23 for ’23: Which Cubs prospects have a good shot at getting called up to Chicago this season?
Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.
MESA, Ariz. — Over the last two seasons, the Cubs have had 32 different players make their MLB debuts.
It’s been a time of transition for the franchise.
2023 should be a bit more stable as the roster is packed with veterans who boast long track records, but the Cubs will still have opportunity for young players to make their mark.
Whether via injury or performance, the roster always shifts throughout a season.
Here are some young players who could make their debut in 2023 (and some others who have already reached the big leagues but could carve out larger roles for themselves):
1B Matt Mervis
Mervis enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Cubs system last season with 36 homers, 119 RBI and a .309 batting average. He added another 6 homers in 17 Arizona Fall League games.
The Cubs signed veterans Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini to deals this offseason, so the 24-year-old Mervis is likely to start the year in Iowa. But if he keeps hitting, it won’t be long until he’s mashing in the lineup in Chicago.
OF Brennen Davis
The Cubs’ top prospect on Lance Brozdowski’s ranking, Davis was primed to make his MLB debut at some point in 2022 after finishing 2021 with a solid stretch at Triple-A Iowa.
But a back injury sapped several months of Davis’ campaign and he struggled to get back on track physically even when he returned.
He has been given a clean bill of health and he spent a couple weeks in big-league camp this spring before the Cubs sent him down to Triple-A. If he’s able to stay healthy, he should be able to resume his ascension to Chicago and wind up patrolling the outfield later in 2023.
C Miguel Amaya
The Cubs currently only have three catchers on the 40-man roster: Yan Gomes, Tucker Barnhart and Amaya.
The young backstop has been limited to only 63 minor-league games over the last three seasons due to the pandemic and a pair of injuries (elbow, foot).
Amaya is still considered as the organization’s catcher of the future and just turned 24 on March 9. He has yet to play above Double-A in his career but it’s his last option year, so the Cubs know he’ll likely contribute to the big-league team at some point this season. He was optioned to minor league camp earlier this month, but has been ramping up in his return process.
OF Alexander Canario
Sticking with the theme of players on the 40-man roster who have been hampered by injuries recently, Canario was on the fast track to Chicago before a fluke incident in winter ball led to shoulder and ankle surgeries.
Canario, 22, mashed 37 homers with 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 125 games last season, beginning the year with Advanced Class-A South Bend and finishing in Triple-A.
He is still weeks — and possibly months — from returning to game action but, like Amaya, is in his last option year. The Cubs could bring him up late in the season, if he recovers well without any setbacks following the injury.
OF Pete Crow-Armstrong
Could we see him in the big leagues this season?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility even though “PCA” has not yet played a game above A-ball. His defense in center field is MLB-ready right now and he showed off his speed during his time in big-league camp earlier this spring (4 stolen bases).
So if the Cubs have a need for a defensive replacement and pinch-runner during a pennant race down the stretch, Crow-Armstrong could fit the bill.
PETE CROW-ARMSTRONG 🤯 pic.twitter.com/JJoSi2aiH9— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 7, 2023
RHP Ben Brown
The Cubs acquired Brown from the Phillies in exchange for David Robertson last summer. The 23-year-old topped out in Double-A last season, finishing with a 3.38 ERA and 12.9 K/9 in 23 appearances between Advanced Class-A and Tennessee. He is already on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
RHP Cam Sanders
Sanders made the switch from starting to relieving last season and has been one of the more impressive arms in camp. He can reach the upper 90s with his fastball. Sanders was unprotected this past winter during the Rule 5 Draft, but the Cubs are hoping that could be a blessing. It’s likely, barring injury, that Sanders could be up with the big-league club at some point this season.
Cam Sanders took care of business in the 9th inning today vs. the Dodgers. Here are his last two strikeouts to finish the game. Some of his pitches hit 99mph 🔥#Cubs #NextStartsHere | @WatchMarquee pic.twitter.com/NShVKnEVPJ— Scott Changnon (@ScottyChags) March 12, 2023
RHP Jeremiah Estrada
Estrada shot up through the Cubs system last year, starting the year at High-A South Bend before making his major league debut late last season. He was one of the many encouraging signs of the Cubs pitching infrastructure in 2022 and a hope that the Cubs are close to having a bullpen that can be augmented from homegrown arms. Estrada has some of the best stuff in the Cubs system and, since he’s already on the 40-man roster, will likely be seen in Chicago again at some point this season
RHP Danis Correa
Correa, like Sanders, was another young, explosive arm that went unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Correa was scheduled to play in the World Baseball Classic with Colombia, but opted to stay with the Cubs and experience his first big-league camp rather than be away from the team. He leaned on Kyle Hendricks in camp and the veteran showed him a refined grip on his changeup to balance his fireball fastball.
The Cubs opted to protect Ryan Jensen (2019 1st-round pick) this winter, adding the 25-year-old right-hander to the 40-man roster. He had a 4.25 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 59.1 innings as a starter with Double-A Tennessee last season.
Jake Slaughter was an 18th-round draft pick in 2018 and enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 in the Cubs system. The 26-year-old hit .293 with a .922 OPS, 20 homers and 28 stolen bases in 86 games with Double-A. He can play all over the infield and even saw a bit of time in left field last season.
Chase Strumpf repeated Double-A last season and had much more success than the first time around, posting a .379 on-base percentage with 21 homers. The Cubs’ 2019 2nd-round pick can play third base and second base.
Like Slaughter and Strumpf, Andy Weber is a recent draft pick (2018 5th-rounder), can play a variety of different positions (shortstop, second, third) and spent last year at Double-A. Weber hit .300 with a .753 OPS in Tennessee and could be an option in Chicago if a need arises later this year.
Brailyn Marquez was once the prized pitching prospect in the Cubs system and even made his MLB debut in the final game of 2020. But that’s actually the last game he pitched as he’s dealt with shoulder injuries and a couple bouts of COVID since then. He’s back in the organization on a minor-league deal and if he can finally right the ship, he could potentially work his way into the mix as a left-handed bullpen arm down the stretch.
23 for ’23 series
What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?
What is the plan for Matt Mervis?
Who are some under-the-radar players that could make the Opening Day roster?
What will Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer bring to this team?
Which young Cubs pitchers will take the next step this season?
What can we expect from Kyle Hendricks when he returns this season?
What does the Opening Day bullpen look like?
Will the Cubs’ pitching staff pick up where it left off?
What will the Opening Day lineup look like?
After career years with Cubs, what’s next for Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner?
Will Cody Bellinger return to his MVP-caliber form?
How will the Cubs balance development of young players with contending for NL Central crown?
Which Cubs players could be primed for a breakout this season?
How will the new MLB rules affect the Cubs?