The 2017 Chicago Cubs are loaded with talent up and down the lineup card and as fans of the Major League product, that makes life about as good as it can get. But the lack of holes in the order and the amount of depth at the MLB level makes it hard on rising prospects in Triple-A Iowa to find their way to the big leagues. The Iowa Cubs roster is filled with guys that are no slouch at the plate either. With several players that could have impacts on Major League rosters right now, let’s take a look at who those guys are and what we can expect from them now and into the future as it pertains to their role in Chicago.
John Andreoli is in year number two with at the Triple-A level. He is not currently on the 40-man roster and is one of the oldest members of this group at 26. While his path to the bigs might not be through Chicago’s crowded outfield, don’t be surprised to see him on a Major League roster as a 4th outfielder at some point. When it comes down to it, Andreoli’s only plus asset is his speed. He has improved his in-game power since arriving in Iowa and has solid defense and the ability to hit for decent average. An offseason change of scenery seems likely after 2017 with Andreoli making his way to a different organization by way of a minor league deal.
Jeimer Candelario has already seen some time in Chicago last season. He is currently listed at number four on the MLB.com Prospect List. I just don’t see a scenario where Candelario is a part of the Cubs organization come August 1st. The inevitable Candyman trade has been discussed for the last two full seasons but it is about that time. This guy is officially as MLB ready as they come and can be featured at third or first. The problem for him is that there are two guys named Bryant and Rizzo currently occupying those positions. Expect Jeimer to get dealt at the deadline and to immediately make an impacts in the bigs for whoever he ends up getting traded to.
Like Candelario, Victor Caratini is also on the 40-man roster. The difference with Caratini though is that he has not yet receieved a taste of the Major Leagues and this is actually Caratini’s first season in Iowa. As far as I am concerned the high contact catcher is poised to take over Miguel Montero‘s role as backup catcher once Miggy becomes a free agent after 2017.
Ian Happ is the guy that you are all waiting for. The final first round pick of the Cubs tanking era has been on an absolute tear since receiving the aggressive promotion to Iowa. A guy who once seemed to have an extremely high floor might just be on his way to a fairly high ceiling as well. The power has played better than what most people expected and Happ might just end up being the biggest stud of the current Triple-A roster. While most people seem to believe a trade is on the horizon for Happ, I see a scenario much like Candelario’s in which the front office holds onto him for another season or more to see how high his value gets and also how they can find a way to squeeze him into the Major League lineup.
I thought Bijan Rademacher would be the addition to the 40-man roster this past offseason that Jacob Hannemann ended up being but Theo & Co. felt otherwise. Instead, Rademacher presents a very similar case to Andreoli in that he could be a decent 4th outfielder one day. The plate discipline that Rademacher has is very similar to what the Cubs have seen with their players in recent years. Rademacher sports more power and less speed than Andreoli but in my opinion has a little better shot at making the Cubs if they were to eventually move on from Matt Szczur off the bench.
Chesny Young is without a doubt my favorite player in the farm system. The kid hits everywhere he goes. While there is little power to speak of and he is off to a slow start this season, his pure hitting ability and flexibility in playing all over the diamond (no seriously, he has already played six different positions this year) he could become a true super-utility guy. My guess is that his best chance of success in the majors is under Joe Maddon after he bides his time for a while in AAA this season and next.
Last but not least, Mark Zagunis might actually be the most Major League ready player of the bunch. Mr. OBP just knows how to get on base. His hit and power tools are both very solid but his ability to draw walks is the best in the entire system. Of anyone on this list, Zagunis has the highest floor and could start on several sub-par teams throughout the league. I think he ends up playing the role that Tommy La Stella has played the past couple of seasons and gets used to the ride between Iowa and Chicago throughout the next few seasons.
You can never root too hard for these guys to make their way on a Major League roster in some way. Whether it is taking advantage of injuries and struggling players in Chicago or being use as trade chips and utilizing their talents elsewhere, each of these players will have an impact with the big boys some day. Now we just have to wait and see how they do when they get the opportunity.