ESPN’s Keith Law has long had an ugly reputation with Chicago Cubs fans, for reasons that are almost certainly entirely unfair. There is a persistent belief among some that Law has always hated on the Cubs more harshly than other organizations. It’s probably more reflective of the Cubs’ poor farm system over the past 10 years than anything else, but, hey, that’s how it’s played out. Law has just called it like he’s seen it.
Well, I think Law will be turning around a bit in those folks’ eyes after just releasing his organizational rankings for 2013. The Chicago Cubs came in 5th. That’s likely to be the highest the organization will be ranked by any rankings service, and, frankly, seems higher than even I would have thought they could possibly fall.
The Cubs’ rebuilding process isn’t much further along than the Twins’ or the Astros’ in terms of time, but they spent extravagantly in the international market before the new CBA’s restrictions went into effect last summer, landing the Cuban toolshed Jorge Soler (and the Cuban flop Gerardo Concepcion, but we’re not going to talk about him), then later using their international pool money on the Dominican pitcher with an electric arm currently known as Juan Carlos Paniagua, who has gone through more names than the thief known as Parker. The Cubs also scored big in last year’s draft, addressing the system’s lack of starting pitching candidates while also bulking up its depth in outfield prospects.
There isn’t a lot there to explain why Law has such an elevated ranking for the Cubs, but we do know that he is higher on Arodys Vizcaino than most (when Law’s top 100 comes out later this week, you can expect to see Vizcaino on it), which probably helps. And if he’s high on Paniagua – a prospect many other rankings services ignore until he shows a bit more Stateside – that could be another reason. Add those together with the usual suspects, and you’ve got a pretty great system.
The organizations ranked ahead of the Cubs are, in order: the Cardinals (sigh), the Twins, the Rays, and the Astros.
It’s important to remember that ranking organizations is a very, very imprecise game. But Law’s top 5 ranking, together with John Sickels’ top 10 ranking, suggests the Cubs’ system is finally considered one of the better groups in baseball. And with another high pick in the Draft, together with some possible sell trades on the way, the Cubs could be even higher at this time next year. That will, of course, be especially true if the players at the lowest levels of the system – on whom so much of our hopes are riding – actually step forward and develop this year.