Earlier this week we posted an article that took a look at which Chicago Cubs prospects are ready to rise and which are ready to just wake up. It was a group exercise that let everyone express their own opinions. Since we love the Cubs so much, we’re back with a similar exercise, but this time we took a look at what minor league team we are looking forward to following, and what an individual Cubs prospect needs to work on this season to be successful.

Andrew Buchholz:

What Team I’m Looking Forward to Following:
Now that the Chicago Cubs are relevant again, the Iowa Cubs are the most interesting team to watch for me. Because injuries happen, usually the Triple-A is where the fill-ins come from. That is in part why the Iowa Cubs are the team I am most looking forward to following. I am also looking forward to the massive amount of talent. Both the minor league pitcher and player from 2015, Wilson Contreras and Ryan Williams, will more than likely spend significant time in Iowa. In addition, players such as: Billy McKinney, Jeimer Candelario, Albert Almora, Daniel Vogelbach, and Pierce Johnson all will be in Iowa. Each and every one of the aforementioned players could make an impact on the big league team this year, and that makes me excited. (Maybe a different team for Vogelbach).

What Albert Almora Needs to Work on to be Successful:
No one questions Albert Almora’s defense. No one questions his contact skills. Even though these two skills alone carry many prospects to the big leagues, there are more than a few people who believe Almora doesn’t have what it takes to be a big leaguer. Almora needs to work on his patience. Taking walks are not his thing, they never have and they probably never will be. However, if Almora wants to be successful he either needs to develop patience at the plate to take walks or to wait for his pitch and drive the ball. Last season we saw the two extremes of Almora. In the first half, he looked lost at the plate, and in the second half of the season, it seemed as if the baseball looked like a beach ball to him at the plate. Somewhere in the middle lies the genuine Almora, and it looks like that player is a .275 hitter with gold glove defense year in and year out. If Almora does not adopt a new approach at the plate, he may never see the ivy at Wrigley or any major league park for that matter.

Josh Murray:

What Team I’m Looking Forward to Following:
It helps that the Tennessee Smokies are only an hour drive for me because they will have some interesting players on the field this year. The rotation will be headed by righty Duane Underwood, who pitched well in the Carolina League in 2015. Some other arms I look forward to watching will be Rob Zastryzny and Starling Peralta. I hope that Zastryzny can bounce back from injury concerns and a rough 2015 season while Peralta could be the Smokies main closer in 2016. A top 30 guy that could be on the roster again in 2015 will be Jacob Hannemann. The speedy outfielder stole 17 bags and popped six homeruns, but only hit .233 in 112 games last season. He is sound defensively so the offense will be a key thing to watch for him this year. The most intriguing player for me at Tennessee will be switch-hitting catcher, Victor Caratini. He struggled hitting at single A with a .257 average but he did walk 11% of the time while striking only 16% of the time. He is solid defensively and has a chance to work on managing games in 2016.

What Wladimir Galindo Needs to Work on to be Successful:
I wrote about Galindo when we ranked him the #28 prospect in the Cubs system. At 19 years- old, he is incredibly raw, however, he has shown flashes on the field. Reports from Arizona this spring had him as one of the better hitters on the backfields, which should not be surprising. He hit well in his first season in the Arizona league with a slash line of .356/.400/.522, but he consistently chases pitches out of the zone. The K-rate was at 20% against pitching in a league that isn’t known to be very strong. Defensively, his size is ideal for third base, but the footwork and lack of range led to 11 errors in just 16 games in Arizona. I believe he will start 2016 in Eugene where he will face better pitching and will see more reps at third base. Working on his patience at the plate and his defense at third can help Galindo continue to progress up the Cubs prospect rankings.

Cameron Kmen:

What Team I’m Looking Forward to Following:
The Cubs don’t quite have the top end talent they used to, but man, they sure have a lot of depth. Every level has a bunch of interesting names to follow, which makes this choice much harder than it should be. I would have to say that I am most looking forward to following the South Bend Cubs (Low-A). Their rotation will feature the likes of Oscar De La Cruz, Carson Sands, and Justin Steele. Kyle Twomey, Ryan Kellogg, Casey Bloomquist, Preston Morrison, and Adbert Alzolay could also find themselves receiving starts, assuming they are assigned to South Bend to start the season. Dylan Cease, another highly touted pitching prospect could join the rotation at some point during the season. Factoring in promotions, there could be quite a bit of turnover to see what they have in players. There’s no doubt about it, that’s a core with a bunch of intriguing names. The South Bend Cubs should also see Matt Rose, Eloy Jimenez, and Donnie Dewees join the squad, bringing speed and pop to the lineup. While this team’s roster has the potential to be completely different from the start of the season to the end, it will certainly be entertaining to watch.

What Dylan Cease Needs to Work on to be Successful:
One of the most intriguing Cubs prospects is none other than right-handed pitcher, Dylan Cease. Cease returned last season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery the previous summer. What is impressive about Cease is that he is capable of running his fastball up to triple digits, even post-surgery. The instant return of his velocity is a great site to see because sometimes velocity never comes back after surgery. However, Cease really needs to work on his control and his command. Even before the surgery, Cease’s control was spotty. Being able to blow guys away will only get you so far, and without refinement of control and command, he will end up hitting a wall. The goal for Cease in 2016 is to tighten up both control and command.

Video Credit: Tanner Shurtz

Teddy Eley:

What Team I’m Looking Forward to Following:
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who reside on the Atlantic Coast, will start the year with studs Gleyber Torres and Ian Happ handling double-play duties, and have a cast of players ripe to breakout in Jeffery Baez, Rashad Crawford, and Charcer Burks. Their rotation also has some pitchers looking to make a name for themselves in Trevor Clifton, Jake Stinnett, and the aforementioned James Norwood. As if that wasn’t good enough, the team could get some midseason reinforcements in the form of Donnie Dewees, Matt Rose, and even Eloy Jimenez if he gets off to a good start at South Bend. On the pitching side, there’s a high chance that one of the Sands, Steele, Cease, or de la Cruz group makes their way to the Pelicans at some point during the year. It’s certainly going to be an exciting team to watch on both sides of the ball for those in the Myrtle Beach area.

What Jake Stinnett Needs to Work on to be Successful:
It’ll be an important year for Jake Stinnett to show he belongs in a big league rotation. The former Terrapin was a 2nd round pick in the 2014 draft and has struggled with his command in the Cubs organization. When things are clicking, he’ll show a fastball in the low 90’s that can touch 95, along with a plus slider and average change. If he can hone his control and throw strikes on a more consistent basis, he could stay in the rotation. If not, the bullpen will be his likely landing spot, starting as soon as this season if he can’t put it together.

Joey Morgan:

What Team I’m Looking Forward to Following:
While the Smokies own my heart as an overall organization (for non-baseball reasons), I’m most excited to see the kids in South Bend this summer. The Cubs have been bringing on waves of high-caliber position players over the past couple years, and they still have more position talent in the upper minors. Now Chicago is looking for young pitching and for the first time in recent memory, I’m actually kind of excited about several Cubs pitching prospects. The Cubs have a lot of high upside guys that will probably be pitching at Myrtle Beach sometime this season including Cease, De la Cruz, Sands, Steele and Alzolay (my 2016 sleeper pick). Outside of the pitching though, I’m excited to see Eloy Jiminez’s progression; he’s one of my favorite guys in the system right now. I’m excited to get a glimpse of the much fabled Eddy Julio Martinez as well, who I believe will pass through South Bend this year.

What Billy McKinney Needs to Work on to be Successful:
Take what I have to say with a grain of salt because I’m much lower on McKinney than many others, but I believe he will really have to improve his hitting against left-handed pitchers this year in order to succeed within the Cubs organization. McKinney, outside of his tremendous hitting, really doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. His speed is nothing special, which means he will likely stay in a corner OF spot, and his arm is just better than “bad.”  This is all to say that the bat is what has carried McKinney to his higher position in many prospect rankings. That’s all well and good, because McKinney really is a very good hitter—good contact, potentially above average power, and great plate discipline. His splits against lefties, however, are disconcerting; he hit just .192 last summer against southpaws.  Given the left-handed outfield talent the Cubs have established at the major league level, McKinney will be of comparatively little value as a righty masher in an organization with the likes of Schwarber and Heyward.