The Future is Now: Unveiling the Chicago Cubs’ Top Prospects of 2024
As the Chicago Cubs endure yet another frustrating offseason filled with more questions than answers, the one glimmer of hope continues to be the farm system. While the big league roster lacks certainty at nearly every position, the Cubs boast an enviable collection of prospects they hope will serve as the core of the next great team on the North Side.
Headlined by outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, right-hander Cade Horton and infielder Matt Shaw, the Cubs have three potential impact players on the cusp of reaching Wrigley Field. How soon they arrive and the kind of production they provide will go a long way toward determining if 2024 is another year of rebuilding or the start of a new era of Cubs baseball. Baseball betting picks will depend heavily on whether these top prospects can translate their minor league success to the big leagues.
Ready To Shine on Defense, But Offense Remains a Question
Pete Crow-Armstrong entered 2023 as the Cubs’ top prospect and did nothing to diminish that standing. If anything, his first taste of big league action only confirmed what scouts have long believed about the talented center fielder.
Defensively, Crow-Armstrong is already among the best in baseball. His speed allows him to cover massive amounts of ground while his instincts consistently put him in perfect position to make highlight-reel catches. His arm is another weapon, allowing him to keep runners from taking extra bases. Add it all up and Crow-Armstrong has the makings of a perennial Gold Glove candidate.
Offensively is where the questions remain. Crow-Armstrong has worked extensively on elevating the ball more often as a professional, but it has come at the cost of an elevated strikeout rate. The hope is he can find the right balance, but the realistic outlook is that he profiles similarly to Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader. Considering Bader’s immense defensive value, that would make Crow-Armstrong a highly valuable player, if not necessarily a star.
Power Arm Could Provide Rotation Boost
Part of the Cubs’ return for dealing away former MVP Kris Bryant, right-hander Cade Horton has done nothing but impress since being selected seventh overall in the 2022 draft. Ignoring his pedestrian 4.86 ERA during his final college season, the Cubs banked on Horton’s raw stuff translating against professional hitters. So far, it has.
Working across three levels in 2023, including Double-A, Horton dominated opposing lineups. Relying on a mid-90s fastball and two plus breaking balls, he struck out 33 percent of the batters he faced in posting a 1.69 ERA over 88 innings. The only thing that prevented Horton from making his big league debut last season was Chicago’s cautious approach to his workload.
If unleashed without restrictions in 2024, Horton should be ready to slot directly into the middle of the Cubs’ rotation. In fact, a blueprint has already been established by the World Series champion Dodgers with young starter Bobby Miller. After carefully controlling Miller’s innings in 2022, Los Angeles turned him loose last season to great effect. Expect Chicago to follow a similar path with Horton, who could provide a major boost by the All-Star break.
Well-rounded Infielder Not Far Away
Considering the uncertainty surrounding the Cubs’ infield entering 2024, having a versatile option like Matt Shaw nearing his debut is welcome news in Chicago. The 13th overall pick in 2022, Shaw did nothing but hit across two levels in his first taste of pro ball, batting .357 with an .618 slugging percentage.
Though drafted as a shortstop, Shaw’s below-average arm likely means second or third base is where he settles defensively. Fortunately, his bat profiles well at either spot. Shaw makes consistent hard contact and has shown early power that should continue translating as he matures.
Defensively, Shaw has proven competent, if not spectacular, at second, short and third. That versatility, paired with an advanced hit tool for his age, points to Shaw becoming a big league regular soon. With nothing standing in his way on the Cubs’ depth chart, expect Shaw to emerge as one of the favorite Rookie of the Year candidates by the 2024 All-Star break.
Cubs Must Balance Present and Future
As players like Crow-Armstrong, Horton and Shaw inch closer to Chicago, the Cubs face critical decisions about how many young players to work into the lineup. While prospects represent hope for a downtrodden franchise, relying too heavily on inexperienced players often leads to frustrating stretches of losses.
The Cubs endured that painful transition period while ushering in the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber nearly a decade ago. That group brought Chicago a World Series title but only after suffering through rebuilding seasons necessary to land them.
Balancing infusing high-end talent like Crow-Armstrong, Horton and Shaw with keeping a competitive lineup on the field will challenge Chicago’s front office. But make no mistake, the Cubs’ return to glory depends almost entirely on this next wave of prospects delivering on their potential.
If these three rising stars can make good on their considerable promise in 2024 and beyond, expect the lovable losers to recapture their winning ways sooner than later. Top betting websites will offer Cubs futures with long odds until these prospects prove they can produce at the big-league level.