Cubs Insider’s 2023 Top 79 Cubs Prospects List (20-1)

We have finally arrived at the top tier of prospects in the system after bringing you Nos. 79-61, 60-41, and 40-21. Please be sure to check those out if you haven’t already, then proceed with the top 20.

#20. Miguel Amaya, C


Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-2     Weight: 230
International Signing: 2015
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

It seems like Amaya has been on one of these lists for the better half of a decade. He was well on his way to Chicago before needing Tommy John surgery in 2021 after only playing 20 games. Upon his return in 2022, he was able to DH in 40 games before a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot ended his season early and kept him out of the Arizona Fall League. Amaya has all the tools to be a quality catcher at the big league level, particularly his abilities as a receiver and framer. I am interested to see how his arm strength looks after not being able to throw for so long. Offensively, he has the potential to be an above-average hitter with 15 home run pop.

#19. Drew Gray, SP

Age: 19   Bats: Throws: L
Height: 6-3     Weight: 190
Drafted: 2021 (3rd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: EXST; ACL

A projectable lefty, Gray has the size and talent to be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Elbow reconstruction last February has slowed his development, but he has the potential for three plus pitches. His fastball sits in the 91-95 mph range with more velocity possible as he continues to get stronger. He also has a curveball in the mid-70s and a sweeping slider that sits in the low 80s, then he was working on a new changeup before he got hurt. He is a good athlete, which should help him to continue to work on the development of his command and secondary pitches.

#18. Caleb Killian, SP

Age: 24   Bats: Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 180
Trade: 2021 (Kris Bryant)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

Known for his command and control, 2022 was a perplexing year for Killian as his walk numbers jumped significantly. Turns out he was dealing with tendinitis in his left knee for most of the season, which could explain his poor performance. Now seemingly healthy, Killian looked good in his spring training outings. He features a fastball that tops out at 98 mph, mixing in a sinker that sits 91-95 and a cutter in the 90-93 range. He also has a curveball and changeup to keep hitters honest. With the knee issues behind him, he can provide quality depth to the big league rotation this season if he continues to produce as he’s shown in the past.

#17. Kevin Made, SS

Age: 20   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 5-10     Weight: 160
International Signing: 2019
Expected 2023 Level: High-A

Made was signed the Dominican Republic in 2019 for $1.5 million. His best skill is his glove and he rates as one of the best defenders in the system, using his soft hands to make routine plays look effortless. He has great instincts and quickness to range for balls in the hole, where he can show off his plus arm. At the plate, Made has faced pitchers with much more experience and has made the proper adjustments. He has good bat-to-ball skills and could grow into a 15-home run guy in the future. With his defensive ability, it is not hard to envision him as a quality utility man with the chance to be an everyday shortstop at the big league level.

#16. Porter Hodge, SP

Age: 22   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 230
Drafted: 2019 (13th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A; Double-A

Hodge had one of the bigger breakouts in the system pitching-wise, tying for the affiliate lead with 141 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. An improved fastball that previously sat in the 90-91 range in 2021 was sitting in the mid-90s and touched 98 at times in 2022. He also throws a nasty sweeping slider that is devastating to both righties and lefties. He should be able to stick as a starter if he can improve his curveball and changeup, but the plus fastball and slider mean his floor is probably a high-leverage reliever.

#15. James Triantos, 3B

Age: 20   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-1     Weight: 195
Drafted: 2021 (2nd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A

Triantos had a solid season as a 19-year-old in a tough hitter’s park at Myrtle Beach, showing off his bat-to-ball skills and solid approach at the plate. Power is still a question mark in Triantos’ game but I think he should be able to add strength to his frame and develop into an average power hitter. He has trimmed down and looks much more athletic this spring, but there are still question marks about where he fits defensively. This season will go a long way toward determining whether he can stick at third base or if a position change is necessary.

#14. Jackson Ferris, SP

Age: 19   Bats: Throws: L
Height: 6-4     Weight: 195
Drafted: 2022 (2nd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: EXST; ACL

Ferris, a projectable lefty that flashes three plus pitches, was an overslot selection in the second round of the 2022 draft. His fastball sits 92-95 and can reach up to 97 with the potential for increased velocity as he continues to fill out. His best secondary pitch is a curveball that is a swing-and-miss pitch with good spin rate. He also flashes an above-average changeup that he is still developing a feel for. Ferris has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he is still a long way away from seeing that become a reality.

#13. DJ Herz, SP

Age: 22   Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 6-2     Weight: 175
Drafted: 2019 (8th Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

Herz is a bulldog on the mound and relentlessly attacks hitters. He has a crossfire delivery, which causes some deception for hitters and makes his stuff play up. His fastball sits in the 91-94 range with some good life and he pairs it with a changeup that can drop out of the zone and keeps getting better with experience. His breaking ball has great life and movement but control and feel for the pitch sometimes go awry. When everything is clicking, Herz is one of the best pitchers in the system and looks unhittable. However, there are outings like he had after being called up to Tennessee where he couldn’t find the plate and lacked consistency. If he can figure out his control and consistency he should be able to stick as a starter. Otherwise, he has the stuff to be a back end of the bullpen type.

#12. Alexander Canario, OF

Age: 22   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-1     Weight: 165
Trade: 2021 (Kris Bryant)
Expected 2023 Level: IL; Triple-A

Man, injuries suck! Canario broke out in a huge way in 2022 and was looking like a fringe Top 100 prospect in baseball before suffering a freak injury in the Dominican Winter League where he tripped over the bag and broke his left ankle while also dislocating his left shoulder. Canario seems to be a little ahead in his rehab and will start baseball activities soon with the hope that he will he be back to game action around July. He is an aggressive hitter who uses his lightning-quick bat speed to produce some of the biggest raw power in the system. That aggressiveness can be a problem at times as it leads to bad swings and strikeouts. Canario is also very athletic and can play a decent center field, but I think he profiles more as a corner outfield with plenty of arm strength. The most important thing going forward for Canario is health, so this season should be used as a runway to get back into game shape before we can really evaluate Canario again in 2024.

#11. Cristian Hernandez, SS

Age: 19   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-2     Weight: 195
International Signing: 2021
Expected 2023 Level: Low-A

The Cubs signed Hernandez for $3 million in 2021 out of the Dominican Republic as one of the top-ranked international free agents in his class. Physically, Hernandez has all the tools. He has great bat speed and the potential for plus power as he continues to fill out his frame. He is an above-average runner with a very strong arm and may get too big for shortstop as he continues to grow, though his power profiles well at third base. He still has to work to do on his approach and knowing what pitches he can do damage on. If he improves on this he could be a true 5-tool player.

#10. Jordan Wicks, SP

Age: 23   Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 6-3     Weight: 220
Drafted: 2021 (1st Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A; Triple-A

The southpaw has one of the best changeups in baseball that allows him to set up his other pitches and makes them play up because of its deceptiveness. Wicks won’t overpower anyone with his fastball but he is able to command it and put it where he wants. He has added a sweeper, which has helped him miss bats in the upper minors, but he will have to continue to mix his pitches and keep hitters off balance as he faces more advanced hitters. He doesn’t have much room for mistakes so his command will continue to be the key for him moving forward. He has a high floor and should be able to handle the back end of the rotation with the possibility of being a middle-rotation pitcher if his slider continues to develop.

#9. Daniel Palencia, SP

Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 5’11     Weight: 160
Trade: 2021 (Andrew Chafin)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

I may be higher on Palencia than most but it’s hard not to be overzealous about a fastball that reaches 102 with a wipeout slider in the upper 80s. Speaking of the slider, it sometimes looks like a cutter in the 92-95 range. He will also mix in a curveball that has potential and a changeup that still needs development. The biggest question mark is whether he can remain a starter. He was limited to about three innings per appearance last year, so maybe his future is as a high-leverage reliever. If he can remain a starter, I think he can profile as a top-of-the-rotation arm. If he can’t handle the innings load and needs to transition to the bullpen he could be a late-inning weapon.

#8. Owen Caissie, OF

Age: 20   Bats: L   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 190
Trade: 2020 (Yu Darvish, Victor Caratini)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A

Caissie has all the tools to have a long career as a dependable big league hitter, featuring good bat-to-ball skills and an all-fields approach. His real meal ticket at the plate is his raw power, which is well above average to all fields. It’s hard to understate how impressive his approach at the plate was as a 19-year-old in High-A. He will face more advanced pitching this season in Double-A, but he should be able to handle it especially after seeing how he has acclimated to pitching in the WBC. This season will go a long way into seeing how he performs in the outfield. Although he has a strong arm, his defense is shaky at times and leads many to wonder if he will end up at first base in the near future. I am looking forward to seeing how Caissie adjusts to Double-A at only 20 years old.

#7. Matt Mervis, 1B

Age: 24   Bats: L   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 225
UDFA: 2020
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

I don’t know how much more I can say about this guy besides he just mashes. I love his no-nonsense approach and the seriousness with which he approaches the game. That is exactly how he acts at the plate and he knows exactly what pitches he can do damage with. He works the count and is willing to take a walk, but when he gets a pitch he likes he unloads and shows off his plus power that looks effortless. Mervis did not make the Opening Day roster, as the Cubs want to see him prove it a little longer, but he should be able to make an impact on the big club at some point this season.

#6. Hayden Wesneski, SP

Age: 25   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-3     Weight: 210
Trade: 2022 (Scott Effross)
Expected 2023 Level: MLB

I originally had Wesneski slated in Triple-A for his expected level to start 2023, but an exceptional spring vaulted him into a rotation spot in Chicago. His best pitch is a devastating slider that has a ton of horizontal movement and that he is able to command and locate to make it a true put-away pitch. He also throws a sinker with good action that sits 92-95 and a changeup that keeps lefties honest. If he can gain velocity to his four-seam fastball that currently sits in the 93-94 range, it could unlock another level. What I love most about Wesneski besides the slider is his competitiveness on the mound. He is fierce and will go right after hitters with some bravado as he stalks the mound. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being the best pitcher in the Cubs rotation by the end of the season.

#5. Cade Horton, SP

Age: 21   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6’1     Weight: 211
Drafted: 2022 (1st Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Low-A; High-A

The Cubs’ No. 1 pick this past season, Horton’s big fastball and big slider which should allow him to move fairly quickly through the system. He can run his fastball up to 98 with a good amount of movement and the tweaks he made to his slider before the Big 12 tournament allowed him to take off and end up being one of the better college pitching prospects. The slider has good horizontal movement and sits in the mid-80s while reaching 90. These two pitches alone make it easy to see a late-inning bullpen arm as the floor. Reaching his top-of-the-rotation potential will depend on the improvements he makes to his curveball and change-up. I’m betting his athleticism will allow him to improve both pitches, which should set him up as a future rotation pitcher for the Cubs.

#4. Ben Brown, SP

Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-6     Weight: 210
Trade: 2022 (David Robertson)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A; Triple-A

I’m all in on the hype train here, to the extent that you could call me the conductor. I think Brown has all the tools to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, topped by a fastball that sits in the 94-96 range-and can reach 98 with some good arm side run. His best pitch is a power curve that gets a ton of swing and miss both in the zone and out. Brown is also tweaking his slider to get more sweeping movement and consistency. He is also working on a changeup that could end up being another weapon. Brown already has the foundation set, now it’s about getting more reps mixing in his slider and changeup to have a true four-pitch arsenal. He is one of the players I’m most excited to watch this year and I think he has true No. 2 starter potential.

#3. Brennen Davis, CF

Age: 23   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-4     Weight: 210
Drafted: 2018 (2nd Rd)
Expected 2023 Level: Triple-A; MLB

Hopefully the injury stuff is fully behind him and we can finally see a healthy Davis again. When healthy, he has the tools to be a very productive big league player. He has shown he has great athleticism and can play an above-average center field while also hitting for power. He does have some swing-and-miss problems but he is able to work counts and doesn’t have to completely sell out for power. Davis will probably have to move to corner outfield spot but he does profile well in either corner. This is a big year for his development because he’s missed so much time due to injury, but we should be able to see him roaming the outfield grass of Wrigley at some point this season. Fingers crossed.

#2. Kevin Alcántara, CF

Age: 20   Bats: R   Throws: R
Height: 6-6     Weight: 188
Trade: 2021 (Anthony Rizzo)
Expected 2023 Level: High-A

This kid has so much upside and just oozes tools, the biggest of which is his power to all fields. He has 30-homer potential and should continue to add muscle to his 6-foot-6 frame. He’s not all about power, though, as he also has a good feel for the zone and is willing to work a walk. Those long levers make him susceptible to strikeouts, so that’s something to watch for as he faces more advanced pitching in his career. Alcántara is super athletic and has good speed both on the bases and in the field. Like Davis, he may best be suited to a corner outfield spot. Alcántara might have the most upside in the system and could end up being a consensus top-20 prospect in the future. It’s hard to temper my own excitement in viewing him as a cornerstone of the Cubs outfield and future perennial All-Star.

#1. Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF

Age: 20   Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 6-0     Weight: 184
Trade: 2021 (Javy Baez, Trevor Williams)
Expected 2023 Level: Double-A; Triple-A

This guy has it all. He walks, talks, and acts like a big leaguer already at only 20 years old. He is an electric player to watch and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him whether he’s at the plate or in the field. He could play in MLB right now and win a Gold Glove in center field, using his plus speed and elite instincts to read the ball of the bat to cover gap to gap in center. He improved his power last year and looks like he has 20-homer potential. He does have good contact skills at the plate, but does get swing happy and doesn’t wait for a pitch he can do damage at times. At times he is too aggressive on the basepaths and will run into outs, but this should get better with more experience. There are still a couple ways PCA’s career could go, either as a highly valuable role player or a superstar with Gold Glove. Ultimately, his ceiling will depend on his bat. The glove means his floor is very high and either outcome will affect winning for years to come in Wrigley.

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