Will any current players be part of Hoyer's "Next Great Cubs team?"
First of three parts
This has been a strange season for the Cubs. They began a significant rebuild at last year's trade deadline, but most of their hope for the future is deep in the minor leagues.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer often talks about the Next Great Cubs team. With the current group struggling to win games and the trade deadline less than two weeks away, this is a good time to look at which players have the best chance of being on that theoretical next great team.
Granted, we can't be sure if it will take two years, 10 years or 100 years for the Cubs to be great again. For the purposes of this story, we'll stick with players who are currently living and count it down from least likely to most likely. 30. Nick Madrigal: Injury issues followed Madrigal on the move from South Side to North, so he hasn't had much of a chance to put his contact skills on display. There's a chance he could get rolling and be a key piece to the future. At this point, though, it appears the future at second base will be Christopher Morel or Nico Hoerner, if the Cubs ever go shortstop shopping.
29. Frank Schwindel: The hope was Schwindel could continue his remarkable run of last year when he was top-10 in OPS after the all-star break. He's also had injury issues, struggling with a sore back since training camp and is hitting .238. With the Cubs moving first baseman Matt Mervis from Tennessee to Iowa this week, it feels like they want to see if Mervis deserves a tryout in the majors next year. Mervis has 21 home runs and 80 RBI between South Bend and Tennessee so far this season. If Schwindel starts hitting, he may have a future as a DH.
28. Nelson Velazquez: It's good to see the Cubs' No. 16-ranked prospect get an extended run in a majors. He's shown flashes of power at the plate and a strong arm in the outfield. But the Cubs are loaded with outfield prospects, so hitting .206 with a 36% strikeout rate is not going to cut it. The Puerto Rico native probably needs more time in Triple A.
27. Marcus Stroman: His stats are misleading this season. Take away a horrendous outing against St. Louis on June 3 -- just before he went on the injured list -- and Stroman has posted a 1.39 ERA in his last six starts. So he can definitely help, is signed through next year and has a player option for 2024. But at 31, it seems likely the Cubs will try to flip him for prospects before this contract runs out.
26. Brailyn Marquez/Manny Rodriguez: These were the two hardest throwers in an organization that's lacked power arms. But both have been injured and inactive. Marquez was the Cubs' top-ranked prospect when he made his major-league debut against the White Sox at the end of the 2020 season. But he hasn't pitched in a game since then and it's unclear when he might return. Rodriguez debuted last summer and posted a 6.11 ERA in 20 major-league appearances. He spent most of this season on the 60-day IL with a right elbow strain. There's still hope for both, but more questions at the moment.
25. P.J. Higgins/Miguel Amaya: If the Cubs trade Willson Contreras, they'll need a catcher and these two are next in line. Higgins has shown some promise at the plate. Once a high-rated prospect, Amaya just started playing again after Tommy John surgery, so he'll likely need another year or two in the minors.
24. Christian Hernandez: This shortstop from the Dominican Republic is rated the Cubs' second-best prospect and No. 67 overall by MLB Pipeline. But he's 18 and currently hitting .261 at the Arizona Rookie League, so there's a long way to go.
23. Patrick Wisdom: It's easy to project Wisdom as the Cubs' starting third baseman for a few more years, considering the top prospect at the position is probably James Triantos, who is still in Low A Myrtle Beach. Wisdom has cut down on his strikeout rate from last year, but is still tied for the MLB lead in whiffs at the break.
22. Kyle Hendricks: He's one veteran who isn't likely to be traded since he's sidelined by a right shoulder strain. Hendricks, 32, is signed for one more season, plus an option year. With an ERA of 4.77 last year and 4.80 this season, it's hard to feel optimistic about a longer stay.
21. David Bote: He's under contract for two more years, then the Cubs can buy him out in 2025. So if they get better fast, Bote might still be around, but he's been through a lot of injuries and hasn't continued the early-career success.