Checking in on the players Cubs acquired at 2021 deadline
It was just over a year ago that Jed Hoyer’s front office executed a massive selloff before the trade deadline, dealing away 9 players (including a trio of icons from the 2016 World Series team).
It was a wild time and it just might’ve altered the future of the franchise.
Let’s check in on how those new players and prospects are faring in the Cubs’ farm system one year out:
2B Nick Madrigal
The Craig Kimbrel trade netted the Cubs a pair of players who could help in the big leagues immediately (or close to it). But it hasn’t quite panned out that way as Madrigal missed most of the 2021 season with a torn hamstring (which occurred before the trade) and Codi Heuer will miss all of 2022 after Tommy John surgery.
2022 has been a year of starts and stops for Madrigal, as he has missed time with separate back and groin injuries.
The 25-year-old second baseman returned from the IL last week and has played in a handful of games, including a start in the leadoff spot Sunday against the Marlins (which marked only his 35th game of the year).
Madrigal had a pair of hits in Friday’s game and singled Sunday. On the season, he is hitting .227/.270/.252.
He has not been able to get into a rhythm but this is still a player who was the 4th overall pick in 2018 and a Top-40 prospect in the game entering the 2021 season. He hit .317 with a .764 OPS in 83 games with the White Sox before the trade.
Now that he’s back on the field, the next two months could be very important for Madrigal’s future with the organization.
“One of the top priorities is get to see him as much as possible and also keep him healthy,” David Ross said Sunday.
RHP Codi Heuer
Heuer underwent Tommy John surgery in March and will be sidelined until the middle of 2023. When healthy, the 26-year-old figures to slot into the Cubs’ big-league bullpen.
In 25 appearances after the trade last season, Heuer had a 3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2 saves and 4 holds.
OF Pete Crow-Armstrong
Acquired from the Mets in the Javy Báez deal, the player affectionately known as “PCA” might be the crown jewel of the Cubs’ deadline haul last season. He currently checks in at No. 2 on Lance Brozdowski’s preseason Cubs prospect rankings.
Like Madrigal, Crow-Armstrong was injured at the time of the deadline and only played 6 games in the Mets system. But his shoulder is now fully healed and he’s enjoying one heck of a breakout season in the Cubs’ system.
The former 1st-round pick (19th overall in 2020) began the year with the Cubs’ Class-A team in Myrtle Beach but quickly earned a promotion to High-A South Bend. All told, he is hitting .310/.371/.532 (.902 OPS) in 74 games with 14 homers and 23 stolen bases. Plus, he’s an elite defender in center field and is still only 20 years old.
“We’re just even more excited [about Crow-Armstrong],” Cubs VP of player development Jared Banner said. “We knew had some power but maybe not quite this much. He’s gotten a lot stronger, his swings got even better over time.
“He does a lot of things really well and we knew that and he’s just gotten a chance to go out on the field and show that this year. We’re excited.”
RHP Caleb Kilian
Kilian and Alexander Canario came over from the Giants in the Kris Bryant deal and represents one of the most exciting arms in the Cubs’ system.
The right-hander made his MLB debut a couple days after his 25th birthday in June and was overall impressive against a good Cardinals lineup. But he struggled in 2 starts after that, namely with his control (12 walks overall in 11.1 MLB innings).
Kilian has pitched well at Triple-A Iowa this year, with a 4-1 record, 3.53 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 71.1 innings across 17 starts.
“Development is not always linear as much as we like it to be so,” Banner said. “We expect to have him back at some point in the future and I’m sure he’ll take advantage of that opportunity.”
Kilian came in at No. 9 on the preseason prospect rankings.
OF Alexander Canario
The 22-year-old outfielder just took home the Cubs’ minor league player of the month award for July after absolutely raking throughout the month.
“He’s hot as can be right now and he’s trending up,” Banner said late last month. “It’s not just a hot streak. He’s doing everything better and better each month and we’re really excited to see that. This is the player we envisioned when we traded for him.”
The No. 10 prospect in the Cubs system is getting his first taste of Double-A ball this season and has performed well. He has crushed 26 homers and posted a .554 slugging percentage and .893 OPS in 93 games this year.
Canario is on the Cubs’ 40-man roster already so it’s not crazy to think he could make his MLB debut before the end of the 2023 season.
OF Kevin Alcantara
Alcantara was the return from the Yankees for Anthony Rizzo and is a freak athlete, listed at 6-foot-6, 188 pounds. He just turned 20 in July and has some of the highest upside of anybody in the Cubs system.
In 91 games at Class-A Myrtle Beach this season, Alcantara is hitting .262/.350/.445 (.795 OPS) with 12 homers, 11 steals and 73 RBI.
He is a couple years away from the big leagues but already comes in as the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect on Brozdowski’s preseason list.
RHP Daniel Palencia
The 22-year-old righty came over to the Cubs organization from the Oakland A’s in exchange for reliever Andrew Chafin a season ago.
He has pitched at Advanced Class-A South Bend this season and posted a 4.18 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He is also striking out batters at an elite clip (11.8 K/9) and reportedly hit 102 mph on the radar gun in his outing Sunday:
Welcome back.— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 7, 2022
In his return from the IL, No. 26 @Cubs prospect Daniel Palencia strikes out the first six batters he faces — while reportedly touching 102 mph — for the @SBCubs. pic.twitter.com/MVS6VtXhpx
Brozdowski had Palencia ranked No. 22 on the preseason list.
RHP Anderson Espinoza
Espinoza is an interesting case. The Cubs acquired the young right-hander in the Jake Marisnick deal last summer with the Padres.
Espinoza has elite prospect pedigree, coming in as high as No. 19 in the game on Baseball America’s ranking entering the 2016 season. But since then, he has had Tommy John surgery twice and COVID wiped out the minor league season in 2020, so he did not pitch competitively for 4 years.
The 24-year-old pitched in Advanced Class-A and Double-A last season for the Cubs and started this year at Tennessee again. But he was on the 40-man roster and was called up as the 27th man for a doubleheader in May. He made his MLB debut against the Brewers, tossing 4 innings and striking out 6.
Espinoza has bounced between the majors and the minors this season but after the Cubs dealt away four relievers at last week’s deadline, he is getting an opportunity now in the Chicago bullpen.
He threw a scoreless frame Sunday and has a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings so far.
LHP Bailey Horn
The Cubs picked up Horn in the Ryan Tepera deal with the White Sox last summer and the 24-year-old southpaw was having a solid season as a reliever until recently.
Horn began the year with South Bend and was promoted to Double-A Tennessee in May. He carried a 2.32 ERA and .165 batting average against in his first 19 outings (31 innings) of the year.
But he struggled for a few outings in a row before righting the ship Sunday. His overall season line is a 3.86 ERA and 1.49 WHIP with 46 strikeouts in 35 innings. He was a 5th-round pick out of Auburn in 2020.
1B Bryce Ball
Ball was the first prospect the Cubs picked up last summer, coming over from the Braves in the Joc Pederson trade. He topped out in A-ball last season but has played at Double-A this year.
In 98 games with Tennessee, Ball is hitting .276/.367/.419 (.786 OPS), 9 homers, 62 RBI and 22 doubles. He is a big, left-handed-hitting first baseman (listed as 6-foot-6) and turned 24 in July.
OF Greg Deichmann
Deichmann joined Palencia in the Chafin deal and made his MLB debut last year, playing in 14 games and hitting .133.
The Cubs designated the 27-year-old outfielder for assignment in April, removing him from the 40-man roster. He went unclaimed on waivers so he was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, where he has hit .218 with a .616 OPS in 72 games this season.
RHP Alexander Vizcaíno
Vizcaíno, 25, has been on the restricted list all season after failing to report to Cubs camp in the spring.