A Minor Review of 2017: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs system has been hurt by promotions and trades but there are still some interesting players throughout the minors.

The Graduate: Ian Happ, IF/OF: Happ (aka Mr. Ben-Zobrist-lite) reached the Majors more quickly than expected thanks to the injuries that plagued the team in May. He produced some outstanding power numbers with 24 of him 92 hits going for home runs (good for a .261 ISO). Impressively, he also managed to hit .253 despite striking out more than 31% of the time. His versatility makes him incredibly valuable and he played mostly second base and center field but also dabbled in third base and both corner outfield spots. Happ, 23, needs some work to become a more complete player with the bat but he should continue to play every day in 2018.

First Taste of The Show: Dillon Maples, RHP: The Cubs have been high on Maples throughout the years despite his injury woes. His football mentality is probably more suited to relief and he thrived in the role in 2017 while playing at four levels. He made his MLB debut late in the year despite struggling to throw strikes in the upper levels of the minors (7.24 BB/9 in AA, 5.40 BB/9 in AAA). Once he starts to find the strike zone more consistently, Maples has high-leverage potential thanks to his fastball (which sits 97 mph) and slider (which sits 87.5 mph). He’ll likely return to triple-A to open up 2018.

The Stud: Oscar De La Cruz, RHP: Signed as a 17 year old, De La Cruz has blossomed into a hard-throwing behemoth at 6-4 and more than 200 pounds. He now fills up the strike zone with a mid-90s fastball and above-average curveball. His developing changeup gives him a third potentially average (or better) offering. He has the frame to be an innings-eater but De La Cruz has struggled with injuries throughout his minor league career. If he can stay healthy, he has No. 2 starter upside. He should open 2018 back in high-A but could spend a good portion of the year in double-A.

The Draft Pick: Alex Lange, RHP: A solid college performer with good stuff, inconsistency hurt Lange a bit and he lasted until the 30th pick of the first round. Issues with his physical then cast a shadow on his signing. He did OK after signing, though, and struck out 13 batters in 9.1 innings. With his amateur resume, the 22-year-old hurler should move quickly if healthy and could see double-A at some point in 2018. His stuff suggests mid-rotation potential.

The Riser: Adbert Alzolay, RHP: Alzolay has been in the Cubs system since signing in late 2012 but he didn’t really rise to prominence until 2017 thanks to increased consistency. He’s a modest-sized right-hander but can hit the mid-90s with his heater. His curveball is showing improvement and could become a better-than-average offering. While his command remains a work in progress, the 22-year-old hurler’s control is above-average and gives him a change to develop into a No. 3/4 starter. He’ll spend a good chunk of 2018 in double-A.

The Sleeper: Wladimir Galindo, 3B: Signed during the same international period as Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez, Galindo has seen his career stalled by freak injuries. In four pro seasons, he’s never appeared in more than 66 games in one year. He reached full season ball for the first time in 2017 but appeared in just 44 games due to a shoulder issue and a broken leg. Galindo, 20, has serious raw power but the lost development time has hurt him — both at the plate and in the field where he showcases a strong arm but with inconsistent results. A strong spring could push him up to high-A ball.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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6 years ago

Marc, does David Bote’s Fall League success make him a guy to watch?