Last year at this time, the Chicago Cubs’ farm system was regarded as middle of the pack, at best, and bottom 10, at worst. Some trades, signings, and a draft later, and most now believe the Cubs are solidly in the top half, which is quite a jump for one year.
Indeed, Minor League Ball’s John Sickels now has the Cubs as the 10th best farm system in baseball. Sickels, who had long eschewed the idea of ranking farm systems because it suggests precision where imprecision is commonplace (the difference between numbers 10 and 11 is largely non-existent), has this to say about the Cubs’ system:
Another system that has improved quickly. Strengths: hitting at the top: Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Dan Vogelbach is a very impressive quartet and there is depth beyond them. Good developments with recent Latin American prospects at the lower levels. Weaknesses: pitching is much, much weaker than the hitting. Improving that has to be a priority.
Last year, Sickels had the Cubs at number 20, so the leap has been significant.
Setting aside this year’s draft and possible trades for prospects midseason, it’s quite clear that what will need to happen for the Cubs’ system to take the next step forward is that some of the talented pitching at the lowest levels of the system will have to emerge. We all know – or think we know – that the hitting talent is there, but it’s the pitching that needs to show something in 2013. Throw in the draft and those possible trades, and we could see a top five Cubs system by this time next year.
Ahead of the Cubs currently are, in descending order from number one, the Cardinals (sigh), the Mariners, the Rays, the Rangers, the Pirates, the Padres, the Twins, the Marlins, and the Red Sox.