MLB mainstays Happ, Almora have graduated from MLB Pipeline's midseason update
By Scott Chasen
CHICAGO -- As the Cubs have catapulted back into a tight race atop the National League Central, the team's pipeline has played a huge role.
Getting off to a slow start in 2017 and dealing with some injuries along the way, the defending World Series champions have leaned on players such as Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr., both of whom began the year on the preseason MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects list but have graduated due to Major League service time, which was updated to reflect midseason changes.
Happ, ranked 28th in the Top 100 at the beginning of the season, was called up in May, and he contributed from the start. The 22-year-old began his Cubs career with 10 hits and five walks in his first eight Major League games. He has continued to grow, posting a .271/.320/.573 slash line in June and recording his second multihomer game in early July.
Almora, who ranked 76th in the preseason Top 100, began the year with the Cubs, and he has been a key fixture in the outfield. Getting the start in center field on Tuesday, the 23-year-old will have appeared in 79 of the team's first 99 games. For that reason, as MLB Pipeline announced its midseason update of the Top 100 Prospects list and the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects list, Almora and Happ were absent, having become mainstays in the big leagues.
In fact, the Cubs began the year with five players on the Top 100 list, but with the success of the duo and a midseason trade, the lone holdover for the club was Jeimer Candelario, who began the year ranked 96th in the Top 100 and has since risen to 93rd, while assuming the top spot among the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects.
The ranking of baseball's top prospects is done by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
Candelario did have a chance to showcase some of his ability this year, filling in primarily at third for a couple of brief stints, but he never stuck around long enough to make much of an impact. He has, however, been impactful with Triple-A Iowa, where he's posted a .296/.385/.516 slash line in 152 games in 2016 and '17.
As for the two prospects who have since moved on, the Cubs traded both Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the White Sox -- along with two other prospects -- in the Jose Quintana trade, which is why the Cubs sit near the bottom of the Majors in the Prospect Points ranking.
The system assigns point values to each prospect based off their place in the Top 100 and adds them together to compare to the other team totals. The Cubs (27th) have eight points, while Jimenez (the seventh-ranked prospect, 94 points) and Cease (the No. 69-ranked prospect, 32 points) are contributing heavily to the White Sox team total of 527 (tied for first).
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.