Latest Posts

Prospect Report: Miguel Amaya

Has all the makings of at least a future league average bat in a starting catcher

How acquired: International Free Agency 2015

Miguel Amaya is a divisive prospect in Cubs system rankings. There are some prognosticators who view Amaya as the no-doubt top prospect in the Cubs system with a future as an above-average bat and future all-star catcher. Others see a catcher putting in the work, but not breaking out like a Brennen Davis or Brailyn Marquez. It’s also fair to question how much the bat will play at the next level. And then you see this granny from Miguel Amaya and you wonder just how quick he can get a flight to Wrigley.

Hit

Baseball America listed Amaya as having the best strike zone judgment in the system. With players like Andy Weber, Chase Strumpf, and Alfonso Rivas in the Cubs organization, that is enormous praise. At this time I have it as an average hit tool. That’s about a .250-.260 hitter. With good strike zone judgement ideally leading to higher walk totals, that’s someone capable of a .340-.350 OBP.

Power

The power department is where Amaya has made the most successful development. What I had rated as solid average power in 2019 when he blasted 11 home runs in pitcher friendly Carolina League stadiums at the age of 20, appears to be blossoming into above-average power at least. I won’t lie, this is an unfair comparison. That swing looks reminiscent to Carlos Lee. I don’t believe Amaya will ever reach that level of power, especially considering it was a different offensive environment at the time, but I think there’s real power coming.

Below image lists every catcher (minimum 220 at bats) who achieved a 100 wRC+ or better (see stats below) in 2019. It’s not a long list with roughly half the league having a catcher who was an above average offensive performer. Miguel Amaya can certainly be that. The power and strike zone judgment leads you to dream on a top 10 bat at the position with a wOBA of around .340.

Fangraphs leaderboard from 2019

Field/Arm/Work with Pitchers

By all accounts, Amaya has made consistent progress with his defense. Reports out of the alternate site suggested that Miguel worked considerably on his framing and receiving. From my 2019 video review, it’s solid, but like all young catchers could get a bit erratic at times. Of note, it’s unlikely that Cubs officials are going to pan Amaya in the press so it’s not an unbiased opinion, however he still had heaps of praise. Losing out on 140 minor league games hurt countless players inside and outside the organization, but I’m not sure Amaya is one of them (or at least not to the same extent). Miguel getting to work with advanced minor league and even major league pitchers every day will ultimately benefit him taking the next step.

I had the arm as above-average in 2019. I think it’s better than that now. In limited viewing in the Winter Leagues, Miguel is showing off what could be a plus arm.

Pitchers love throwing to Miguel Amaya. As he takes that next step to big-league catcher, commanding the respect of pitchers a decade his senior will be vital to his success. No one knows the dynamic of a pitcher-catcher relationship like someone directly involved so I’ll just leave it to Cubs pitching prospect, Jack Patterson, via Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) to describe Amaya’s work with pitchers.

Speed

He’s a catcher. Cubs fans have been spoiled watching Willson Contreras’s speed (albeit not his baserunning) over the years. Miguel has below average speed and I think it may tick down from there. It’s not part of his game and not tied to future projections.

Future Projection

With all that said, I still have Amaya as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs system. Admittedly I created that ranking prior to watching Amaya bash doubles into the gap and come rumbling around first with so much moxie that Mike Matheny tried to call all the way from Kansas City to have the opposing team throw at him. But I am also mindful that Miguel’s body type is far more Victor Caratini than Willson Contreras at this stage. I do question what the body may look like in his 26-29 years. So much of a catcher’s success behind the plate is tied to lateral mobility and I would imagine the Cubs development staff is keenly aware of the steps needed to keep him a viable and better defensive catcher

I’ll stick with my 5th best in the system ranking. Amaya is, in my opinion, a definite Top 100 prospect. He’s close to the majors and an absolute field general. The bat looks like it’s continued to improve, he works extraordinarily well with pitchers, and he’s popping off back picks to 2B with ease. The featured image in the article is from 2017 when Miguel was the youngest player on the Eugene roster. My wife and I had tickets behind home plate. It was clear then that Amaya was absolutely a take-charge catcher. I looked to my wife in the 5th inning after he blocked a pitch in the dirt and looked the runner back to third before going to the mound to calm down the pitcher (Jose Albertos) and said “that is a future major league catcher”. Fans may not have to wait long for that prognostication to be fact.

StatisticNameDefinitionCalculation
wRC+Weighted runs createdAttempts to quantify total offensive value and extrapolate the data into total runs. It takes park effects into account. 100 wRC+ is average.See specific calculation at Fangraphs
wOBAWeighted on base averageMeasures a hitters overall offensive value by assigning a weighted factor to each individual outcome a hitter is in control of at the plate.See specific calculation at Fangraphs. Of note, this calculation changes annually.

Prospect Report: Kohl Franklin

Young righthander oozes projection with potential to be impressive mid-rotation starter

Kohl Franklin in South Bend Cubs debut by Rikk Carlson (@RikkCarl10)

How acquired: MLB Draft 2018

Kohl Franklin was primed for a breakout season in 2020 with a slot in a full season rotation lined up. As a 6’4″, lean projectable righthander with three pitches he can land in the strikezone, Kohl is a dream for the Cubs Player Development staff. The Cubs have struggled to develop a significant starting pitching prospect for years, but with vast improvements in pitch design and biomechanics in the organization, Franklin becomes one of several legitimate prospects on the rise.

Mechanics and Control

Franklin is a long lanky righthander with a repeatable delivery despite a lot of moving pieces. He comes set in a balanced position and like most Cubs farmhands, Franklin has a long arm path. Kohl hides the ball well, but doesn’t incorporate a lot of deception in his pitching motion. Kyle Hendricks would be impressed with how quickly Franklin works. For a 19 year old facing recent college draftees, I was impressed with his control. He consistently works around the plate and he’ll give up some walks, but he doesn’t get mechanically out of sync as compared to his peer group. Command still a smidge behind control, but you can see the foundation for improvements in both as he matures. I’ll avoid putting a particular projection on either control/command in someone this young (especially without seeing in the past year), but both are encouraging.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: It has some zip. Even in 2019, Franklin’s fastball would be consistent low 90s with good movement. His fastball has some natural run to his “arm side” (meaning it’ll tail into right handed hitters). When Franklin is going well he’ll throw the pitch on the outside to righties and let it creep back onto the plate. That will appear like nibbling, especially in the low minors (see the control/command above), and Kohl can be guilty of it, but it’s a good use of the fastball. The most encouraging aspect of the fastball is the climbing velocity. What started out as high 80s when drafted, now tops off at mid 90s. There’s hope for even more as he continues to grow. I have this pitch as above-average right now.

Changeup: Franklin was drafted with a promising feel for a changeup. While it is still developing, his changeup is coming along. It’s a low 80s offering, with good fading action. It plays off Franklin’s natural movement on his fastball. Unlike the breaking ball, he doesn’t telegraph the pitch so it plays up with a 10 mph separation from the fastball. This is an above-average pitch with plus potential.

Curveball: Franklin can really snap a few curveballs. He’s always had a feel for spin as he was one of many pitchers the Cubs drafted from 2017-2018 who relied on a curveball as their offspeed specialty. When he got to pro ball though he’s become an adopter of the Cubs “spike curve” that they’ve incorporated into pitching repertoires throughout the organization. Especially as Kohl experiences velo gains with his fastball, the hammer curve can play off fastballs higher up in the zone. My only concern is the views from 2019 still show him “telegraphing” the pitch. The arm slot appears to be more over the top. He already throws from a high 3/4 delivery. I’ll reserve judgment on the arm slot changes as those could be different now, but it’s an average pitch at present.

Slider: There’s been talk that Franklin was working on a slider prior to the shutdown. But the progress of that is unknown.

Future Projection

Kohl Franklin offers the upside of a mid-rotation starter on a playoff team at present. Pitchers of this level are often the best pitcher on mediocre teams and capable of putting up consistent 2.5-3 WAR annual performances. If that at all sounds like a disappointment, it shouldn’t be. This is the level of a player that would start twice in a 7-game playoff series and you’d feel good about your chances. This current projection is based on his 2019 performances and limited video that Kohl has posted on his social media accounts. If Franklin debuts an effective slider, that could improve the overall projection. Recently, Matt Dorey, VP of Player Development for the Chicago Cubs, noted Kohl had some of the highest upside in the system. That’s enormous praise and enigmatic of the work that Franklin has exhibited during the shutdown and at instructs.

Prospect Report: Adbert Alzolay

Adbert Alzolay in South Bend Photo by Joel Dinda. You can find his work and many other images at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwlguide/
Adbert Alzolay in South Bend (2016). Photo by Joel Dinda. You can find his work and many other images here

Young arm took dramatic steps forward after developing multiple new pitches at the Alternate Site

How acquired: International Free Agency 2012

Cubs fans have been hearing about Adbert Alzolay as a legitimate rotation option since 2018. Unfortunately a series of injuries, namely an ankle injury that delayed his ’18 and then a lat injury which ended his ’18, prevented his debut until 2019. On June 20th, 2019, Adbert Alzolay came out of the pen and dazzled to a line of 4 innings, 1 hit, 1 ER, and a 5:2 K/BB. While the scouting report on Alzolay featured prominent mentions about a fastball/curveball pairing, it was his changeup that befuddled hitters. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the evening or perhaps you’d have to “tip your cap” to the opposing teams, but Adbert’s changeup hasn’t matched the success of that night in 2019. Alzolay was rocked in his first start and found himself sent down until August of 2020. In his time in South Bend under the watchful eye of the player development staff, Adbert Alzolay created two pitches and changed, perhaps, the entire course of his career.

Mechanics and Control

Alzolay features a good grouping of release points (notice the tight grouping below, which is one aspect of “tunneling”). He displayed consistent mechanics in his final several starts of 2020, but does have a history of getting out of whack. It’s led to a high walk rate and there’s some effort in his delivery. Adbert has always been more control over command. He’s usually around the strike zone. However he’s not immune to pitches landing in the zone but far away from the catcher’s mitt. Ultimately it’s average control and slightly below average command. He has the potential to have above average control and average command with refinement.

Baseball Savant
Visual representation of Adbert Alzolay’s release point from the catcher’s perspective.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Velocity is not a problem for the emerging righthander. Coming in at an average of 94.3 mph, Adbert’s 4-seam fastball has zip. He can run it up into the high 90s when needed, but despite the speed, it doesn’t play well as a primary offering. Adbert’s fastball has mediocre spin with an average rpm of 2399 (good for 95th in baseball last year). He threw it 30% of the time and it was tattooed to a .636 slugging percentage and a wOBA of .440. His Whiff% on the pitch was 18.6%. Ultimately his command holds it back. I have a future average projection on it at the present, but this is a case where Adbert may need to drop the use percentage to closer to 25% or make significant strides with his command. Even if he just uses it to elevate and change eye level, it would be more successful.

Changeup: Has approximately 10 mph difference from the fastball. Admittedly, I’m not sure why he didn’t throw it more prior to the emergence of his 2-seam/sinker and slider. It plays as an above-average pitch at times and worked better than his 4-seam fastball. There wasn’t a single extra base hit off it in 2020, but he used it less than 10% of the time. In a longer season, Adbert should consider going to it more. His changeup produced an absurd 58.3% Whiff%. I believe in this pitch. I think it can be a plus offering.

Curveball: Adbert still features a slow curve (80 mph). His slower curve showed flashes of being a successful pitch (featured prominently in 2017-2018 in minors) earlier in his development. I have it rated as average at present. He likes to feature it up in the zone and to steal a strike.

2-Seam: This is where the real fun begins. Adbert developed two new pitches during his time in South Bend with his two-seam. Craig Breslow and the rest of the R&D and player development staff deserve credit, but ultimately Adbert was the individual who brought the changes to the field. This is a drastically improved pitch but relies on Adbert’s ability to throw his slider (see below). It features strong arm side run and is very effective moving away from left handed hitters and in to righties. It’s a useful pitch for inducing soft contact. I have it as an above-average pitch, but that is conditional based on the continued success of his slider.

Slider: Nothing changed Alzolay’s future projection more than the development of this slider at the Alternate Site. It’s absolutely filthy and I have it as a plus pitch. Admittedly that may be selling it short. Additionally, the presence of this pitch allows Adbert’s other pitches to play up. In 2020 Adbert’s slider registered an average spin 2896 rpm (9th in baseball in 2020). It features significantly more horizontal movement and vertical drop than the average slider. Hitters could do little with the pitch in 2020. The key metrics need to focus on his final two games of the regular season (after he changed his grip). On 9/22/2020, Adbert threw his slider 50.8% of the time with a 47.6% whiff%, a wOBA of .077, and an average spin of 2868. His final regular season game (9/27/2020), 39% of Alzolay’s pitches were sliders. They produced a 38.5% whiff%, a wOBA of 0.63, and an average spin of exactly 3000 rpm(!).

Baseball Savant
Visual representation of Alzolay’s slider (yellow). His other pitches are 2-seam (orange), 4-seam (red), changeup (green)

Future Projection

I’ve completely bought in on Adbert Alzolay. With his improvements to his pitch repertoire, his metrics plays as a #2 or #3 starter. It was a mixed bag for the Cubs in 2020, but I’d argue Alzolay’s emergence is second only to Ian Happ’s in relation to importance to the organization in 2021. My only concern is Adbert’s prior health issues. From 2018-2019, Adbert dealt with an ankle injury, pulled lat, and biceps inflammation. Combining Adbert’s pitches, health, and the current landscape of pitching in MLB, Alzolay’s future profile screams an above-average pitcher capable of throwing 120-130 innings in the regular season.

StatisticsNameDefinitionCalculation
Whiff%Whiff percentageProvides information on swing and miss percentages (whiffs), which are positively correlated to strikeout percentage(whiffs)/(swings)
wOBAWeighted on base averageFactors in individual hitting occurrences and weighs each separately. For instance a double is worth more than a single, which is worth more than a hit by pitch.See specific calculation on fangraphs

Prospect Report: Brailyn Marquez

True ace potential from left hand side, but development will require significant improvements to command, sinker, and changeup.

How acquired: International Free Agency 2015

There isn’t a single arm in the entire Cubs system with more ceiling than Brailyn Marquez. He’s steadily improved from the lanky left handed who could touch the low 90s and is on the doorstep to impacting Wrigley if he can make more incremental improvements to his mechanics and secondaries.

Mechanics and Control

Marquez has very smooth mechanics for a 21 year old fire-balling lefty, but there’s still work to be done in refining. He has a long arm path. It’s been in vogue for development staffs to shorten arm paths (see Giolito, Robbie Ray, etc), but the Cubs have actively worked to keep Brailyn’s arm longer in the delivery. While there’s very little effort in the delivery, the long levers can cause his arm slot to drift. The Cubs have made a concerted effort to work with Marquez to keep his upper and lower body in sync. It’s definitely control over command right now. If he wants to stay in the starting rotation it’ll be critical to establish even just below-average command and average control. His stuff is so elite that it could still play at a high level with modest improvements.

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Absolutely elite potential in this pitch. Marquez routinely pitches close to 100 mph (touches 102), but sits mid 90s late in starts. He looks like he’s just playing catch and it eats up hitters. While it doesn’t present with high spin rates (2384 rpm average in brief 2020 appearance), the velocity is unbelievably impressive. The command needs to make significant improvements for this pitch to reach it’s potential. Upper 90s from the left side down the middle of the plate will play at A+, but he’ll need more in the majors. I’m confident that can improve. The fastball can be a plus-plus pitch.

Changeup: Clearly Brailyn’s third pitch. During his one outing in 2020 he consistently slowed his arm action when throwing his change, which will need to be cleaned up. The White Sox were able to just spit on it. He threw it 10 times and two of the pitches were solid (one was actually really nice and I’m shocked Encarnacion didn’t swing at it). The pitch was consistently in the 90-91 range and not very effective due to his command issues. When he’s on, the changeup plays off the fastball. I won’t put too much stock into his one 2020 outing. I have this as an average pitch based on his 2019 outings and I really think the pitch fits well in his repertoire when he throws it down and away to righties. This pitch is the key to him becoming a starter.

Slider: Utilizes a curve grip in his “spike slider”. Marquez designed this pitch along with former Cubs pitching guru, Brendan Segara It tunnels fairly well with his fastball when his mechanics are flowing. I had this pitch from 82-85 mph and it’s the most successful when he’s burying it. Occasionally he’s let it slurve over the middle of the plate, which he was able to get away with that at Myrtle Beach. I have it as an above-average pitch on it’s own, but it plays up when the fastball is commanded well. With continued refinement, I’d project this to be a consistent plus pitch.

Sinker: This pitch is a work in progress and it wasn’t thrown at all during his 2020 outing. Marquez began to work with it this year with the pitch design staff. I’ll refrain from any sort of grade or prognostication. With the obvious caveat that the Cubs front office isn’t going to be too forthcoming if there were negatives, here’s Criag Breslow on Brailyn Marquez’s sinker courtesy of The Athletic ($, subscription required and encouraged).

“When he threw his first sinker, we realized that it could make sense to accelerate its development, given just how unique a profile it was,” Breslow said. “We still controlled the volume, wanting to focus on the development of the four-seam, until a few weeks ago, where we asked him to gain some additional comfort deploying what we believe can serve as a plus big league pitch.”

Craig Breslow via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic

Future Projection

If I’m being cautious, I see a reliever, but don’t let that scare you. We’re talking elite, take-over-the-game time of talent. I won’t comp him to either player, but thinking back to the impact Andrew Miller in 2016 and Josh Hader in 2018-2019 had on playoff games. If the opposing team didn’t have the lead in the fourth inning, the game was over. Both pitchers were multi-inning incinerators and carried their respective teams further in the playoffs than anticipated. Brailyn Marquez can be that and more.

There is always the hope that Marquez has a more normal Spring Training, gets into a rhythm during the MILB season, and finds himself with the opportunity to start for the Cubs during the 2021 season. He’ll need significant refinement, but there’s elite talent there. If the changeup and sinker are able to be average pitches and he makes strides with his command, then the sky is the limit. The 2021 and beyond question is “will his impact be out of the rotation or the pen?”.

Prospect Report: Ed Howard IV

Local high school draft pick is the next in a long line of elite shortstop prospects in the Cubs system

Ed Howard in 2020 Instructs by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

How acquired: MLB Draft 1st round #16 overall, 2020

Gavin Lux, Royce Lewis, Jordan Groshans, Bobby Witt Jr… Ed Howard. The track record for top prep shortstops in recent years is excellent. Heading into the 2020 MLB first year player draft, many draft sites noted that Howard was “falling” in the rankings and mocks. The perception was at the time that Howard didn’t have the opportunity to show his progress leading into his senior season that other prep shortstops like Carson Tucker did, and was “losing ground”. In mock drafts, the Cubs were frequently mentioned with a bevy of college pitchers and OF Garrett Mitchell (ultimately drafted by the Brewers) and while the Athletic named Ed Howard one of the six players they believed the Cubs had zeroed in on, it still was a surprise to hear his name called at #16 by his hometown team. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising at all. Ed Howard possesses the skills to be an above average and even All-Star shortstop for over a decade in the major leagues.

Hit

I won’t dwell too heavily into the mechanics since he has been working with Justin Stone and the hitting department down in instructional league, but it’s a swing that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts. He utilizes a short rock-back and has a timing mechanism that’ll need to get ironed out. The mechanism works well in batting practice, but he had a few instances of being late on velocity in-game. The swing can get long, although in more recent footage it’s shortened up. It’s not there yet, but he’s just entering pro ball. I have seen Howard catch up to a really good fastball on the outside corner and drive it. I’m not concerned about the hit tool. It projects to be at least average. I’d bet his future projection is above-average. Fangraphs puts an above-average hit tool at .270 BA. That sounds within reach.

Power

This is likely the most divisive projection for Howard. He looks to have put on some excellent strength and started to fill out his projectable frame during the shutdown. Without in game footage of his time in instructs, I’ll cautiously say he projects to average power (15-20 home runs), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this projection increase in the coming years in pro ball.

Field/Arm

Ed Howard is universally recognized for his defensive chops. He can move well laterally to his left and right and possesses a projectable frame that allows him to add muscle (see above) while still looking the part of a future plus shortstop. Nicknamed “Silk” by his teammates at Mt Carmel, everything Howard does in the field is smooth. He has enough arm for SS and that can continue to improve further in pro ball.

Speed

Steals don’t appear to be a huge part of Howard’s game, but he appears to have enough speed to put up a handful a year. If anything, his speed is more important to his fielding and that’s not in question. He looks like he’ll have above average speed.

Future Projection

Ed Howard IV has All-Star potential as a shortstop. Being drafted by the Cubs and working with Justin Stone offers Ed Howard a strong projection to provide above-average value on offense and plus (or higher) value on defense.

Welcome to Ivy Futures!

I grew up in the Chicago Suburbs before moving on to pharmacy school, then residency and clinical practice, and finally out to Willamette Valley following the Oregon trail with my wife, Christa, and dog, Addison. Following the Cubs minor leagues and the MLB draft has been my passion since I became a fan. I scoured every Baseball America article and newspaper clipping that featured the Cubs prospects. When I had the opportunity to attend the Cubs Convention as a child, I waited in line to meet Juan Cruz, Nic Jackson, and Bobby Hill rather than Mike Remlinger (No offense Mike!). My summers home from college involved me dragging my parents to Kane County Cougars because I had to see Javy Baez ( he went 1/4 with a booming home run to straight centerfield), Albert Almora, and Dan Vogelbach. The conversations about the Cubs organization, MiLB prospects, and the MLB Draft are what I love most about following baseball.

Ivy Futures is an opportunity to continue these conversations. I’ll try to blend my perspectives on the Cubs organization and players with sabermetric and biodynamic data, when available. I’m open to hearing your perspectives as well. Let me know your recommendations for topics and mediums to discuss them.

I hope you enjoy Ivy Futures!