It’s hard to believe that Minor League Baseball is over for 2017. Of course, you have the playoffs, with Eugene, Myrtle Beach, and Arizona. South Bend, Tennessee, and Iowa’s seasons are over with not much action until next spring. With the regular season over for all the Cubs farm teams, it is now easier to find out the prospects that shined.
It’s hard to get right to the top prospects in the organization, this is where we come in. We are starting an annual end of season SportZreport.com Top Prospects List. We will be ranking the Top-50 prospects in the farm system. Of course, this would make a very long story so we will break it up for the Top-25 Pitching Prospects, and the Top-25 Position Prospects. We will make these even easier for you to read by breaking up the Top-25 lists into two segments. Our first one that you will be reading today is the End of season SportZreport.com Top 25 Pitching Prospects ranked 25th-15th.
25: RHP Luis Aquino
Acquired: Cubs signed him to minor-league contract in May 2015
Key Stat: Phenomenal ERA for pitchers with 20+ appearances
Aquino has had a bit of a ride in the minor leagues since 2012. After joining the Cubs in 2015, he started 2016 in Arizona then 2017 in Eugene. At the age of 24 in Low-A ball, the time is now for Aquino to be promoted. He is helping his chances with a fantastic ERA out of the bullpen. Aquino had such a great season, he made the All-Star team for the NWL mid-season. Unless Aquino moves up to Myrtle Beach next season, I don’t see him sticking around long.
24: RHP Matt Carasiti
Acquired: Cubs traded for Carasiti from Colorado Rockies
Key Stat: He leads farm system in saves and save opportunities
Carasiti has major league experience, reaching the big leagues with Colorado. He has yet to see any action for the Cubs. Carsiti features a very good fastball that sets up his breaking ball. His WHIP of 1.45 is a bit of a concern, near the top of the list for the worst rate. Carasiti also needs to work on his ERA that currently sits at 3.26. If he can reduce the number of walks, Carasiti could see future bullpen work. I don’t see him as a closer but he could easily walk into that role if needed.
23: RHP Kyle Miller
Level: Myrtle Beach
Acquired: Cubs drafted Miller in June 2015
Key Stat: Near top of farm system for strikeouts and wins
Miller had a very impressive start to the 2017 season which led him to be promoted. The number of innings he works is very unusual and different each game. Miller appeared in 32 games and started 10 of those. His versatility is pretty incredible with the ability to be the setup man out of the bullpen or an inning eater starting pitcher. Miller has a well-paced delivery that is the same every pitch. His fastball can reach the mid-80s, topping out at 88 MPH at many times. Miller has great command on his fastball. He also has a curveball in his arsenal that has good power and sharp downward bite. The only knock for Miller is his 3.87 ERA since joining Myrtle Beach. This isn’t a big issue and I could see him as more of a setup man in the future. Probably a guy like Mike Montgomery who can come out of the bullpen for 2-3 innings and start an occasional game if needed.
22: RHP Tyson Miller
Level: South Bend
Acquired: Drafted by Cubs in 4th round of 2016 MLB Draft
Key Stat: Very high for farm system strikeout leaders’ category
Miller throws lots of strikes with a 91-93 MPH fastball that can touch 96. He is a groundball pitcher that features an above-average slider in the low-80s. This leads Miller to strike out a ton of guys. His 99 strikeouts on the season are ranked highly in the Cubs farm system. Miller is primarily a starting pitcher but has come into the game 8 times out of the bullpen. His last 10 starts lean towards him being used as a starter moving forward. Miller’s WHIP of 1.33 checks off all the boxes in terms of a quality pitcher.
21: RHP Zach Hedges
Acquired: Drafted by Cubs in 26th round of 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft
Key Stat: 9 wins in the 2017 season
Hedges is a unique starter with a rare combination. He has awesome command on his pitches along with an incredible slider and sinker. Hedges uses all of the strike zone when he pitches. This leads batters to have a lot of ugly swings. It makes him a better pitcher when he has great command when throwing pitches high or in the dirt. Hedges also sports a low-90s fastball showing a great arsenal of pitches. He showed lots of growth being promoted to Iowa once this year but was later demoted back to Tennessee because of a few bad outings. I could see Hedges maintain a starting role somewhere in the farm club. I could also see him start 2018 with Iowa if things go right in spring training.
20: LHP Wyatt Short
Level: South Bend
Acquired: Drafted by Cubs in 13th round of 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft
Key Stat: Dominating closer with second most saves in farm system
Short is a lot like Matt Carasiti who we mentioned earlier in these rankings. The reason he is better is that he has a lower ERA in more innings of work. Short was also selected to the Midwest League Postseason All-Star Team after domination. He has a solid fastball that can touch 88 MPH and sometimes more. It also helps that Short is a lefty which can translate well in the major leagues. He has the capability of being a lockdown closer for the rest of his career, after not allowing a single run in 15 games in 2016. The same type of dominance transferred over to 2017 in 40 appearances. I could easily see Short in Iowa by the end of next season.
19: RHP Jhon Romero
Level: South Bend
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Key Stat: Best ERA in farm system with 20+ appearances
Romero is a very crafty reliever who you could rely on in eighth inning situations. He only gave up 3 runs with Eugene and 1 with South Bend this season. That ERA transfers over to 0.86 on the season. That leads the farm system of all pitchers with a minimum of twenty appearances. Romero throws a mid-90s fastball along with a sharp downward breaking curveball. He is the perfect fit for any team in the minors or majors if you want consistency and a guy who can mow down batters in non-save situations. Romero even has the capability of recording saves, going 4-for-4 during the season.
18: RHP Jake Stinnett
Acquired: Selected by Cubs in 2nd round of 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft
Key Stat: Phenomenal ERA since joining Tennessee
Stinnett was ranked the 72nd overall prospect in his draft class and has not disappointed. He started 2017 with Tennessee and wasn’t great so he was demoted back to Myrtle Beach. On August 5th, Stinnett was promoted back to AA, and he completely dominated. He went 0-2 with a 1.19 ERA on the season, but he recorded a 0.61 ERA in 9 games with Tennessee. Stinnett throws in the low-90s and can get his fastball up to 95 MPH at times. His slider is the best part of his game which strikes out a decent number of guys. Stinnett also sports a pretty good changeup which can come in handy at times. He’s had a rough start to his career but with a good 2017 he might make it to Tennessee in 2018. He will likely stick as a reliever, rarely pitching any more than one inning.
17: RHP Duane Underwood
Acquired: Selected by Cubs in 2nd round of 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft
Key Stat: Tied for second-most wins in farm system
Underwood is pretty much flying under the radar as a starter in the farm system. He probably has one of the most talented arms in the system. Underwood has a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a breaking curveball with great intensity. He has one of the better arms in the system because he can easily pitch out of jams, leaving 71% runners on base. Underwood’s fastball does reach 96+ MPH at times. Injuries are the only concern, with his last two seasons being cut short by right elbow inflammation. I could see him as a bullpen guy in the future because surgeries could limit his workload and amount of innings.
16: RHP Pedro Araujo
Level: Myrtle Beach
Acquired: Signed by Cubs as international free agent in May 2011
Key Stat: Solid ERA and winning record out of Bullpen
Araujo is a slower-developing prospect but has made great strides this season. He is a hard-thrower that can pay dividends in the future. Arajuo has a mid-90s fastball that can reach the upper-90s. He is still developing his secondary pitches but can be a flame-throwing reliever in the near future. Arajuo went 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 2016 which shows great strides for possibly making it to Iowa. I could see him make the majors in 2019 at the age of 26.
15: LHP Brendon Little
Acquired: 27th pick in 2017 draft
Key Stat: He’s a first-rounder
Little was the Cubs first-round selection in this year’s draft. There is certainly unknown there but he showed flashes of a great starting pitcher on occasion. The biggest thing for Little is the fact that he is a lefty. These are hard to come by and he is only the second one on this list so far. In some starts, Little allows two earned runs or less and in others was shelled with 4-6 runs. In his last 4, he looked better allowing 8 runs in those games. His pitch types in the minors are yet to be determined being a first-year prospect. In college, Little had a mid-90s fastball, an outstanding fastball, and good changeup. It is way too hard to predict any future for Little until we see a full season in the minors from him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in South Bend to start 2018. This would determine what kind of pitcher Little can be.
This wraps up the first segment of the End of season SportZreport.com Top-25 Pitching Prospects. Stay tuned for segment two ranking 14th-1st in the next couple days. Also stay on the lookout for two more segments but for End of season SportZreport.com Top-25 Position Prospects.
This prospect list isn’t produced by the Cubs or MLB in any way. The rankings are based on my system of sorting through different stat categories and finding what names pop up near the top each time. You could disagree with some of the players but the end goal is for the Cubs to win. These are the guys best suited to help the Cubs win.