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I mentioned this in the Bullets over the weekend, but it deserves its own spotlight: Baseball America recently released its Northwest League prospect rankings for 2012, and the Chicago Cubs were all over the place. The Boise Hawks (short season low-A), who play in the NWL, made a run to the league championship series, so some top prospect recognition was expected.

But this is serious.

The Cubs comprise more than a third of the entire top 20, with seven players listed, including four of the top nine. The Hawks’ entire 2012 infield made the list, and, indeed, those four were the ones in the top nine.

Specifically, first baseman Dan Vogelbach came in at number two, behind only Mariners’ top 2012 draft pick Mike Zunino (Albert Almora would have been up there as well, but he didn’t quite have enough plate appearances to qualify for the list). Shortstop Marco Hernandez was sixth, third baseman Jeimer Candelario was seventh, and second baseman Gioskar Amaya was ninth.

2012 draftee and super utility type (so far) Stephen Bruno came in at 15, outfielder Trey Martin was 16, and pitcher (yes, finally a pitcher) Tayler Scott was 17.

With eight teams in the NWL, each organization would expect to place about 2.5 prospects on the list. That the Cubs had seven – SEVEN – is domination. And, keep in mind: the list doesn’t even include some of the Cubs’ tip-top young prospects like Almora, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler.

Previously, BA named its top AZL prospects for 2012, and the Cubs cleaned up there as well. As we move up to the higher ranks of the minors, the Cubs’ presence will diminish rapidly. But it’s good to see the foundation forming.

  • CM

    I was recently reading that the Cardinal’s approach to the minor leagues is to have very competitive teams at every level, which presumably leads to players being accustomed to playing competitively up the ladder to the big leagues. This does NOT appear to be a big factor in the Cubs FO approach to their minor league system but it’s obviously a by product of the talent level at Boise. I’m curious what others feel about this approach vs the Cub plan, which seems to be more about quality at bats, etc.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s possible that being around a “winning culture” could have a slight impact at the margins in the bigs (bench guy X is slightly SLIGHTLY better than he would have otherwise been), but I’ve always felt like it was a little bit more chicken than egg: organizations have winning teams in the minors because, in the aggregate, they have lots of good players in the minors, so they tend to have better teams in the bigs over the years.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        To follow up on what Brett said (I largely agree with him), it also depends on how an organization is getting those winning teams. I can build you an instant AAA World Series contender just be signing a ton of minor league veterans and AAAA guys to play for that team. And that team, even if it wins a title, will provide virtually no benefit or talent to the major league club. Some teams have been taking that approach, and I just don’t see a point to it.

        I’d rather focus on letting my talent develop than artificially gear up for wins. The wins that matter most are the wins in the majors; future major league wins should be the goal of the minors. But winning in the minors is very nice as well.

        • David

          Luke, not being as in tune with other teams’ minor leagues, it seems like the Cardinals and White Sox have been ranked lower in recent years, but still manage to bring guys up that can contribute in a significant way. Is that accurate or just my impression?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            The Cards have been pretty highly ranked for a while now, I think. (Courtesy, in recent years, of now-Astros-GM Jeff Luhnow)

            The White Sox … very hard to explain. I have no idea how they’ve done it. Good scouts, good development program, I guess, because it certainly isn’t the money they spend.

  • sclem21

    Similarly, in my time working in the minors, I have gathered that the Rangers place emphasis on winning at each level on the way up where as teams like the Braves, purportedly, are far more interested in individual players’ development than any team accolades.

    I imagine there are successful teams at each end of the spectrum and that most teams strike a happy medium in their operational decisions between building a winning culture while still emphasizing development of individuals to be more valuable to the big club via games played or trade.

    The important thing to recognize, as Brett touched on, is that regardless of the specific approach, the Cubs FO seems hell bent on adding more quality prospects to the system than ever before and it is showing dividends in both winning and developmental aspects already.

  • GoCubsGo

    I have to post this somewhere! I will be on the rooftops tonight and will be proposing! I hope tonight is not the 100 loss of the season. Wish me luck!

    • cubchymyst

      Good Luck

    • TWC

      Well, I sure hope your gal doesn’t read BN, ’cause you just blew it, kid.

      Good luck!

      • hansman1982

        and if she doesn’t read BN you may want to rethink the proposal…HA

        Best of luck!

        • Katie

          Cool chicks read BN.

          Good luck!!!

          • hansman1982

            then what in the heck are you doing here…

            OOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

            • Katie

              Ouch!

              Nobody’s been dicked in the dick in awhile around here…

              • MichiganGoat

                He needs a good one

                • Katie

                  Yes, he really does.

            • MightyBear

              Hey no negative comments about Katie. She is the coolest lady on BN. She’s the only lady on BN but that’s beside the point.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Don’t drop the ring.

    • GoCubsGo

      thanks for all the tips! I will keep them in mind.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s awesome! Good luck!

    • ssckelley

      Good luck, it would be neat if this made the broadcast.

      • GoCubsGo

        I am waiting unil after the 7th inning stretch. So if you know how to get this on broadcast let me know. Or just send it in!!! :)

    • willis

      Good luck dude. Enjoy it. Can’t think of a better place for it.

  • North Side Irish

    Conor Glassey also did a chat for BA subscribers regarding this list…wanted to share a few Boise items:

    – He (rightly) shot down the Fielder comps for Vogelbach, but said he could be John Kruk with more power or a left-handed Billy Butler…either of which is a fine outcome for me.

    – Hernandez was rated over Amaya because of his ability to stay at SS, but said both should hit for some power as they fill out.

    – Glassey listed Michael Heesh as a sleeper prospect.

    – Bruno projects best at 2B or possibly super utility and could jump to Daytona next season. Could be an every day guy at 2B though.

    – Logan Watkins still projects as the best 2B prospect in the Cubs system, but it is deep (Amaya, Bruno, DeVoss).

    – Trey Martin needs to shorten his swing, work on pitch recognition, and base-stealing, but he could added 15-20 lbs without losing any athleticism.

    – Jose Arias just missed the list…needs to work on secondary stuff and composure on the mound.

    – None of the Boise players are Top 100 prospects…only Zunino from the NWL will make the list.

    • Cubbie Blues

      I do think the Vogelbach comparison to Kruk is a pretty good one. The only problem is his body resembles what Kruk’s body is like now.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Good stuff – thanks for sharing that.

      (My only addendum for Mr. Glassey – Ronald Torreyes should be in that second base list … )

      • North Side Irish

        FWIW regarding the 2B prospects, I was summarizing multiple posts…he didn’t actually make a list. Those players were just all mentioned as possible future 2B options, though he did say Watkins tops the list and he’s not writing off DeVoss.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Watkins topping the 2B list is a surprise. I’m as high on that guy as anyone (well, apparently almost anyone), and I’m not sure I’d have him higher than third.

      • Cedlandrum

        mancrush alert

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Sirens blazin’.

      • David

        Totally agree on Torreyes. He struggled early, but overall was impressive for his age at high-A.

  • ssckelley

    Another interesting point to consider is how bad Boise was in the first half compared to the second half. Overall they still finished 2 games below .500 and yet they placed 7 out of the top 20 prospects. Eugene, who did not even make the playoffs, had the best record in the league only placed 3 out of the top 20. The second best teams Everett only had 4 and Vancouver only had 1. I also can’t help but wonder how close Jose Arias came to making the top 20. Rock Shoulders is another prospect may be worth keeping an eye on as he transitions from 1st base to outfield. He has some power but also demonstrates some patience at the plate. This will be a fun group to watch as they climb through the minor leagues.

  • stu

    I was wondering if anyone has evaluated the top 2 prospects at each position of need and projected their big league timetable. Also, drilling down to the one or two areas that they need to improve.

    CF, 3B, LF(Soriano will be gone within 2years), RF(DeJesus will be gone in 2 years),SP, RP

    Those appear to be the areas of biggest weakness. Eg., Jackson-strikeouts, Vitters-defense, etc.

    This would give a clearer picture of progress and fill-in FA’s to sign.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Things like this will be addressed over the winter. We have more prospecty goodness in the pipeline.

  • cRAZYHORSE

    When a team is on the verge of losing 100 games its because that teams stinks. When the Redsox won the World Series everyone was quick to give wonder boy his due. To be fair his due in Chicago is 100 game lost season in his first season. Nobody likes to lose a hundred games and losing a hundred games is never a sign of better things to come. I wonder when the last time the Cubs lost a 100 games in one season? and who did the Cubs draft afterwards Cubs selected 2nd and drafted a player named Terry Hughes. . The Cubs Front office did what no other Cubs Front Office has done in 46 years -100 games down the tubes. I have seen some bad teams in my day but this team is by far the worse. Something needs to change.

    • King Jeff

      94,95,97,95,96,91. Those are all Cubs single-season loss totals in the last 15 years. This is not “by far the worse team in your day”, unless “your day” is just this year.

    • David

      So, you jump into a thread where the Cubs having seven of the top 20 (!) prospects in SS ball is being discussed so that you can say that there’s not signs of better things ahead? Seems as though sticking to what the major league team is doing would support your case better than this one.

      Obviously things are not wine and roses for the organization right now, but the plan is for the team to re-build from the bottom up. Trying to crap all over what the team is doing right doesn’t make sense even to the gloom and doomers.

      • Kyle

        Point of order: 7 of the top 20 pt-qualified prospects in one of the SS leagues.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Point of odor: Lisa stinks.

        • David

          yeah, that’s absolutely understood. While I would liked for them to have drafted 7 of the top 20 prospects in the Southern League of the PCL, that’s rather unlikely.

          All I’m saying is that we hold the guys in charge accountable for what they’ve actually had time to address. For example, I think it’s a fair debate to talk about whether they should have gone harder after Cespedes. He’s a move that could have happened on their watch that would have an an immediate impact.

          • Kyle

            That’s true, but it’s interesting to note that all seven of those players were acquired under the Hendry regime.

  • cubsin

    Last year’s team had a surplus of older, highly-paid one-dimensional players and still lost 91 games, and the upper levels of the farm system were a vast desert. We now have a much more managable payroll that will allow us to add solid free agents whenever we’re ready to compete again and far more quality prospects. I’ve been a Cubs fan since before Ernie Banks played his first game for the Cubs, and I’m perfectly content with losing now (the Lord knows I’m used to it) in order to build a team that’s consistently contending for the postseason.

    • cRAZYHORSE

      “I’m perfectly content with losing now (the Lord knows I’m used to it) in order to build a team that’s consistently contending for the postseason” Yes it is a staple of being a Cub Fan and your devotion is too be admired. It is what make Cubs Fans Special .The hope of a World Series Banner. I wonder how long we will have to wait? I think that Question is creeping up to a 5 Generation wait. .

    • Kyle

      ‘ the upper levels of the farm system were a vast desert.”

      Sady, that hasn’t change. Should in a year or so.

  • cRAZYHORSE

    BJ Upton – a younger version of Soriano. Give away 33 million for a prospect. I can see the headlines Castro and BJ Upton fail to run out a groundballs and blame the grass.

    • AB

      wrong thread, genius

      • F/U

        So what?

        • AB

          you should at least be competent enough to keep your babble in the correct location

  • cubsin

    It’s also worth noting that six of the seven NWL top prospects were teenagers. The Hawks were much younger than most of the other NWL teams.

  • GoCubsGo

    She said yes. Thanks for all the comments!!! I am going to now introduce her to Bleacher nation.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Congrats! Awesome story you’ll have.

    • KyleNovak

      A la Horatio Sanz’s character in the More Cowbell-Blue Oyster Cult SNL Sketch. . .

      “He speaks for all of us.”

      Congrats indeed!

    • hansman1982

      Congrats dude!

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