Chicago Cubs Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects 2023

Chris Clegg breaks down the Cubs' top 15 prospects.

The Chicago Cubs have done a wonderful job at retooling their farm system over the last year and a half. While it was unpopular for the Cubs to trade players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez, the Cubs’ top prospects list would look a lot different. Four of the top six Cubs’ top prospects were acquired via trade. So while the trades were not popular then, the Cubs have set themselves up in a good position moving forward. The club has shown a willingness to spend money to field a solid MLB team in 2023, plus they have an excellent farm system with plenty of depth from top to bottom. It shouldn’t be long before the Chicago Cubs are back in contention.

You likely came here for the rankings, so let’s dive in. Here are my Chicago Cubs’ top prospects for fantasy baseball.

 

Chicago Cubs Top Prospects for Fantasy Baseball

 

1. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF

Age: 21/2022 Stats (A/A+): 423 AB/.312/.376/.520/16 HR/32 SB/89 R/61 RBI

Pete Crow-Armstrong tops the list of a talented group of Cubs’ prospects. Not only is PCA a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, but he also brings plenty to the plate with his bat. Crow-Armstong was traded to the Cubs as part of the Javier Báez deal in 2021, and he missed most of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury. Despite injury and a trade, PCA hit the ground running in his first full professional season, posting a .312/.376/.520 slash between Low- and High-A. He added 16 home runs and 32 stolen bases.

Crow-Armstrong posted solid exit velocities this year, posting a 90th percentile exit velocity of 103.6 mph. There is still plenty of room in his frame to add strength and power, making PCA a real 20-HR/20-SB threat in the Majors. He can sometimes get aggressive but jumps on pitches in the zone, with an 81.3 percent zone-swing rate. With a swing geared for line drives and plenty of speed to burn, it seems likely that Crow-Armstrong will maintain high batting averages as he moves up the system.

Aram Leighton of Just Baseball did a great interview with PCA that you can find here. It is worth a listen and provides excellent insight into the type of player Crow-Armstrong is.

 

2. Matt Mervis, 1B

Age: 24/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AA): 512 AB/.309/.379/.593/36 HR/2 SB/92 R/119 RBI

Matt Mervis was one of baseball’s biggest breakout prospects in 2022. The former Duke Blue Devil went undrafted in the shortened 2020 draft, but that only pushed Mervis to work even harder to prove his worth. He hit 36 home runs over the course of three levels while also hitting .300. He continued to mash in the Arizona Fall League, adding six more home runs. Some may be quick to point to Mervis’ age, but the nature of signing in 2020 had a large part. Mervis spent the majority of 2022 in Double and Triple-A, where he was younger than the league average age. All this to say, Matt Mervis is a legit prospect who could be the Cubs’ everyday first basemen in 2023. For a detailed breakdown of Matt Mervis, check out my article on Pitcher List.

 

3. Brennen Davis, OF

Age: 23/2022 Stats (Rk/A+/AAA): 178 AB/.180/.299/.298/5 HR/0 SB/18 R/17 RBI

Brennen Davis was a top-ten overall prospect in baseball after a massive 2021, but all that changed quickly. Injuries compounded, and Davis had back surgery in May, which set him back several months. He returned in mid-August but was not the same player, as you can tell by his stats. He made his way to the Arizona Fall League but played five games after dealing with more soreness. As a player, his profile has plenty of upside if he can get healthy. Davis is highly athletic with a frame of 6’4/200 lb. Power comes easy to him, and Davis is still a plus runner capable of stealing ten to 15 bases annually. With how quickly people jumped off the Brennen Davis train, now is an excellent time to buy into a dynasty league.

 

4. Kevin Alcantara, OF

Age: 20/2022 Stats (A): 428 AB/.273/.360/.451/15 HR/14 SB/76 R/85 RBI

Kevin Alcantara is massive and quite projectable with a 6’6 athletic frame. He moved to Chicago from the Yankees as part of the Anthony Rizzo trade. Alcantara had a strong showing in 2021 and took it to the next level in full-season Low-A in 2022. The numbers won’t wow you, but remember the fact that Alcantara spent half of the season as a 19-year-old. If he adds 20 pounds of muscle, which is a real possibility, the game power will come. Just look at this effortless opposite-field power in the video below.

 

5. Hayden Wesneski, RHP

Age: 25/2022 Stats (AAA): 110.1 IP/3.92 ERA/1.16 WHIP/106 K

MLB: 33 IP/2.18 ERA/0,94 WHIP/33 K

Hayden Wesneski was traded to the Cubs for Scott Effross at the trade deadline. Effross went down and needed Tommy John Surgery, and Wesneski dominated at the big league level despite having an atrocious Triple-A start to his Cubs career. After his dominant showing at the MLB level, it seemed like Wesneski would be penciled into the Cubs rotation in 2023. That does not seem like the case now, as the team added Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly through free agency. Talent usually wins out, and Wesneski has it. He has an impressive arsenal of pitches that starts with a slider with 36.7% CSW last year. He throws three fastball variations in a four-seam, sinker, and cutter.

 

6. Alexander Canario, OF

Age: 22/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 464 AB/.252/.343/.556/37 HR/23 SB/84 R/97 RBI

The Cubs had two of the top three home run leaders in the Minors in 2022. Alexander Canario checks in just ahead of fellow teammate Matt Mervis with 37 home runs last year. Canario ventured from High-A to Triple-A but spent most of his time in Double-A in 2022. As you can tell by his 37 home runs across 464 at-bats, he mashed, but there were also significant issues with strikeouts. Canario struck out 147 times which was good for a 27.5% rate for the season. That came with a 77% zone-contact rate and a 70% overall contact rate. The exit velocities were elite though, as he posted a 106.7 mpg 90th-percentile exit velocity. If Canario can show increased contact in 2023, the power and speed elements of his game could boost him toward top-25 prospect status.

 

7. Cade Horton, RHP

Age: 21/Did not play professionally in 2022

Cade Horton made quite the ascent up draft boards in 2022 after a dominant post-season showing. If you look at his line of a 4.86 ERA, a 1.3 WHIP, and 64 strikeouts in 53.2 innings, you probably don’t come away impressed. It was certainly not impressive for a player taken seventh overall in the draft. The good news is that Horton took his game to another level during the postseason. He posted a 2.61 ERA and struck out 49 hitters in five games. There are a couple of important things to note about Horton. First, he played baseball and football as a freshman. Second, he was returning from Tommy John surgery this year. It should not be surprising to see the early season struggles given those things.

Horton’s fastball gets up to 98 mph and locates it well at the top of the zone. He pairs it with a wipeout slider between 87 and 90 mph. Horton also utilizes a curveball and changeup, which are average offerings. He got by with just a fastball and slider in college, but it will be interesting to see if either the curveball or changeup can develop as a true third pitch. Horton is a great under-the-radar FYPD selection this year.

 

8. Owen Caissie, OF

Age: 20/2022 Stats (A+): 378 AB/.254/.349/.402/11 HR/11 SB/57 R/58 RBI

Owen Caissie was a touted amateur prospect selected by the San Diego Padres in the second round in 2020. Caissie moved to Chicago as part of the Yu Darvish trade. His frame is big but he is quite athletic at 6’4/215. While the stats are pretty disappointing, the underlying data looks good. Caissie had plenty of high-end exit velocities with respectable zone-contact rates. The numbers are pretty similar to Canario, with one significant difference: Canario gets to his pull-side power. Given Caissie’s frame, it’s hard not to see him growing into more power. If his contact skills steadily improve, Caissie has a real shot at being a solid MLB hitter.

 

9. Cristian Hernandez, SS

Age: 19/2022 Stats (Rk): 157 AB/.261/.320/.357/3 HR/6 SB/21 R/21 RBI

Cristian Hernandez was one of the Cubs’ biggest international signings in their program history, handing out a $3 million signing bonus. Hernandez has an athletic frame with room to add more strength and muscle. His professional performance has been fairly underwhelming after spending 2021 in the Dominican Summer League and 2022 in the Arizona Complex League. Hernandez has shown the ability to make hard contact, but the issue is the contact is largely inconsistent. If he can cut down on swing-and-miss and begin to chase less, there is potential for Hernandez to vault up rankings. We should better understand his profile when he moves to full-season Myrtle Beach in 2023.

 

10. James Triantos, 3B

Age: 20/2022 Stats (A): 456 AB/.272/.335/.386/7 HR/20 SB/74 R/50 RBI

James Triantos vaulted up draft boards in 2021 after being lauded for his excellent hit tool. He was selected by the Cubs in the second round and hit the ground running at the complex. He hit six home runs in 101 at-bats and posted a .327/.376/.594 slash. Triantos was a popular FYPD pick last year but had a somewhat underwhelming full season in 2022. His swing is compact and has a direct path to the ball. Some have comped him to Alex Bregman. 2023 will be a big season for Triantos as he looks to improve on his first full season of pro ball.

 

11. Ben Brown, RHP

Age: 23/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 104 IP/3.38 ERA/1.17 WHIP/149 K

It has been quite an interesting journey for Ben Brown in his professional career. The Phillies drafted him in the 33rd round of the 2017 draft. Many believe that he would have gone much higher if not for appendicitis which caused him to miss the prep showcase circuit in the summer before his draft year. Brown had Tommy John in 2019, the 2020 season was canceled for COVID, and he made just seven appearances in 2021 due to an elbow injury.

Fast forward to 2022, and Brown finally had the breakout season he was looking for. He was traded from the Phillies to the Cubs for David Robertson and didn’t miss a beat. He finished the season between High-A and Double-A with a 3.38 ERA in 104 innings and 149 strikeouts. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and gets a ton of extension and ride at the top of the zone, thanks to his 6’6 frame. His slider can reach 90 mph, but his best secondary is a curve ball that sits in the mid-80s that gets him a ton of swings and misses. The arsenal is that of a mid-rotation starter if he pushes the health concerns behind him.

 

12. Jordan Wicks, LHP

Age: 23/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 94.2 IP/3.80 ERA/1.25 WHIP/121 K

Jordan Wicks was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2021 draft. Wicks set Kansas State records for strikeouts in a season and career total strikeouts. His changeup is considered one of the better changeups in the Minor Leagues. It sits in the low-80s and has nice tumble action. The video below is an excellent illustration of that.

Wicks’s fastball sits in the mid-to-low 90s and utilizes two breaking balls in a distinct slider and curveball. He finds the strike zone often with all pitches and shows a solid feel for command. His delivery is simple, and he repeats it consistently. With everything stated about Wicks, you might think he should be higher on the list. 2023 could be the year we see him take a step forward.

 

13. Jackson Ferris, LHP

Age: 19/Did Not Pitch in 2022

Jackson Ferris is a highly talented left-handed pitcher taken in the second round of the 2022 draft by the Chicago Cubs. Ferris did not pitch in games after being drafted but impressed the organization in fall instructs. He came in sitting 93-95 mph, similar to high school but more impressive considering the length of time since he pitched. Ferris also features two distinct breaking balls in his power slider and curve. The Cubs organization is confident Ferris can add velocity and fine-tune his arsenal to get peak performance. Ferris is a significant target in FYPD drafts this year.

 

14. Moises Ballesteros, C

Age: 19/2022 Stats (Rk/A): 206 AB/.257/.352/.461/10 HR/0 SB/29 R/33 RBI

If you are looking to get in on the next catcher prospect to make a rise up rankings, Moises Ballesteros is a solid candidate. He displayed great power at the complex level with solid plate discipline, which carried over to Low-A Myrtle Beach. It is also important to note Ballesteros played the entire season as an 18-year-old. He showed a great feel for the strike zone in a small sample last season and did not chase often. The power will certainly continue to grow from the stocky, left-handed hitting catcher. Don’t be disappointed by Ballesteros’s home run numbers in Low-A, though. Myrtle Beach is one of the Minors’ worst hitter parks.

 

15. Porter Hodge, RHP

Age: 22/2022 Stats (A/A+): 109.1 IP/2.63 ERA/1.24 WHIP/141 K

Full transparency, I was not very familiar with Porter Hodge before this offseason. Thanks to Trevor Hooth’s video breakdown on Twitter, I became a bit intrigued.

Hodge was very good in Low-A Myrtle Beach, but he took things to the next level when he got his promotion to High-A South Bend. He described himself as having a bulldog mentality, which is evident when you watch him pitch. Standing at 6’4″, Hodge weighed 240 pounds last year but cut down to 220 this year. He was more mobile on the mound, and the results showed. Everything ticked up, and his fastball sat in the mid-90s in some starts. He also displays a plus slider with sweeping action that drops off against right-handed hitters. Hodge is also comfortable dropping it to the back foot of lefties. Hodge also has a solid changeup and curveball to pair with the fastball/slider combo. Don’t be surprised to see Hodge make a big jump in 2023.

 

Illustration by Cody Rogers (@CodyRogers10)

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