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On the heels of ranking the 30 farm systems in baseball (the Chicago Cubs came in 20th), ESPN’s Keith Law also revealed his top 100 overall prospects in baseball, as well as each system’s top 10.

Unsurprisingly, the Cubs had three prospects in Law’s top 100, and they’re the three you’d expect – outfielder Brett Jackson, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and shortstop Javier Baez. Somewhat surprisingly, though, none is ranked even remotely as high as they are on other top 100 lists, save for Rizzo, who comes in at 36. Jackson, who is roundly considered a top 40 prospect, is ranked 89th by Law. Baez, usually in the top 50, is 95th.

Law’s work is premium content, so you’ll have to pay if you want all the details, including a brief scouting report on each of the three players in the top 100. In short, Law likes Rizzo for all the reasons others do (great numbers at a young age, great defense, great makeup, etc.). As for Baez, Law is similarly complimentary, noting Baez’s excellent swing, and strong athleticism. In fact, Law thinks it’s possible Baez could stick at shortstop (where his value would be at its highest) if he works hard enough at it, and, you know, doesn’t grow too much more.

On Jackson, Law focuses on what many naysayers do: Jackson’s lack of contact. Law praises Jackson as an athlete and a defender, but doesn’t see a great deal of power in Jackson’s future. In other words, Law sees an average MLB regular, but no more, unless Jackson cuts down on the strikeouts.

As for the Cubs’ top 10 prospects, Law’s list looks a fair bit different from others we’ve seen:

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

2. Brett Jackson, OF

3. Javier Baez, SS

4. Trey McNutt, RHP

5. Zach Cates, RHP

6. Welington Castillo, C

7. Dillon Maples, RHP

8. Josh Vitters, 3B

9. Reggie Golden, OF

10. Matt Szczur, CF

As you can see, Law is much lower on Szczur than most, and much (much) higher on, for example, Cates (who typically shows up around 15 to 20). Law is also a bit higher on Golden than most. He seems to have a preference, in general, for younger, high upside players, rather than older, higher floor types.

  • mysterious4th

    Wow…I thought Vitters would be higher

  • Fishin Phil

    That’s OK, Keith Law didn’t make my top 10 list either. So there!

    • Steve

      Very clever. Good stuff.

  • Cedlandrum

    His comments on Szczur and Lake always come off as petty. It makes it hard for me to pay much attention to him because of it. Things like on Lake- “Once he learns how to play baseball.” That is just stupid. He has work to do but come on you are better then that. There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t love to have a guy with Lakes skill set in their system.

  • Ron

    Cares is the big surprise. He must have loved that trade.(although I don’t remember his reaction) the thing that surprises me most is the little or no upward movement in the system compared to others with the off season aquisitions. A case could be made by haters that Theo & Co. haven’t improved the system much.(I am not making that case by the way)

    • WGNstatic

      I am certainly a fan of the new Front Office. That said…

      I think it is actually pretty hard to make an argument that they have improved the system all that much, and that isn’t really meant as a knock on them.

      Let’s do a quick review of their moves so far:

      Rizzo for Cashner: I like this move, as it seems most Cubs fans do. That said, they gave up a quality young arm in Casher to get an intriguing young bat. I think of it this way, THe SD FO probably thinks pretty similarly to Jed Hoyer. Thus, it is unlikely that Hoyer is going to fleece SD in a deal. I like the trade from the Cubs perspective, but I think it is a pretty fair swap, in other words, no real net improvement to the Cubs’ system.

      Marshall for Wood et al: Again, I like this move. However, in terms of actual organizational talent, the Cubs likely, at this point in time, got worse. The trade makes sense from the perspective of trading a current asset for some potential down the road. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone would be all that shocked if none of the guys acquired from Cincy ever have an impact (positive impact I should say) on the Cubs.

      Z for Volstad: Personality dump. If Volstad figures things out, great, but this deal was not about Volstad.

      Colvin for Stewart: Again, I like this deal just fine, but the Cubs gave up quite a bit of talent, even if that talent was middling, to get what they got. I am pleased that these guys have a plan and that they go out and get guys that fit their plan. That makes me happy. However, again, it is hard to see this deal as too much of a net talent gain for the Cubs.

      Free agency: In with DeJesus, out with Pena and Ramirez. Pretty tough to argue that there was a net improvement there. Of course there are a couple of draft picks coming with those departures, so this is an incomplete grade at this point.

      Rule 5 Draft: They lost two players who are likely to stick with their new teams. They picked up a guy who is intriguing but might be a real stretch to stick with the Cubs. We shall see… again an incomplete, but I would tend to grade this pretty low based on current appearances.

      Signing Concepcion: This is really the one move so far that looks like a net system addition. I like the move, and we will see what more is to come in terms of international signings. But, really, this is by no means a move that improves the system all that much.

      Ok, that was pretty long… Again, I am not out to rag on the Jedstein brain trust. I like the moves so far. My point is simply to point out that as happy as we all (not you die hard) are with the new Front Office, they haven’t really done much yet to really improve the system in terms of the players.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        All fair with respect to 2012. 2013 and beyond? Looks a whole lot better to me.

        • WGNstatic

          That is fair, but, let me ask you. Aside from Concepcion, what player has this front office brought in that you are really confident will be a contributor in 2013 or later, outside of the Cashner trade, where, I argue they gave up a guy who could have equal value in 2013 and beyond.

          Again, not ragging on the FO. More, I am pointing out that judging them on this offseason is silly. Those of us, myself included, who start getting really excited, should check ourselves a bit more.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            You’re making a totally fair point … but, keep in mind: Marshall was, in theory, going to contribute 0 in 2013 (free agent – or he was going to cost a ton). Zambrano, the same. So, whatever the Cubs got for those two guys has improved the team for 2013, arguably. Sappelt, Stewart, DeJesus, Maholm, etc. These are all also guys who could theoretically help in 2013.

            Just offering the examples. I’m down with your overall point, in the very near term. I just don’t care all that much about the very near term.

            • WGNstatic

              I am pretty sure that we agree…

              My point is simply this, the FO, to date, has actually not done all that much in terms of the quality of the players they have brought in. Sure the trades they have made (minus Cashner-Rizzo) might pan out well for the Cubs. But, really, they likely didn’t bring in any players who we should be all that excited about, for proof, just look at the various prospect rankings.

              Do we have reason to be excited? You bet. They are in the process of an organizational overhaul. I am far more excited about the 2012 draft than I have been before. It does seem this team is now on the right track. My point is simply that, at this point, the most positive changes are behind the scenes changes, not vast improvements in the player personnel at the MiLB or MLB levels.

              • Hawkeyegrad

                You don’t get something for nothing. The Cubs gave up 1 year of Marshall and Zambrano for several years of Wood, Volstad, Sappelt and Torreyes. Given the salary differential and years of control, if 1 of these 4 guys pans out it is a win. If 2 come through it is a big win.

                The Cashner for Rizzo trade was an attempt to fill the lack of depth the system has at 1st base. While the trade seems fair from both sides of the trade, the Cubs filled a need. The same goes with the Colvin for Stewart trade. The Cubs traded from a position of depth (OF) to fill a position of need. It should be noted that in Rizzo and Stewart they obtained left handed power bats that in theory provide the team an advantage at Wrigley field. In other words, these players should be worth more to the Cubs then the average MLB team. It will also be interesting to see how Casey Weathers and Zach Cates end up relative to LeMahieu and Na in these trades.

                We never had Pena and Ramirez (they were FA) so it is somewhat unfair to count them. I know you mentioned Concepcion and Dejesus who were acquired with cash but what you are not counting is the significant amount of salary saved which presumably will go back into the team at some point when the team looks to be contending.

                Realistically, given what they have dealt (Marshall, Cashner, Zambrono, and Colvin), I think they have done a terrific job filling needs and getting players that have the potential to pan out. Of course, not alll of them will so they have also saved some money to fill needs in areas they need to fill in down the road.

              • Sean

                The new Cubs FO has made it a business out of letting players walk in Boston, only to choose the players THEY want in the drafts with drafts they also gain.
                Im thinking their going to be crunching the numbers hard to come up with poisition and rotational players that fit the holes they need to fill the most.
                Letting Ramirez and Pena walk may only have worked with a new GM, but since they did, the cubs will be adding to their depth this off-season which spelled alot of success in Boston and will hopefully work it’s way down to Chicago.

            • Steve

              Epstein has been a Cub employee for how many MONTHS? I equate that to a new hire at my firm being mentioned for partner in 2 weeks being on the job.

          • baseballet

            I think the main point here is that the rebuilding has just begun. In a short time the FO did a good job in replacing older, high salary players with younger ones at cheaper rates (and for a longer time period). The Cubs probably only have one all star player on the roster right now, and their minor league system has not been rebuilt yet (e.g. it was recently ranked 20th in baseball), so the FO still has a lot of rebuilding to do.

  • die hard

    Golden could be golden in 2013….hes a sleeper and wouldnt be surprised to see him be given a long look when Sept call-ups happen…

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      I would be stunned if Golden can vault from Peoria (where he should start 2012) to a September call- up in a single season.

      Unless you meant him as a September call-up in 2013. That’s still optimistic, but not impossible.

      • JulioZuleta

        I’ll be stunned if he reaches AA this year. I’d be very happy if he finished the year doing well in Daytona. Remember, he’ll be playing the entire season as a 20 year old.

    • Cedlandrum

      yeah, not happening. He played in Boise last year. He maybe lucky to finish the year in Daytona. he is a very good talent, but extremely raw.

  • CubFan Paul

    Did Cates pitch in High A or Low A in 2011?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Regular A.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        MidWest League, which is Low A on the High A / Low A / Short Season A nomenclature.

        If you go by the A+ / A / A- nomenclature, it is A.

        Same league the Peoria Chiefs are in.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          There will always be a nomenclature dispute. :)

          Round these parts, it’s High A, A, and Low A (which you can also call short-season). Until death.

          • CubFan Paul

            so you like Low A, A, & High A ..im use to A-, A, & A+ ..its always the Low A/A/A- that confuses me when we talk prospects

            • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

              The official (by the minor league website) is Short Season A, A and Advanced A.

              • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

                I don’t think anyone uses A Advanced anymore.

                Baseball America typically uses High A / Low A / Short Season A, and I figure I can’t go wrong following their lead. Usually, though, I try to identify the actually league in question. Even at equivalent levels, one league is very different from another. You can’t take numbers from the Southern League and apply them to the Texas League, for example.

  • North Side Irish

    Law also had a follow up article with his sleepers for next year’s list. For the Cubs he chose Golden and admitted that Golden has come along faster than he expected.

    He also listed Taiwan Easterling as a deep sleeper. I always found Easterling’s athleticism to be intriguing…but he needs more baseball experience.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for sharing that, NSI.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      Coming out of the draft, I did not expect to see much from Easterling until next season because he was a dual football / baseball guy in college. Those players tend to not be as polished coming out of college, and they tend to be more worn down when the short season leagues start.

      And then Easterling jumps all the way to High A Daytona in the same year in which he signed. That’s impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do over a full season.

      • Cedlandrum

        I was shocked by that move with Easterling. But he really did represent himself well. He needs to learn to work counts and polish his running game, but he will be fun to follow.

  • JulioZuleta

    This guy drives me nuts. Not only does he hate the Cubs, be he can never answer a question without taking a jab at his readers, or making a pompous remark. He rarely gives any reason, or context to his opinions or rankings.

    Exhibit A (and this is not atypical response from him):

    Easily, I just put them between 15th and 17th. RT @lane_guy: @keithlaw how can you rank the #braves farm system 16th

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    if we draft well, and i feel better about our draft going into this years, given the new folks we have evaluating talent. and secondly, if our “depth” in the lower levels continues to progress, our farm should get a good boost by the start of the offseason. alot of emphasis on these two aspects of our farm developing into something that the club can be proud of.

  • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

    Zach Cates at #5 is extremely aggressive. I’m not even sure I’d put him in the top 40, and I like the guy.

    • Cedlandrum

      I’d have him in my top 30 but sure hell not number 5. That as you said is extremely aggressive.

      • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        John Sickels at minor league ball had him in top 15 or so as well…

  • MightyBear

    Vitters is higher than I thought. A lot of folks have him at 13 or lower. No way should he be included in the Theo comp if he’s 8.

  • SouthernCub

    Well Law works for ESPN, that should tell you something………hacks

  • http://twitter.com/#!/hurricaneswag26 Ryne Blaising

    so if Javier Baez does stay at SS what does that mean for Starlin? Does he move to 2nd? i know the Cubs will keep cuz he has already shown he can hti the ball and hit the ball hard and at worse is a very good 1st or 2nd hitter in the line up. Also I think 2nd would be better for Castro anyway I have been saying for a while I think they should move him because of his glove what does everyone else think?

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      If both are in the majors together, Baez will almost certainly change positions (most likely to third). That said, should Baez be able to stay at short, his trade value will much higher if the Cubs do decide to deal him at some point.

  • ferrets_bueller

    I’d actually rather that Baez grows more, and ends up having to be a 3B. The purists can argue all they want, but I’m a firm believer that 3B is the hardest position on the field to fill with a player who goes both ways. You can argue SS is a more premium position all you want, but I know what evidence I’ve seen. Thats one conclusion that needs to be questioned more often.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      More plays go to the shortstop than to third base … so … isn’t that why the conclusion is there?

      • andrewmore4isu

        counter argument to your argument brett, is that the type of plays a 3B has to make is substantially harder than the plays a shortstop has to make. The throws are longer the balls are hit faster blah blah blah.

        but then again the argument can be turned to be like… stick someone crappy at the 3b over there like that big fatty in detroit cuz the ball will hardly ever go there!!!!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yeah, but the ender is: we’ve played baseball. Shortstop, played well, requires a better overall athlete than third base.

          • KCubsfan

            And if Baez can stay at SS and develops the way he could he would be come an elite player at the position. But again he could do the same at 3B.

          • DocWimsey

            There also are some basic differences in what “tricks” there are. 3Bmen get a lot less time to react, and a lot more balls (from lefties) hooking madly. SS is further way, and thus gets more time to react to hooks and to the ball in general. That’s why a lot of former good SS wind up pretty mediocre 3BMan.

            However, you are absolutely right that a SS has to have a wider repertoire than a 3Bman. A 3Bman should be a good dancer: i.e., get your feet and body into the right positions quickly. A good SS should be a good ballet dancer: i.e., run like mad on the drop of a hat and THEN get your feet and body into the right position.

  • Steve

    More plays go from the pitcher to the catcher than anything. Pitching trumps offense anyday.
    That was more of an uncontrolled outburst than any real contribution to this thread…sorry.

    • DocWimsey

      Logically, that cannot be true. All sports are nearly half offense, half defense, with a very small bias towards defense: a point saved is worth a tiny bit more than a point scored. However, although pitching is by far the biggest part of defense in baseball, it is not all of defense: fielding plays a role. It plays a much bigger role than does, say, base-running does in offense.

      This, too, was brought to you by Uncontrolled Outbursts Ltd.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        Can baseball be said to be half offense when the best offensive players in the game fail two thirds of the time? 1/3 Offense, 1/3 Defense, 1/3 Pitching?

        • Kyle

          The failure rate has nothing to do with it. It’s a zero-sum game: All that matters is that your offense fails less than the other offense.

          50% run scoring, 50% run prevention.

          • DocWimsey

            It is a tiny, tiny bit more run prevention than run scoring in the sense that a play that prevents a run from scoring increases your chances of winning very, very slightly more than does a play that scores a run. Think of it this way:
            (P[winning | giving up 2 runs] – P[winning | giving up 3 runs]) > (P[winning | scoring 4 runs] – P[winning | scoring 3 runs])

            However, it is not remotely close to 2/3rds run prevention and 1/3rd run creation.

            • andrewmore4isu

              Doc, if your offense is expontially better than another teams offense has the probability to score 7 runs a game and your defense is bad defense and has the probability to give up 5 runs a game like lets say…. the yankees, than the scale is tipped on whichever team with the best offense wins.

              anyways… im currently writing a paper called
              “The Effects of Helping”

              based on humanitarianism in Africa specifically with displaced women on my friday night. Just saying. JUST SAYING

              • DocWimsey

                I’m always keen on humanitarian papers, especially concerning the 3rd world! (I’m not sure what you are “just saying,” however, but maybe that is me.

                But I’m not sure how your argument follows. The Yankees run prevention was 3rd best in the AL last year at 4.1 runs/game. So, let’s say that they are playing a league average offense, which scored 4.5 runs / game in the AL. To a first approximation, we expect the Yankee’s opponent to score 4.1 runs.

                So, even if you are talking about the best AL offense (the Sox last year, at 5.4 runs/game: and that’s misleading because it was 5.6 before the Sept. collapse!), then you don’t expect 5.4 runs: instead, you expect closer to 4.8. (It’s not quite as simple as a weighted average, but that’s a really good first approximation.)

                That’s why both the pitching and batting part of run-differential are basically equally important: it’s not HOW you outscore the opposition, but that you do, and that you expect to do so game-in and game-out.

                But, power to the people, dude! :-)

  • Steve

    Im not logical Doc, I’m a Cub fan :)

    • DocWimsey

      Absolvo te…..

  • Jeremy

    This article about Dillon Maples was on the Cubs website. I found it to be a pretty interesting read.
    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120210&content_id=26644098&vkey=news_chc&c_id=chc

  • KB

    Re: KLaw’s view of Brett Jackson
    Law is relatively predictable in his likes and dislikes. Like any scout, he’s impressed by tools, but unlike most Cub scouts, he considers lack-of-plate-discipline to be a deal-breaker. I’d be surprised if most Cub fans would disagree with him about Jackson, because…uh…tell me if you recall these fellows: they both, like Jackson, were CFers with mind-blowing basic tools, yet poor control of the strike zone:

    1. Corey Patterson
    2. Felix Pie

    • David

      Jackson doesn’t have poor control of the strike zone by any means. He’s very disciplined, works deep counts and walks a lot. He is NOTHING like Patterson or Pie. The problem is when he does swing, he misses a bit too often. Less than ideal contact ability is NOT the same thing as having poor plate discipline. He knows when to swing and when not. He just misses more than you’d like when he does.

      • DocWimsey

        “Less than ideal contact ability is NOT the same thing as having poor plate discipline.”

        It is remarkable how difficult it has been for people to separate these two fundamentally different skills. People have been calling batting eye the 6th tool since the 1980’s, and yet still we see people use “5-tool” as a synonym for “complete.”

    • Kyle

      As David said, those are wildly different players. Pie and Patterson probably shouldn’t be lumped together anyway, and Jackson *really* doesn’t belong in the same category if they are.

      Jackson has excellent pitch selection (hence he takes a lot of balls, and walks) and terrible contact ability (aka hit tool).

      Felix Pie had sort of okay pitch selection (he drew an average-ish amount of walks) and a below-average hit tool. Early in his career it seemed like he might develop into an average hit tool, but he just never did.

      Corey Patterson had terrible pitch selection and peaked at an average hit tool. He flamed out eventually, but he’s severely underrated by Cubs fans who feel burned by his potential. Patterson had several solid major-league seasons, and we’d be lucky if Brett Jackson ever has a stretch as valuable as his 2003/2004.

      And I definitely wouldn’t call Jackson’s physical tools “mind-blowing.” Jackson’s calling card are that he’s solidly average to above-average in just about every tool. His arm is accurate, his range is solid (but not spectacular) in CF, he draws a lot of walks, he has decent power. Patterson had a much better tool set, and Pie probably did as well.

    • DocWimsey

      To follow up on what David and Kyle wrote, here is the best way to summarize the difference between Jackson and Patterson. If you need a guy to play tennis with a baseball bat (i.e., get your bat on a ball no matter where the ball is or how off-balance you are), then you want Corey Patterson (or Shawon Dunston). If you need a guy to tell you where the ball will cross the plate when it’s 10′ from the pitcher’s hand, then you want Brett Jackson.

      Jackson is going to swing through strikes a lot more often than Patterson did and Jackson will golf some pitch in the opposite batter’s box or 2 inches off of the plate for a hit (or a feeble grounder or popup) a lot less often than Patterson did. However, Jackson is going to swing at bad pitches a heck of a lot less often than Patterson did.

      Jackson’s obvious proclivity for swinging through pitches is worrisome, however. He could be one of those rare guys with an isoD of 0.10 or more and an OBP under 0.35 anyway.

  • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I have no problem where any prospect ranker ranks any prospect. Its all informed opinion. I would bet that the difference between #30 and #90 isnt as great as most seem to think.
    BJ has severe contact issues that might leave his AVG in Chris Young and Drew Stubbs territory. Laws ranking reflects that.

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