Could a "Next Great Cubs Team" include Contreras?
Second in a series
As mentioned in Part 1, management often talks about building the "Next Great Cubs Team," but there hasn't been much evidence of it on the field.
As the Cubs prepare to resume play Friday in Philadelphia, they're on pace to finish 62-100. This might be a good time to point out MLB will initiate a draft lottery next year where the three worst teams have a 16.5% chance of landing the top pick.
The top six picks in 2023 will be determined by lottery. So in theory, the Cubs could finish with the fourth-worst record and end up picking 10th.
But that's a problem for later. For now, let's continue the countdown of players with the best chance of being part of the theoretical Next Great Cubs Team:
20. Adbert Alzolay: This was supposed to be the season when we'd figure out if consistency would kick in and he'd become an above average starter. But he started the season on the 60-day injured list with right elbow tightness. While he's started throwing again, it's not clear if he'll make it back or if this will be a lost season, a tough scenario for a still-developing 27-year-old. The vote here is Alzolay will be an effective pitcher for the Cubs, either as a starter or in the bullpen, but time will tell.
19. Cade Horton/Jackson Ferris: These pitchers were the Cubs' first two picks in the draft and the thought process seems pretty clear. The Cubs are feeling confident in their ability to develop pitchers and really want to develop an ace, something the franchise hasn't accomplished since probably Carlos Zambrano. Horton put on a big-time performance at the College World Series and Ferris was considered a first-round talent by many. There are plenty of other candidates too, since the Cubs drafted 16 pitchers this week.
18. Willson Contreras: Is there any scenario where Contreras stays with the Cubs past the Aug. 2 trade deadline? Well, there are a couple angles. One theory is teams don't like to trade for catchers at midseason because too much work is needed to learn a new pitching staff. Another is the fact that four, maybe five teams, have been dominant so far. Besides the Yankees, Mets, Astros, Dodgers and Braves, what team is going to think it has a chance at winning it all?
So maybe the offers will be underwhelming. Maybe the contenders will get distracted by trying to land Washington's Juan Soto. Maybe the Cubs really are planning to be competitive next year and decide re-signing Contreras is a good start. It's all probably wishful thinking. Contreras admitted at the All-Star Game a trade seems inevitable.
17. Kevin Alcantara, James Triantos: These are two of the Cubs' best prospects, ranked No. 4 and 5, respectively, by MLB Pipeline. But they're still in Low A at Myrtle Beach. While the future is bright for both players, the longer the climb to the majors, the smaller the odds of ever getting there.
16. Scott Effross: One of the most successful arms in the current bullpen, Effross, 28, is a significant victory for the Cubs' pitching development staff since he was able to convert to a sidearm delivery while in Double A.
15. Brandon Hughes: This left-hander is maybe an even bigger victory for pitching development since he converted from the outfield and reached the majors at 26. The Cubs felt confident enough to draft a couple of part-time pitchers this week, Georgia's Shane Marshall and New Jersey high-schooler Nazier Mule.
14. Ian Happ: The Cubs should be rooting for Happ to be an obvious keeper since he was an all-star for the first time. But he's run hot and cold for a few years, and the Cubs are loaded with outfield prospects in the minors. It wouldn't be a shock if president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer tries to sell high at the trade deadline.
13. Jordan Wicks, D.J. Herz: These two left-handers were just promoted from South Bend to Double A Tennessee. Herz, an eighth-round pick in 2019, posted a 2.26 ERA in 17 starts for South Bend, with 99 strikeouts in 64 innings. Lower-level hitters struggled to touch his sharp-breaking curve and what he calls a Vulcan change-up. Wicks was the Cubs' first-round pick last year and was just starting to dominate in Class A. It will be interesting to see what both pitchers do at the next level.
12. Caleb Kilian: The highest-ranked pitching prospect in the organization, at least before the 2022 draft, Kilian looked great in his major-league debut against the Cardinals, then struggled in his next two starts before being sent back to Iowa. A product of the Kris Bryant trade, the Cubs figure to give him another turn at Wrigley before the season ends.
11. Alexander Canario/Matt Mervis: Power bats are vital in today's MLB and these are the two most promising sluggers in the minors. Mervis, an undrafted free agent in 2020 out of Duke, combined for 21 homers and 80 RBI between South Bend and Tennessee, and will start the second half in Iowa. Canario, another piece of the Bryant trade, has 22 homers and 60 RBI this season, and at 22, is a couple years younger than Mervis.