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baez almora solerESPN’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.

From Law:

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.

  • Ben Peoria Cubs Fan

    I simply don’t understand how Boras has any leverage regarding Appel. He is a senior this year, right? He cannot go back to Stanford and I doubt that Japan, Korea, or Mexico pay him more to pitch there. Independent league paying millions for an unproven college pitcher? I would think that you sign him for slot if you don’t want a disgruntled employee and call it a day.

  • ruby2626

    If the Cubs take Appel I’m not too worried about signing him. Last year he had leverage in that he could go back to Stanford for another year, this year he has no eligibility left. Correct me if I’m wrong but if the Cubs selected Appel and he didn’t sign with them would they get the #3 pick the next year as compensation. I see the Pirates this year are picking 9th in exchange for not signing him last year at #8. Who knows maybe the 2014 draft is loaded and we’d be better off waiting a year.

    Anyone know what happens if a college senior doesn’t sign, does he just go back into the draft the following year?

    Personally that Indiana State pitcher is intriguing. I know the competition he plays in is weak but from what I read he absolutely dominated that Cape Cod league against a bunch of really good players. Hate the White Sox but maybe the comparisons to Chris Sale are legit.

  • macblue22

    My guess is that Appel is still available at #2 b/c the fact that the Astros have the 1st pick and the whole “They don’t have a ton of money” thing. Just saying what I’ve heard regarding that.

  • brian

    i could see listing the cubs and astros as being most improved, but i’m surprised to see either of them in the top 5. everything i’ve read in BA and BP, i expected only to see both teams ranked in the high teens.

  • Marc N.

    @Klaw: Top 100 tomorrow. AL top tens with commentary Weds. NL Thurs. RT @mblecks: What’s the article schedule the rest of the week? #baseballseason

    Should get some interesting comments in those articles.

    Soler, Almora, and Baez are locks for the top 100. I wonder how many Cubs get there…Vizcaino has a legit shot…Vogelbach might…Paniagua might…No real guesses…Not sure I care that much to be honest, just happy the system is getting attention.

    • Anthony

      “Soler, Almora, and Baez are locks for the top 50.” Fixed it for you. I think Vogelbach has a good chance to make the back end. If I remember correctly there were questions surrounding his hit tool at the time of the draft, and he is proving it’s legit. I think next years rankings will give a lot of people a half chub since Soler, Almora, and Baez progress further in the system, people will get a better look at Paniagua (reports of his stuff on NSBB sounded great), and Vizcaino gets some command back from TJS.

  • daveyrosello

    For the draft, it’s got to be Manaea, Appel or Meadows, qualified by whom the Astros pick. I’m guessing Appel b/c he could conceivably be in the Cubs rotation as early as opening day 2014. Replaces Garza at lower cost and younger age. Makes a lot of sense for the Cubs.

  • Stevie B

    Dear God Id like to have picked 2nd last year….

    • Marc N

      What did the Cubs miss by picking 6th?

  • Stevie B

    Bundy

    • Cubbie Blues

      Al or Peg?

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