PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT: JAMES TRIANTOS, SS, CHICAGO CUBS
Prospects with excellent hit tools are my favorite type of prospect. A player who is able to consistently put the bat on the ball allows themselves space to tinker with other aspects of their game (and sometimes their swing) without risking playing time or production. I often keep close tabs on players who hit first and look for clues that show they will be able to add power later. There are plenty of good examples to this development plan and it looks like James Triantos is next in line to follow it. While his outcome is far from certain, the Cubs found themselves a sneakily great pick during the second round of the 2021 draft.
James Triantos reclassified himself as a senior entering his 2021 high school season. He essentially skipped a season and made himself draft eligible a year early. One less season to perform in front of scouts likely helped the Cubs to wait until the second round to draft Triantos. Despite having fewer opportunities to watch him in games, the two-way player basically did all he could in high school to gain MLB attention. His team won the 2021 Virginia state championship and in the title game Triantos hit a homer, scored twice, and struck out 12 while pitching 7 innings.
If teams missed him pre-draft, they couldn’t ignore Triantos after the draft. At Arizona complex ball he showed off his excellent bat while also showcasing what could be his power potential. In his short time in professional baseball, Triantos did nothing to raise questions regarding his potential 70-grade hit tool. In 109 plate appearances, he struck out only 18 times while playing against guys almost 2 years older on average. He also had 7 walks, which is impressive for such a young player getting their first taste of pro ball. Triantos ended his post-draft season with 33 hits, including 6 home runs and 7 doubles. His final line was .327/.376/.594 and he was 3 for 6 on stolen bases.
His approach in the box is aggressive, to say the least. Although this isn’t unexpected from a player so young that hasn’t really been challenged. In the small sample of complex appearances, he only had a 6.4% BB rate. He will only face more skilled pitchers going forward. Hopefully, his strike recognition can improve and ultimately give him a greater boost in OBP leagues.
Triantos is expected to have average to above-average power in addition to his 70-grade bat. Listed at 6’1” and 195 pounds, he is well built already with likely little room for more bulk, although you can’t knock the guy for trying to put on more. His quick bat speed along with his physicality shows the possibility of a 20 home run type player in his prime.
Triantos is given a 50 grade for his speed, although his full impact on the basepaths is difficult to predict. It’s reasonable to expect upper single digits based on his general athleticism. Drafted as a third baseman, he may end up there in the long run. The Cubs organization put him in the middle infield to start his pro career, and he played similar innings as both a second baseman and shortstop. Many scouts think he’s fluid and athletic enough to stick in the middle infield. A two-way player in high school, Triantos’s fastball was clocked at 92 MPH during his senior season. That concept may already be dead on arrival though, the Cubs allowed him zero opportunities to pitch at the complex. That velocity reading shows he has the arm strength to move to third with the potential to be a plus defender.
Except for here at TDG, Triantos seems to get almost ignored when discussing early picks for First Year Player Drafts. The hit tool alone should bring him into conversations of a Top-20 type and throw in the excellent pro debut? I am all in and wouldn’t blink at someone picking him in the top 10 picks.