In the blink of an eye, the Cubs broke up their championship core at the trade deadline.
Whether those they acquired for Javy Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and closer Craig Kimbrel, are part of their next core, the Cubs restocked their farm system with a haul of prospects as they begin focusing on 2022 and the future.
But who are these guys?
Kevin Goldstein, a former Astros executive and current writer at FanGraphs who’s plugged into the minor leagues, joined the Cubs Talk Podcast this week to break down some of the newest members of the Cubs organization.
Here’s Goldstein’s take on what the Cubs got in return for their former All-Stars, with the full conversation on the Cubs Talk Podcast. (Spoiler alert: They did pretty well.)
RP Codi Heuer, 2B Nick Madrigal
Acquired from White Sox for Craig Kimbrel
Heuer impressed in 2020 but struggled with the Sox this season. He’s off to a good start with the Cubs, with three scoreless outings, all in high leverage spots.
“Codi Heuer is kind of a weird sleeper here,” Goldstein said. “I think the White Sox were kind of using him wrong, and I’m anxious to see if the Cubs can figure that out themselves.”
Heuer has three primary pitches, an upper-90s sinking fastball, a slider and changeup. He’s thrown the sinker most frequently and it’s been hit hard — opponents are batting around .400 against it this season, compared to sub-.200 against his slider and changeup.
“There’s a real argument to be made that you should get this guy and use the fastball in a backwards way,” Goldstein said. “I think you should be starting off offspeed and finishing offspeed, using the fastball in the middle, and he’d be a more effective pitcher.
Madrigal is a .317 hitter in 83 career games known for his elite contact skills, an area the Cubs have struggled in recent years. He's out for the season with a torn hamstring.
“It’s what scouts call an early-action player,” Goldstein said. “His at-bats are short. His first three pitches, he’s going to be swinging.
“He goes up there looking to hit the ball, and he slices the ball around. The thing is, he’s so good at it, he can hit .300.
"It’s kind of an empty .300 without walks and power, but you feel safe that the floor is him doing that.”
OF Pete Crow-Armstrong
Acquired from Mets for Javy Báez, Trevor Williams
Crow-Armstrong, 19, was the 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft and one of New York’s top 5 prospects.
“In getting Pete Crow-Armstrong, I’m surprised they got this much prospect back,” Goldstein said.
A center fielder who throws and bats left-handed, Crow-Armstrong got off to a strong start offensively in Single-A this season, going 10-for-24 in six games before undergoing season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his non-throwing arm.
But his calling card is his defense.
“This guy right now as a teenager is a big-league-ready center fielder,” Goldstein said. “He projects as a plus-plus center fielder.
"This is [an elite] center fielder, the kind of guy who’s going to make you forget about the kind of things that [Albert] Almora could do.
“He’s not a big, physical player, but he runs well, can play a remarkable center field and should be a solid bat. It feels like an everyday center fielder, but probably one who’s more likely to hit seventh in the lineup than second.”
Crow-Armstrong hails from Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, also the alma mater of Lucas Giolito, Jack Flaherty and Max Fried.
“This is a place where baseball players come from,” Goldstein added.
OF Kevin Alcántara, RHP Alexander Vizcaino
Acquired from Yankees for Anthony Rizzo
“I was fascinated by this one,” Goldstein said of the Rizzo trade. “I thought the Cubs killed this one.”
Alcántara, 19, made his professional debut in 2019. In 51 career minor league games, he holds a .273/.330/.387 slash line.
One American League scouting executive told NBC Sports Chicago Alcántara is really young but with a lot of ceiling — the definition of any 19-year-old with upside — and Goldstein echoed those thoughts.
“He’s built like a small forward,” Goldstein said. “He’s 6-6, he’s lanky, he’s wirey, he’s muscular. Another guy — bat speed, power, it’s all there.
“It’s going to be a long time until we figure out how much those tools can actualize into baseball skills, but another high ceiling guy.”
Vizcaino, 24, is in his fifth professional season after joining the Yankees system in 2016. After spending 2020 at New York’s alternate site, he missed time earlier this season due to a shoulder injury and has only made seven appearances.
The right-handed reliever wields a high-90s fastball and plus slider.
"This guy has got weapons and might really be something for you in shorter stints and just let it fly," Goldstein said. “You might get 100 out of him. This guy has a really exciting arm.”
With the Yankees up against the luxury tax, the Cubs picking up the remainder of Rizzo’s salary helped them get a stronger prospect package.
“To get these kind of prospects — both are risky — but to get this kind of upside in a deal like this really, really surprised me,” Goldstein said. “A large portion of that came by buying the prospects, if you will."
OF Alexander Canario, RHP Caleb Kilian
Acquired from Giants for Kris Bryant
Unlike the Rizzo deal, the Giants didn't hesitate to pick up all of Bryant's salary, which contributed to less of a return.
Kilian, 24, was the Giants' eighth-round pick in 2019 out of Texas Tech. At the time of the trade, he ranked first or near it in a number of Double-A Northeast categories.
"Killian is more of a high floor, low ceiling guy," Goldstein said. "It’s a polished college arm."
The right-hander is a command pitcher who throws strikes and locates well. He has a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup in his repertoire.
He profiles as a back end starter who could work in relief.
Canario, 21, in his fourth minor league season. He's a toolsy outfielder with plus bat speed and raw power, although he has a violent swing that leads to strikeouts, according to Goldstein.
"Canario is a really interesting player. This is one of those boom or bust guys," Goldstein said. "In three or four years, we’ll be talking about this guy as a super exciting rookie, one of the best young players in baseball, or we will have forgotten his name."
Canario has 36 home runs and 256 strikeouts in 239 career games. He also has a plus arm in the corner outfield and runs well.
The Cubs assigned him to advanced-A South Bend after the trade with San Francisco. He already has a multi-hit game on his resume.
"If he figures it all out, you’re talking about a star," Goldstein said. "It’s just a guy who’s a little bit more of putting some chips on 17 black and see if it comes up on the roulette wheel.
"If it does, you’re the happiest guy in the world, and if not, you walk away."