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Minor League Monday: 2021 prospect possibilities

After a cancelled 2020 minor league season, one has to wonder what that will mean for minor league baseball players. While select players got to become part of a taxi squad, it wasn't the same as full in season action. Could this delay prospects from contributing at the show? Could it derail some possible careers? Today, I want to generate a list of players who could contribute at the major league level in 2021, so we can keep closer tabs on their development.

Here's a list of Cubs top prospects. Unfortunately, only 6 of them are deemed "MLB ready" at this point. Most of them are at class A or lower. This does not bode well for the missing 2020 season. Here are those 6 players:

Brailyn Marquez:

He made his MLB debut in 2020 as a 21 year old despite only pitching in 5 games at A+ ball in 2019. Because of the circumstances. he basically skipped AA and AAA. I suspect he'll need more seasoning before being ready.

He just completed his 5th professional season. 2 seasons in rookie ball, then 2 seasons working his way up through the 3 A class teams. He'll be just 22 in 2021.

Miguel Amaya:

Amaya is a top notch catching prospect. He's played 4 minor league seasons, appearing for A+ Myrtle Beach as a 20 year old in 2019. Starting as a 17 year old in rookie ball, he's been promoted by one level each year. He did not play in 2020.

I'm not sure why he's pegged as an MLB prospect already. With no time in AA or AAA, he figures to be very raw. He'll turn 22 during spring training.

Adbert Alzolay:

Bertie will be 26 in 2021. He started as a 18 year old rookie leaguer, making his way up through the system with essentially 50 starts at the class A level, then 7 in AA and 23 in AAA. He spent only a half season in AA as a 22 year old in 2017. 2018 was a full season at AAA, before making his debut in 2019. With 2 seasons at the upper level, he then had some decent numbers for the Cubs in 2020.

Adbert figures to be a factor in rotation plans for 2021. Perhaps he'll be a 6th starter, beginning in AAA until the eventual injury brings him up. But going into his age 26 season, he is more ready than anyone else on this list.

Justin Steele:

Steele made his big league debut with the Cubs in 2020 as part of the taxi squad. He began in rookie league ball as an 18 year old in 2014. Like others, he's got very limited experience in the upper levels (only 13 starts at AA, 0 at AAA). He was on the same basic 1 promotion per year plan, spending 1 season at each level before going up to the next level.

Assuming normality, I think he goes back to the minors for 2021. I'm not sure if that means AA or AAA, but he'll need seasoning. He's got a 5.18 ERA in AA (3.74 overall), so there are things he needs to figure out.

Tyson Miller:

Tyson made his MLB debut in 2020 as a 24 year old. After 3 college years, he joined the Cubs in 2016 as a 20 year old. He spent full seasons in A ball for '17/'18, then split the 2019 season between AA and AAA. While he was good at AA or lower, he struggled in AAA to the tune of a 7.58 ERA in 11 starts.

He was a part of the taxi squad in 2020. I figure he goes back to AAA in a hopefully normal 2021 season. Then we'll see him come up in the event of depth needs, or just in September once rosters expand.

James Norwood:

Norwood had 2 college seasons, before coming into the Cubs organization in 2014 as a 20 year old. He worked his way up efficiently. He typically was promoted in season, and would struggle at first before getting it under control the next season. The good news is that he appears to be pretty well developed. As a relief pitcher, he got more game action than others, with 99 appearances between AA and AAA. He actually made his debut in 2018, with snippets in the last two years as well.

I figure he'll either start in AAA or make the big league roster out of spring training. With solid numbers in the upper minor league levels, I think he's as ready as he'll ever be.

The cancelled 2020 minor league season will really hurt the Cubs. With only a handful of pitchers ready, this sets a lot of the minor league hitters way back. Without proper season and development, there could be some big time struggles for prospects brought up too soon in 2021. Hopefully normal minor league baseball resumes in 2021 so the Cubs minor league system ceases to produce. I'm not expecting much out of the minors for 2021. 2022 should be a much better year.



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