The Cubs Have the 10th Best Farm System, According to John Sickels

javier baez daytona cubsLast 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.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

54 responses to “The Cubs Have the 10th Best Farm System, According to John Sickels”

  1. Patrick W.

    Mariners are deep. They’re going to have a really really awful year and maybe some people get fired but 2015 Cubs – M’s WS sounds very possible.

    1. Patrick W.

      Let’s go with plausible.

    2. PKJ

      Or how about “highly unlikely, but that’s what the comments on fan blogs are supposed to be all about.”

      1. @murdiddlyurdler

        i live in a “van” down by the “river”

  2. ActionJackson

    I think that right there shows how successful Theo and Co. have been. They have done something in one year that the cubs haven’t been able to do in decades. That talent should eventually translate to the MLB (as it does with other MLB teams) so people need to appreciate the FO we have and the great strides they have made and are constantly doing to make the organization a perrenial contender.

    1. Marc N.

      The Cubs has the best system in the game almost exactly ten years ago.

    2. Rich H

      I have said other places what I think we can view as a successful system by this organization. When we get to the point that we have guys every year that are used correctly in the short term and then shipped for better major league talent because we have not shown the flaws of such “prospects” yet. Then we are at the place we need to be.

      Look at the Cardinals over the years. They develop a ton of players, some of them good, some of them bad, all of them productive. They then trade said talent to get pieces that actually work for them long term (Holiday, Walker, Rolen, Carpenter, among others over the years). Then they seem to find guys that are big league talent that no one ever considers a “top prospect”. All over the years until the last couple three having a middle to back of the pack system.

      So our goal should not be to have a top 5 system but to develop enough players to create a pipeline to keep stocking our big league club and others with could be’s. Then and only then will this front office be viewed as successful.

  3. Serio

    St. Louis at number 1 and Pittsburgh in at 5

  4. North Side Irish

    Cubs get to add to the system with this too…

    Jim Callis ‏@jimcallisBA
    Yes. Rank 2nd at $9.8 mil (2012 $) @cliffy46405: Is it fair to say the #Cubs will have about 10 million to spend in the 2013 #mlbdraft then?

  5. Blublud

    Wow. Three systems in the top 10 that Jed and Theo had something to do with. These guys must know what they are doing.

    1. Marc N.

      To be fair the best any of those teams finished last year was 4th place.

      1. cjdubbya

        Hey, fourth place was good enough for the Flint Tropics after they won the Mega Bowl!

        1. Xavier

          Good movie

      2. Blublud

        Right, and considering that neither of them are as high as 4th and going backwards and the Cubs is going foward, that deserves even more praise.

        1. AB

          3/4 top teams have been annual playoff contenders the past 5 years

          Theo/Hoyer don’t deserve as much praise as the former regime deserves condemnation for being 10 years behind what the succesful teams in the league were doing.

      3. Noah

        The Padres team that Jed Hoyer inherited was awful, though, and he turned it around to a team many think will be a contender in 2-3 years with the ability to have fairly long lasting success without spending a ton of money.

        And the Red Sox had a run from 2003-2009 that Cubs fans would kill for. They got caught up in an arms race that means they have to take a couple years to reload. By the way, it looks like the other team who was caught up in that arms race with them (the Yankees) may have to do the same thing.

        I don’t think any team, not even the Yankees, can avoid having a couple down years forever. The question is, compared to resources the team has available, how long does that down period last?

        1. Kyle

          Every bad team thinks they are 2-3 years from contending right now. It’s what bad teams tell themselves.

        2. Marc N

          Both of those teams spent alot of money on prospects, like the Cubs did. There’s nothing super special going on with what they did. It doesn’t take super sleuth talent finding skills to give Austin Hedges 3 million out of HS to me.

          Plus as Kyle says, every bad team tells themselves that in 2-3 years things will be so different just watch. All three teams are fighting for .500 in 2013 and calling it progress.

        3. Hansman1982

          The Red Sox had a helluva run up to 2011, the year the won 89 games.

          And if we are blaming theo and Jed for the padres and Red Sox sucking in 2012 then how can you say the 2012 cubs are a team they can be graded on? (Question posted to board, not just you.)

    2. Kyle

      How many of them made the playoffs any time recently?

      Priorities, priorities.

  6. Carne Harris

    Wow, didn’t realize they jumped 10 spots in a year, that’s great. Most of our high-profile guys are lower level too, so this rating probably isn’t gonna get worse anytime soon.

  7. Luke

    This looks about right to me. If Vizcaino and Whitenack come back at full strength, I can make a case for bumping the Cubs up a slot or two. Regardless, this is the range I think they belong in.

    1. Rich H

      Luke I normally am right with you on your assessments of the Cubs minor leagues but this time I think you are wrong. 2 players would get us to the 5 thru 8 spots. Now if you look at the teams in front of us then the one thing that stands out is this. They have waves and waves of prospective top of the rotation arms coming thru. We are not there yet but could be if we have about 5 guys from the last 2 drafts take huge steps to fill in for Vizcaino , Whitenack and Stuck make their way to Chicago this summer.

    2. Mick

      Huh? I thought #10 was being generous considering the bulk of our “top prospects” are more than 2 years away. Also, what top of the rotation starting pitcher do we have, anywhere?

      1. John

        What seems really interesting to me is that, for the most part, the Red Sox bought arms–up until recently (Lester and Buccholz). If we grant TINSTAAP, then maybe developing bats might be the way to go anyways. The Cardinals, too, for the most part (Wainwright sticks out) brought in arms from outside the organization.

        1. terencem

          They have EJax for 4 years and Samardzija and Garza could hang around if they agree to extensions. I’d like to see some rotation help coming out of the farm system but I think, if the bats develop, the Cubs might not need pitching right away.

          1. Xavier

            Samardzija will be around til atleast 2017 without extension or trade

  8. FastBall

    Hey it’s nice to have somebody think we have progressed that far. I don’t think we have moved up that much because of our pitching. I would be highly surprised if we are able to vault past the organizations currently ahead of us on this list. There systems are for more developed and have been for a while. They have been walking the talk so to speak for a bit longer than we have 1 or 2 years. I am excited about the movement. But basically we don’t have any pitching above Daytona right now.

  9. another JP

    The pitching situation could change dramatically if some of the injured prospects approach their potential and remain injury free. Vizcaino, Blackburn, Whitenack are just a few that can help improve our standing… also guys like Zych and Rondon aren’t far away from assisting as RP. With the second pick in the draft this year and trades for Garza, Marmol, or Soriano on the horizon we’ll have plenty opportunity to acquire some more arms and move further up in the rankings.

    1. Mick

      I don’t really see the pitching situation changing all that, the Cubs just don’t have top of the rotation SP’s anywhere near MLB ready. I’d rank the Cub’s SP prospects as:

      1. Juan Carlos Paniagua
      2. Arodys Vizcaino (can he start?)
      3. Duane Underwood
      4. Dillon Maples
      5. Pierce Johnson
      6. Paul Blackburn
      7. Alberto Cabrera
      8. Robert Whitenack
      9. Barret Loux
      10. Marcelo Carreno

      1. Marcel91

        If Ben Wells gets back to form I expect him somewhere in that top 10 as well. Also i’d keep and eye out for Ryan McNeil and Josh Conway. Two 1st-rd talents with power arms but lost stock due to injury and signability concerns.

  10. Marcel91

    One thing i’m surprised nobody mentioned is the fact that we saw regression from last years top prospects like Jackson, Vitters, Mcnutt, Wells, Dolis, etc. Graduated guys like Rizzo(our top prospect),Castillo, Rusin/Raley, Beliveau, Maine, and co. and even lost a few to the theo compensation(Carpenter was in our top 10 last year) and STILL managed to not only stay where we were but leapfrog into the top 10 in one year.

    Ricketts started the process when he decided to spend big on the draft back in 2011 which the previous regime never did and the new FO brought a player development plan to translate talent into baseball skills. Under the old regime players were drafted and told “go get’ em” and play on natural ability without any development whatsoever.

    1. Kyle

      Point of orders: VItters didn’t regress.

      1. Marcel91

        Regression meaning he didn’t play up to peoples standards in the majors. I personally feel he had a great year but most cubs fans don’t want to hear that. Only what he did in a short sample size in the majors. Which is sad really.

        1. Carew

          I don’t think its really fair to say “regressed,” perhaps something along the lines of “struggled.” He was called up fairly quick I think, and wasn’t used much.

          1. Marcel91

            Agree.

        2. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          How does that mean he regressed? He started the year in AAA and made it to the majors after having a solid run in AAA. That doesn’t make any sense.

          1. MichiganGoat

            Today words have many confusion alternative definitions… BN really needs baseball to start for the sanity of the community.

  11. cubfanincardinalland

    Give me a break with the effing Cardinals. They already have this 20 year old kid Taveras and the 21 year old Miller spots at Cooperstown. We’ll see. They have this Adams kid the 2nd best first baseman in the minors, he was a whiff machine in his call up last season.
    What do the Cardinals know about developing starting pitchers? They have been going out and aquiring their starters for decades.
    In the last 50 years since Bob Gibson, here is the list of quality starting pitchers that came out of the St. Louis system. Bob Forsch, Danny Cox, Matt Morris, Danny Haren. That’s the list. 50 years. Now all of a sudden their the Atlanta Braves pitching pipeline. Forget about it.

    1. Rich H

      Of the Cardinals current 40 man they have 10 players that they acquired thru Free Agency(including minor league FA’s), six that were traded for, and nineteen that were Draft Picks and four that were Amateur free agents. Tell me again how they haven’t developed their own talent?

      The only 2 starters they have that are not from their organization are Wainright and Carpenter( I am not counting Westbrook who I am not sure what they will do with if Miller or Adams is ready). Most of there bullpen including the closer are home grown.

      That is not even counting the talent they traded away to get Holiday (Haren). So please where am I wrong in my assessment of the Cards system? They get the kids ready to play then ship off the guys that don’t fit what they want to do (Rasmus). It is the way a professional winning franchise is suppose to create a roster.

  12. cubfanincardinalland

    Exactly, the other starters they have are for the most part unproven hopefuls. Jaime Garcia is done from what I hear, the shoulder is toast. Lynn had a good first half, they lit him up after they figured out to stack the lineups with lefties against him. Joe Kelly, meh. Rosenthal, Miller, etc. while getting hall of fame headlines, ain’t done diddly yet.
    All of a sudden I hear non stop down here about the loaded pitching the Cardinals have. Their track record developing starting pitching is abysmal, the worst in baseball the last 50 years. They basically developed two all star players, in Molina and Pujols. After that, nothing to write home about. Chris Perez, who they gave away.

  13. Timmy

    I still think this is all wildly exaggerated optimism, though I’ll be happy to be proved wrong. I’m not going to provide my own ranking to the farm system, but a top farm system does intimate contention within a short time either because of breakout stars or calculated trades. I don’t see the Cubs contending for at least 3 years due to parsimony. Once they agree to pay their fair share for players AND we have some strong prospects things will shift.

    1. mudge

      Parsimony – is that baloney with parsley in it?

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Actually, parsimony is the most basic principle of critical thinking! However, parsimony is not the right word there: parsimony is never a cause, but a way of ordering causal explanations by how complex they are.

      Here is an example: the hypothesis that a guy bats the same in all situations (1 rate) is parsimonious relative to the idea that he is “clutch” or “choke” (2 rates). And, of course, nobody ever deviates from the 1-rate hypothesis enough for us to reject it.

      1. Timmy

        I accept Doc’s explanation of best sentence placement but my usage was also grammatically correct.

  14. jt

    par·si·mo·ny
    /ˈpärsəˌmōnē/
    Noun
    Extreme unwillingness to spend money or use resources.
    Synonyms
    miserliness – thrift – stinginess – frugality – avarice
    *
    had to look it up. thought mudge was correct.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Hilarious.

    2. hansman1982

      There is a second definition, that I think is where Doc is coming from:

      : economy in the use of means to an end; especially : economy of explanation in conformity with Occam’s razor

      Which could be translated to being frugal on the usage of brain power.

    3. DocPeterWimsey

      Good grief: do economists do anything right? I must admit, in all my years, I’ve never seen “parsimony” used in that way. I’ve always used it as for “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate” (Never multiple entities [explanations] without necessity.” Occam might not have actually said that himself, but many of his works were lost, and it’s possible that the citation is to a lost work. It certainly paraphrases his viewpoint!

      It actually is quite relevant to baseball: a lot of firmly entrenched ideas are unparsimonious ones that rarely meet the criterion of “necessity.” (The sample size issue plays into this: a number given 250 PAs rarely will qualify as “necessity” but the same number at 2500 often will.)

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