This time of year, and all the way through January, various places will be ranking prospects throughout baseball for the 2012 season. Baseball America has started things off, and has released its early look at the top 10 prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ system for 2012:

1. Brett Jackson, of

2. Javier Baez, ss

3. Matt Szczur, of

4. Trey McNutt, rhp

5. Dillon Maples, rhp

6. Wellington Castillo, c

7. Rafael Dolis, rhp

8. Junior Lake, ss

9. Josh Vitters, 3b/1b

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1b

About the system, BA had this to say:

Owner Tom Ricketts actually dismissed him four weeks before the move was announced, but Hendry stayed on to conclude negotiations with the most expensive draft class in franchise history. Chicago handed out seven-figure bonuses to shortstop Javier Baez (first round), first baseman Dan Vogelbach (second), outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. (11th) and righthander Dillon Maples (14th) while spending a total of $12 million. By comparison, it paid $8.7 million in bonuses in the previous two drafts combined.

The Cubs also have been aggressive seeking talent in Latin America and Asia, and Ricketts’ commitment to player development attracted interest throughout the industry. Theo Epstein mentioned it as a major factor in why he decided to leave the Red Sox, where he won two World Series in nine years as GM, to become Chicago’s president of baseball operations in October.

The write-up goes on from there to discusses all of the Cubs’ latest moves … in their front office. That should tell you just about all you need to know about what BA thinks of the direction of the Cubs’ farm system – that is to say, it’s on the way up, thanks to the new blood at the executive level, if not at the minor league level.

Ultimately, it’s hard to pick a fight too aggressively with BA’s top ten. As astutely pointed out BN user Kyle yesterday, the Cubs’ system right now has a pretty clear group at the top (Jackson, McNutt, Baez, Szczur), and then a whole bunch of kids would could plausibly be ranked anywhere from number five to number 25. It’s interesting that BA skewed heavy on 2011 draft picks (Baez, Maples, Vogelbach), and higher-level prospects. Dolis is the only guy I can say with confidence wouldn’t be in my top ten, but the rest could all be in there – indeed, our post-draft rankings this year look very similar (Jackson-McNutt-Baez-Vitters-Szczur-Maples-Vogelbach-Whitenack-LeMahieu-Castillo).

Among the names that could have been considered for the top 10, in no particular order (and even this will be an exercise in futility, because, what the Cubs lack in impact talent at the top, they make up for in depth): Marco Hernandez, Gioskar Amaya, Nick Struck, Dallas Beeler, Jae Hoon Ha, Chris Rusin, Ben Wells, Reggie Golden, Aaron Kurcz, Dae-Eun Rhee, Kevin Rhoderick, Jeff Beliveau, Chris Carpenter, Rob Whitenack (recovering from TJS), Jeimer Candelario, Larry Suarez, and any number of picks from this year’s draft. I could go on and on, and I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of names. I think you get the point on the state of the Cubs’ system right now.



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