Not all of the Cubs’ top prospects will be in spring training with their peers. Instead, Adbert Alzolay, Ian Rice, and others will be playing with the big boys in the MLB camp. Despite that difference, the Cubs MiLB camp will still contain several storylines of interest.
With close to 300 players in camp, it’s hard to narrow the major storylines down to a few key themes, let alone a few key players. However, there are some that should be buzzed about for the next six weeks.
He should be the most watched prospect this spring. Last year, he played in the Dominican Summer League and stole 58 bases while hitting .320. He’s 19 and athletic and probably will debut stateside at Eugene. In a system that either promoted/traded it’s biggest hitting prospects, Kelli’s ascendance could be a breath of fresh air even if he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, as he does possesses 80-grade speed.
The young 18-year-old outfielder hit nine home runs and was able to draw a lot of walks in the Dominican Summer League. While he didn’t hit for as high average as one would hope, to crank out nine dingers at 18 is a bit promising. He should be assigned to one of the two Mesa teams this summer.
This cat throws in the upper 90s and made his stateside debut last year in Mesa at just 17 years of age. He still needs a lot of work on his secondaries despite an overpowering fastball that he is working to command. I’m excited to see what he can do this spring and what development track he’s going to be on.
There are several prospects who missed most or part of last year like Corey Black, Ryan Williams, Oscar de la Cruz, and Erick Leal. Their ability to rebound could help strengthen the organization and ultimately get them to the big league club. There are other prospects, too, like Trevor Clifton and Chesny Young who struggled with consistency last year. It would be great to see them all get off to a great start in spring training.
New International Guys
Luis Verdugo, Florencio Serrano, and Alexander Guerra
All three were signed in 2017, and I will personally find it interesting to see just how advanced these three young kids are. Guerra, who is 20, should be much more advanced than Verdugo and Serrano. Guerra actually played in the Series Nacional in Cuba, and he could be assigned anywhere from South Bend to Tennessee. If all holds true to form, Verdugo and Serrano should begin their careers stateside rather than in the Dominican. Spring training will give everyone a peek at just how talented the three are.
Arms, Arms, and More Arms
2017 first round draft picks Brendon Little and Alex Lange got most of the spotlight in 2017 after signing and suiting up in Eugene. However, the Cubs drafted several other arms who could steal away some of their thunder in 2018. While some will be keeping an eye on talented sixth-round pick Jeremiah Estrada, I will be focusing on other pitchers that came before him in Cory Abbot, Erich Uelmen, and Keegan Thompson, all of whom should be assigned to South Bend. With Albertos, Lange, Little, Assad, and Camargo, there should be some serious competition for starting rotation spots throughout the lower part of the minors—from Eugene to South Bend to Myrtle and likely even Tennessee. It should be a good camp to see what these arms can do without restriction.
The Next Big Guy
It’ll be three years this July since the Cubs signed outfielder Jonathan Sierra. He debuted stateside in Mesa last year. While he did show a solid approach at the plate, the big outfielder has struggled to hit home runs with his now large frame and elongated swing. He will only be 19 this spring, but he still lacks a lot of game experience. Hopefully, this will be the year he puts it together.
As always, there will be prospects who breakout that are currently flying under the radar. For every top prospect, there’s a Rollie Lacy just waiting for an opportunity to show how much they have improved over the winter.
Lead Photo of Fernando Kelli by John Arguello