Cubs Insider’s 2023 Top 79 Cubs Prospects List (40-21)

Welcome to the third installment of our preseason rankings. Please check out Nos. 79-61 and 60-41 if you haven’t already. Once again it bares repeating, this system has so much depth. There are a lot of fun prospects in this range that could provide depth at the Major League level at some point in their careers.

#40. Luis Verdugo, 3B

Age: 22   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-0     Weight: 172
International Signing: 2017
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

Verdugo is one of the best defenders in the system. There’s no doubt he could play major league-caliber defense right now, with a chance to have a Gold Glove ceiling. He has added muscle and could potentially tap into some more power, so I am interested to see how he will handle more advanced pitching in Double-A. This season will tell us a lot about the kind of player he can become. With the defensive ability he has shown thus far, he has a fairly good chance to be a bench player in the big leagues.

#39. Adan Sanchez, C

Age: 17   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-0     Weight: 205
International Signing: 2022
Expected 2023 Level: EXST; ACL

The former LLWS star from Panama has a chance to be something special for the Cubs. He has a projectable frame and looks as if he could become a middle-of-the-order type bat because of his power profile. He oozes potential defensively as a catcher because of his athleticism and strong arm and could be an All-Star behind the plate, but he’s still a long way off.

#38. Pedro Ramírez, 2B

Age: 18    Bats: S   Throws: R
Height: 5-9     Weight: 165
International Signing: 2021
Expected 2023 Level: Low-A

Ramirez is a well-put-together middle infielder who has a good approach at the plate with solid contact skills that allow him to spray line drives to all fields. Although he looks maxed out physically, there is still some room to add a little more power to his game. He has good speed and played some center field in Instructs to increase his versatility. I could see Ramirez carving out a niche as a versatile role player in the big leagues. Baseball America named him a Complex League All-Star at second base and he should get a full season of playing time in Myrtle Beach this season.

#37. Yonathan Perlaza, RF

Age: 24   Bats: S   Throws: R
Height: 5-11     Weight: 195
International Signing: 2015
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A

Perlaza is put together like a fire hydrant. He shows power from both sides of the plate, but is a little better from the left side. He does have some swing and miss in his game (23.2 K%) but he mitigates with a good approach and understanding of the strike zone (13.2 BB%). The problem with Perlaza is that he doesn’t really have a defensive home. He is glued to a corner outfield spot and rates as below average there, so his bat will have to carry him to Chicago.

#36. BJ Murray Jr., 1B

Age: 23   Bats: S   Throws: R
Height: 6-0     Weight: 205
Drafted: 2021 (15th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

One of my personal favorites, I absolutely love his approach at the plate. Murray is able to hit line drives to all fields and has shown gap power to the opposite field. He has a good lower half and should be able to tap into some more power as he continues to mature. I could see him being a 20-home run guy to go along with a good OBP. The biggest question is his defense. I don’t think third base is an option anymore, and second base might be a long shot. He seems to be a first-base-only prospect, which does limit his ceiling a little, but I think there is a major league hitter in his future.

#35. Yohendrick Pinango, LF

Age: 20   Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 5-11     Weight: 170
International Signing: 2018
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

Pinango took a step back in 2022, but there is still enough in his profile to hold out hope for his potential. He has good contact ability and feel for the strike zone, though he still hits the ball into the ground too much and may need to make a swing adjustment to fix it. I still think he can turn into a 20-home run guy, which would make him a very good fourth outfielder. I’ve always liked the Melky Cabrera comp, but that might be a little out of reach as of now, unless he figures out the groundball issues. Pinango may end up being a platoon corner outfielder when all is said and done.

#34. Riley Thompson, SP

Age: 26   Bats: L   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 210
Drafted: 2018 (11th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A; Triple-A

It was nice to see Thompson back on the mound in game action this past season for the first time since 2019. His arsenal includes a fastball that sits 94-96 and an above-average curveball that he is able to locate to get early strikes or put hitters away. He is also developing a slider and changeup for a five-pitch repertoire. I still think he ends up in the bullpen, but it doesn’t hurt to continue to stretch him out and see if there’s a back end of the rotation arm in there.

#33. Luke Little, SP

Age: 22   Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 6-8     Weight: 220
Drafted: 2020 (4th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

Little simply overpowered and dominated lower-level hitting this year, to the tune of 101 Ks in 65.2 IP. He has a big fastball in the 95-97 range with a devastating slider when he can control it. Little needs to continue to work on his command as it can come and go from inning to inning. I think the Cubs will continue to use him as a starter, but I see a late-inning reliever in his future. If moved to the bullpen, he could move quickly through the system.

#32. Jordan Nwogu, CF

Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-3     Weight: 230
Drafted: 2020 (3rd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

One of the most athletic players in the system, Nwogu has 20-20 potential. He has overhauled his swing since being drafted out of Michigan, which has allowed him to make better contact. Nwogu has shown glimpses of plus power at times and his elite athleticism should allow him to continue to make adjustments at the plate. I’m excited to see him play in Double-A, where we should get a real sense of the kind of prospect he really is. The potential is there to be an everyday big leaguer.

#31. Chase Strumpf, 2B

Age: 24   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-1     Weight: 170
Drafted: 2019 (2nd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A

Known as a contact-oriented hitter coming out of the draft in 2019, Strumpf has completely changed his swing and has sold out that contact for more power. He was impressive in Double-A this year as he bopped 21 home runs, but that did come with a 33% K rate. He can play 2B, 3B, and may see more time at 1B to increase his versatility. Strumpf should be able to carve a niche as a backup role player who provides some power off the bench. The only problem is the Cubs have a glut of those right now. If he can cut down his K rate and keep the same power, he could jump over some of the guys on the 40-man roster.

#30. Christopher Paciolla, SS

Age: 18   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-2     Weight: 185
Drafted: 2022 (3rd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: EXST; ACL

This is a kid I’m excited to see develop for the next couple of years. He is a big shortstop who has a quick first step and fluid actions on defense while showing a lot of power potential. Due to his size and the ability to add more muscle, he may best be suited for third base, where his bat-to-ball skills mean he shouldn’t have to rely on power. I haven’t been able to watch him so I don’t know about his approach at the plate, but he has all the physical tools to be an above-average third baseman in the future. I can’t wait to watch his progress throughout the system.

#29. Pablo Aliendo, C

Age: 21   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-0     Weight: 170
International Signing: 2018
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

Another one of my personal favorite prospects, Aliendo is a vibe who wears his love for baseball on his sleeve. A very athletic catcher who keeps getting better and better, he needs to continue to work on his receiving skills. Aliendo started hitting the ball with more authority this past season and could add a little more power to his game. Although he is able to make a lot of contact at the plate, I would like to see him continue to develop his approach so he can do more damage.

#28. Kohl Franklin, SP

Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 195
Drafted: 2018 (6th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

After not pitching since 2019, it was great to see Franklin back on the mound even if the numbers didn’t reflect his talent. Franklin looks like your prototypical big league starting pitcher, a bulldog on the mound who can reach back and fire a fastball in the upper 90s. He also throws a curveball that has potential to be a plus pitch. His changeup is his third offering and is still developing. Franklin could possibly turn into a mid-rotation pitcher, but he should be a bullpen arm at the very least because his stuff can play up in short spurts. What I want to see most out of Franklin in 2023 is health.

#27. Ryan Jensen, SP

Age: 25   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-0     Weight: 195
Drafted: 2019 (1st Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

This is a big year for Jensen after being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He has some of the best stuff in the system, with a fastball that touches 99, a curveball, a changeup, and a new slider. Command has always been the issue and the Cubs put him on the development list this past season in order to shorten his arm stroke. The shortened delivery has also helped him develop a cutter late in the 2022 season. If he can put it all together he should continue to develop as a starter who could provide depth to the rotation this season. The Cubs could also move him to the bullpen where he could make an even quicker impact.

#26. Ed Howard, SS

Age: 21   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-2     Weight: 185
Drafted: 2020 (1st Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A

Injuries suck, man! Just when Howard was starting to put it together, a freak injury on a collision at first base ended his season. The Cubs have been aggressive with him when it comes to minor league assignments, starting his professional career at Myrtle Beach. He was two years younger than league average and really struggled at the plate, but showed flashes of his ability with the bat. Because of his makeup and defensive abilities, he started the year in South Bend in 2022 before getting injured. He is one of the best defensive middle infielders in the system, boasting good range and silky smoothness at short. The main thing Howard needs offensively is more reps to work on his approach and tone down the free swinging. He has below-average power but could get that up to average as he continues to improve. Given his tremendous work ethic, I wouldn’t bet against him making the necessary adjustments offensively.

#25. Jeremiah Estrada, RP

Age: 24   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-1     Weight: 185
Drafted: 2017 (6th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

Estrada has one of the best fastballs in baseball, a 98 mph heater with such good spin rate it has the appearance of rising. His second-best offering is a sharp slider that sits in the 85-89 range. Because of these two plus pitches, he has a great shot at being a future closer. He also has an average changeup that he primarily uses to keep lefties honest. A curveball rounds out his arsenal. We could see Estrada starting the year in Iowa, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the Cubs’ closer by the end of the year.

#24. Moisés Ballesteros, C

Age: 19   Bats: L   Throws: R
Height: 5-10     Weight: 215
International Signing: 2021
Expected 2023 Level: Low-A; High-A

I love watching this kid hit. He has a smooth lefty swing and can spray line drives to all fields. Ballesteros has a good, patient, approach at the plate and knows what pitches he can do damage on. He has the potential to turn into a plus power hitter as he continues to get stronger. I don’t know if he will be able to stay behind the plate, but he should be able to hit enough to slide into a first base or DH role.

#23. Jake Slaughter, 3B

Age: 26   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-3     Weight: 230
Drafted: 2018 (18th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A

Slaughter had one of the biggest breakouts in the system in 2022 by using a combination of speed and power that you don’t find with too many guys his size. Some adjustments to his swing and approach helped him get the ball in the air more which resulted in a career-high 23 home runs. He has worked on his defensive versatility by playing some second base and corner outfield spots. His no-nonsense approach and another good year could put him right on the precipice of a call to the show.

#22. Luis Devers, SP

Age: 22   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-3     Weight: 178
International Signing: 2017
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

The Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Devers posted a 1.91 ERA with 122 Ks and 26 BBs in 117.2 IP between Myrtle Beach and South Bend. He is a more pitchability over stuff kind of pitcher who uses deception and variations in his windup to keep hitters off balance. His fastball sits in the low-90s and rates as average. His true bread and butter and a plus changeup that he can deploy in any count. He also throws a curveball that is a fringe-average pitch. He should reach Double-A at some point this year and it will be a good barometer to see how good his pitchability really is. Right now, he looks like a back end of the rotation starter.

#21. Nazier Mule, SP/DH

Age: 18   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-3     Weight: 210
Drafted: 2022 (4th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: EXST; ACL

It is easy to dream on a prospect like Mule, a player who can throw and hit 100 mph. His incredibly high ceiling makes it hard to rank him, since right now it is all potential. He has the size and athleticism to be both a great pitcher and hitter, so the Cubs will give him every opportunity to be a two-way player. I can’t wait to watch how his career develops and what path he may take on his journey.

Only one more segment to go, so stay tuned.

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