With Thursday’s trade of Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, top talent in the Cubs’ farm system is now at a considerably lower rung. After this year’s draft, it seemed the Cubs would be on the cusp of rebuilding a system that produced eight of the Cubs’ current position players since 2014. The trade did not level the organization, but the current construct of the system is not filled with what could be considered elite prospects. Pitcher Trevor Clifton remains as the only Cub left on BP’s Top 101 preseason list.
The debate over who should be the Cubs top prospect began shortly after the trade, and a case could be made for Jeimer Candelario, Oscar de la Cruz, or Trevor Clifton. While those three prospects are all very good, I would select someone else at the new top Cubs prospect: Jose Albertos. Here are five reasons why I think Jose should get the crown for the time being.
Albertos fulfills the projection principle of what prospect lists are supposed to evaluate. The lists look at talent and try to extrapolate over time how a certain player will do. At just 18, Albertos’ youth gives him a unique advantage in that he is nowhere close to being the player he will become. He is also still growing vertically (now at 6’1” according to Bill Mitchell). And, as a full-time professional, he is shrinking as he loses some weight of his teenage years and becomes leaner and stronger.
Albertos’ top pitch is his fastball. In his first start for Eugene, he sat around 93-96 through most of his five inning stint. He topped out at 97 a couple of times, even in the fifth. He has excellent command of the pitch. What I also like about his fastball is that he moves it around the zone. He can go upstairs, in on the hands, and down and away – which is the only place he missed most of the day.
Depending on who you read, Albertos’ change is supposed to be a plus pitch. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline called it a “double-plus offering.” In his start on July 9 in Eugene, Albertos used it sparingly, tending to focus more on his curve instead.
When rosters were announced for Mesa and Eugene, I was surprised Albertos did not initially get assigned to Eugene. At the time, it was reported that Jose was staying behind to work on the grip for his curveball. The first two innings of his start last week, Albertos struggled with the command of said pitch. It came short of the plate quite a few times. By the third inning, he was spinning it up there to effect as he dominated the opposition and got very weak contact for the better part of three innings.
While Albertos does throw in the mid 90s, he is not a strikeout pitcher. I imagine he could pitch that way if he wanted, but he doesn’t have that need. In his three starts this year, he has only struck out 10 batters in 13 innings. He gets a lot of ground balls with his fastball and change and his curve resulted in a lot of pop ups. Not one single ball made it to the outfield until his last inning. After laboring the first two innings with 44 pitches and 3 errors behind him, he breezed through the next three innings using just 37 more pitches.
Albertos will make his second start for Eugene this weekend and I look forward to seeing him do so. If he can sustain development on his curve, Cubs fans might be looking at something special and someone who could make it to South Bend by August at a very young age.
If Albertos is going to be a MLB starter, he needs to build up innings on his arm. He has 13.1 “in season” innings and 12 “unofficial” innings from extended spring training. After only throwing four innings in 2016, it could take a couple of years to build him up to the 140-160 range need for most rookies. I think 70-80 innings this year would be a good foundation for him. He is going to be fun to watch getting there.
Lead photo courtesy Eugene Emeralds