Jim Callis had hinted this was coming, but it still feels surprising to see in black and white: in the 2013 organizational rankings, Baseball America has the Cubs just 12th. Here’s the top 12, including the Cubs:
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Miami Marlins
6. Boston Red Sox
7. Pittsburgh Pirates
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
9. Houston Astros
10. Minnesota Twins
11. New York Yankees
12. Chicago Cubs
I think you can make a fair argument for most of those systems being ahead of the Cubs, save perhaps for the Yankees. That said, this is a nice learning opportunity for fans, and a moment to recalibrate your expectations.
The ranking is still better than average, though, and reflects an improving farm system. Then again, it’s barely a bump over the Cubs’ 14th spot for BA in 2012. That’s the part that’s a head-scratcher for me. Yes, the Cubs graduated Anthony Rizzo in that time (of course, at this time last year, he was still a bit of an unknown quantity), but they also added Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Juan Paniagua, Pierce Johnson, Kyuji Fujikawa (whom BA ranks as a nice prospect), and Javier Baez exploded up the rankings … I could go on. I have a hard time squaring the 2013 rank with the 2012 rank, so I guess maybe I’ll just conclude that BA was too generous with the Cubs in 2012.
It’s also hard to figure the 12th ranking in a system with four of the top 82 prospects, as BA says the Cubs have, including three in the top 34. (By way of comparison, the Yankees also have four in the top 77, but their first prospect doesn’t appear until number 32. My hand is still scratching my head.)
What’s the conclusion here? Well, I don’t think much changes in our perception of the system. It is still very deep at the lower levels, and very bereft at the upper levels. It’s hard to criticize pundits who would place a system like that at the back end of the upper third, rather than in the company of the truly elite systems.
As an outside observer, my gut might tell me the Cubs should probably be in the 7 to 10 range, rather than 12th, but ranking prospects isn’t my full-time job. Maybe BA knows something we don’t.