Cubs Prospect Notes: Pete Crow-Armstrong at No. 14 in FanGraphs’ Rankings, Ed Howard Smooth as Silk, DJ Herz Has Red Eyes

Two things have become evident as myriad prospect rankings are published: 1) Pete Crow-Armstrong is clearly at the top of the Cubs’ list; and 2) 100 spots aren’t enough to adequately judge the system. While many take the appearance of only 3-4 Cubs prospects on one list or another as an indication that the system is weak, it’s more a matter of limited perception. Extend any of those lists to 150 spots and the Cubs would be among the top organizations in the game.

A total of eight different Cubs prospects have been featured in at least one top-100 list, which is more than any team other than the Guardians (tied), Dodgers, and Orioles. There’s just so much subjectivity in these things that you really need to zoom out to get the full lay of the land before making any serious pronouncements. The other issue at play is that position players typically get more of a bump among recent draft picks, but that’s another story.

Crow-Armstrong has gotten a ton of helium based on his 2022 performance and he’s all the way up to No. 14 on the latest FanGraphs list. Kevin Alcántara is next up at No. 73, then Hayden Wesneski appears at No. 88 and Cristian Hernandez is at No. 100. We haven’t seen those latter two being mentioned very often by the national folks, so this is positive even if we note that Wesneski is likely to graduate from prospect status this season.

I believe we’ll see a big shift in these rankings when they’re shuffled at mid-season, by which point the Cubs will be much better represented.

Ed Howard looking good

Howard is a player who could rise quite a bit, especially since he’s got a green light for full activity and should be ready to start the season with an affiliate following spring training. Even though the video below only shows some light fielding drills, it’s great to the man they call Silk moving effortlessly after missing most of last season to a hip injury that required surgery.

Bloodthirsty Herzday

Lefty DJ Herz is a strikeout machine whose crossfire delivery and nasty stuff have made hitters look foolish for the most part. His control could certainly improve and he got roughed up pretty badly in nine starts with Double-A Tennessee last season, but the Cubs might have figured out a way to help him. Herz has essentially been pitching with just one eye because sensitivity to sunlight was forcing him to squint so severely.

He’s now wearing red contacts that will allow him to keep both eyes open, but the new eyewear has the added effect of being really creepy. Herz looks kind of like a vampire or a photograph taken with one of those old-timey film cameras that didn’t even have a phone built in. Combined with his mechanics and the movement of his pitches, I’m not sure he’ll ever allow another hit.

In all seriousness, I’m very interested to see whether and how this alleviates some of the control issues that led to 70 walks in 95.1 innings last season (6.61 BB/9). Having the full use of his vision should be a huge boost for Herz, plus he might be able to land a walk-on role in the new Blade movie.

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