Each year, Baseball America ranks the top prospects in each minor league, which proves to be a unique way to consider the relative value of Chicago Cubs prospects. Outside of the top 100 lists we see from a few services, and a handful of overall organizational rankings, we don’t really get a chance to know how the Cubs stack up against other organizations. It’s hard to know how good that 10th-ranked prospect in the system actually is – is he ranked 10th in the system because he’s really good, and the Cubs’ system is good, or is he ranked 10th because he’s just OK and the system is really weak?
BA has released its first league ranking of the year, and it’s a bright spot for the Cubs. The Arizona League – a rookie league featuring young international signees and recent draftees, typically – is prospect heavy, so doing well on its top 20 list is a good sign. And, indeed, the Cubs did do well, placing three youngsters, including two in the top four.
Albert Almora comes in at number 2, Jorge Soler comes in at number 4, and Dan Vogelbach comes in at number 14. None of the three finished the year in the AZL, with Almora and Vogelbach being promoted to Boise, and Soler heading up to Peoria. Each did rake while in Arizona, though, and the Cubs might have placed even more on the list – Juan Paniagua? Pierce Johnson? Paul Blackburn? – if they’d had enough innings to qualify. The list as a whole was pitching light, featuring just five pitchers, and only one in the top 14.
Thirteen MLB teams are affiliated with a team in the AZL, so on a top 20 list, if evenly distributed, you’d expect each team to see 1.5 of their players on the list. Again: the Cubs did well.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the rankings is the fact that BA calls the AZL the deepest in prospects that it’s been in 25 years. It’s nice to see the Cubs not only filling up such a deep list, but appearing at the tip top with Almora and Soler.
The next BA list of relevance to the Cubs is the Northwest League (where the Boise Hawks play), which comes out in a few days.