristian Hernandez – SS
James Triantos – 3B
Owen Caissie – RF
Hayden Wesneski – RHP
See, quality depth!
No love for Matt Mervis?