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baez almora solerThis is quite possibly the most requested article I have ever written. There is even a thread on the Message Boards where a bunch of readers are getting in on the prospect ranking game. And one of them got pretty close to my top ten.

Prospect rankings are never easy to assemble, and mid-season ones are the most difficult kind to put together. Recent draft picks have very little professional experience, too little on which to get any accurate read of their numbers, but they still need to be factored in. Some players are producing above or below their talent level; it can be tough to take that into account and correctly reward one player for breaking out while not punishing another player for a normal (if badly timed) slump.

In the end, though, the same mix of Projection (how good a player is likely to be (not the same thing as ceiling)) and Risk (how likely a player is to reach the majors) that I used for the off season edition of the Top 40 again formed the foundation for these rankings. A prospect with a lower projection who is more likely to reach the majors could easily be ranked higher than a prospect with a much higher projection and a much higher risk. For that reason there is a slight tendency here to favor prospects who have had success in the higher levels of the minors. That also means I may be currently undervaluing some of the Cubs college pitcher draftees from the 2013 draft.

Also, just like last time, I did not consider any player who has not yet played in the United States. There are some nice prospects in the Cubs VSL and DSL teams but they did not factor into these rankings at all. Numbers from that level are tough to interpret and non-number information (like quality scouting reports) tends to be rare and unreliable. Some of those players likely deserve to be on this list, but for now I do not take them into consideration.

Finally, every player on this list I think has a genuine chance to reach the majors (and some of them have already been there). If the day ever comes when the Cubs do not have forty prospects I think have a shot at the majors, then this list will not be forty names long. That day is not today. My candidate list for the Top 40 is huge, and I can make a good case for a number of players who ultimately did not make the cut.

Before we get to the good stuff, though, we do need to make our weekly survey of the minors. Once again, we have several playoff races to talk about.

Iowa Cubs : 48-48

Iowa continues to play .500 baseball and continues to stay in first place by two games over the Redbirds. The Cubs also have the most home wins in the league at 31. Then again, they also have the second fewest road wins at 17.

Tennessee Smokies : 15-8

The Smokies are starting to pull away. This team is well over .500 now, and they have widened their lead over second place Birmingham to three games. Now that Baez appears to be heating up this lineup is looking as formidable as the starting rotation. Tennessee might just be the best team in the Southern League right now.

Daytona Cubs : 13-7

With their retooled lineup and some very impressive pitching lately the Daytona Cubs are holding onto to first place by a slim one game lead. There is a lot of baseball to be played yet, but it would be amazing if the Cubs could place their three highest level farm teams in the playoffs this fall …

Kane County Cougars : 4-17

… because they definitely won’t be watching all four full-season teams in the post season. The Cougars are not only 11 games out of first place, they are a stunning 13 games under .500. Their road record (1-12) is one of the worst in all of the minor leagues. What exactly is going wrong in Kane County is the subject of a full article (and one I may write later this week), but I still maintain that the talent on this team is better than the record shows. The non-pitching talent, that is. On the mound the Cougars are thin.

Boise Hawks : 12-16

The Hawks streaked in the wrong direction last week, and as a result they are four games under five hundred and six game back in the division with not many games left to play in the first half. The Hawks suddenly find themselves in possession of a good, experienced collegiate pitching core though. I’m not sure how long those 2013 draftees will stay in Boise, but if they remain the rest of the season they could propel the Hawks into second half playoff contention.

Arizona AZL Cubs : 9-10

The AZL Cubs are currently sitting 6.5 half back of the first place Giants, but they are also about to get one of the biggest bats in the state when (if) Bryant suits up for a few games. I have a feeling a few more fans than usual might show up at the ball park should Bryant make an appearance. A few more balls might leave the yard as well.

The New Top 40

I’ll save the long, more analytical article for the offseason. For this mid-season re-ranking the prospects will come in one big list with just a line or two about each. Starting with…

1. Javier Baez, SS. – He has a very high ceiling and is the only one of the top four to reach Double A. That makes him number one almost by default.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B – Whether or not Bryant’s power is really an 80, he is at least in that conversation. That elite tool combined with his ability to recognize and take pitches gives him a higher floor than any of the other top four, I think.

3. Albert Almora, OF – Almora is doing pretty much exactly what I expected this season, and that is not a bad thing. He is still at least a year and a half away, but I think his floor might be higher than a lot of us initially though.

4. Jorge Soler, OF – If Soler really was playing all spring with a half-injured leg as some have suggested, then he probably should remain in the No 1 spot. He drops down to four not so much because he did anything wrong as because the rest of the top four did a lot of things right.

5. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B – It is not every season that a player posts a career high in walk rate (9.8%) and slugging percentage (.475) in his first season at Double A. That is sort of rare, actually. Alcantara’s ability to do so has jumped him up from No 18. You might be looking at the Cubs second baseman of the future.

6. Pierce Johnson, RHP – He handled the Midwest League with no problem. He is handling the Florida State League with no problem. I don’t see ace potential here, but he has a chance to be a very good major league starter in a couple years.

7. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP – I do see ace potential with Vizcaino, but it comes with a lot of injury risk baggage. If he proves he is healthy and can start he arguably belongs among the top four. Even if he can’t be a starter, though, his stuff should work very well as a closer.

8. Junior Lake, 3B/OF – In his first season of Triple A Lake has put up the lowest strikeout rate of his career (19.5%). Unfortunately his walk rate has gone down as well. I still can’t decide if I’m seeing a potentially very good super-utility guy or the Cubs next starting third baseman. Either way, he should be up in September.

9. Rob Zastryzny, LHP – I have questions about the ceiling here, but based on the scouting reports I think Zastryzny may have one of the highest floors of any pitcher in the farm system. For now I am projecting him as a potential mid-rotation left handed starting pitcher and ranking him based on that.

10. Juan Paniagua, RHP – I’m still not sure what the Cubs have in Paniagua, but now that he is in the United States we will start to find out. The projections range from potential impact starter to flame throwing middle reliever. For now I’m parking him at No 10 and letting him pitch his way into a new ranking.

11. Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH – I love the walk rate (9.8%) and the strike out rate (15.0%) and the rest of his numbers have been good. As a pure bat prospect, though, Vogelbach has to hit enough to outweigh the value he does not bring on defense. That is a tall order for any first baseman, even one with as much usable power as Vogelbach. I like the potential here, but I’d like it more if the NL used a DH.

12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B – As a teenager in the Midwest League the switch hitting Candelario has an RC+ of 101 with very nice looking walk and strikeout ratios. Most importantly, though, has been signs that his glove can stay at third long term. This is a name to remember.

13. Kyle Hendricks, RHP – When I miss, I miss badly. Hendricks wasn’t on the pre-season Top 40 at all. Now he’s one of the best pitching prospects in the Cubs system and looks like a solid candidate to make the rotation as a back of the rotation starter out of spring training next season. Only the lack of any very good pitch keeps him out of the Top 10.

14. Logan Watkins, 2B/Util – Watkins has the glove to take over at second base in the majors now, and I think he could outproduce Barney at the plate if he did. His ultimate future, though, may be as a utility man and defensive replacement off the bench. His high-OBP left handed bat will come in handy for Sveum in pinch hit situations as well.

15. Tyler Skulina, RHP – The Cubs snuck Skulina out in the 4th round, but his talent projects as high as a No 2 starter in the majors. Like most amateur pitchers he needs to work on his command, but unlike many of them he already has a nice breaking pitch to pair with his fastball. I’m looking forward to seeing what Minor League Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson can do with many of the collegiate arms from the 2013 draft, and especially so with Skulina.

16. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF – Ha spent 210 games in the Southern League before finally getting a crack at Triple A this summer. Long term I see Ha as a fourth outfielder in the Reed Johnson mold. I think Wrigley fans are going to love this guy’s defense.

17. Paul Blackburn, RHP – Blackburn is pitching very well for a guy who was in high school a year ago. He was reported to be one of the more advanced pitchers the Cubs took in 2012, and so far this season he is showing that to be case. The ceiling here is hard to read – mid rotation starter most likely – but he has all the earmarks of a guy who can move quickly.

18. Gioskar Amaya, 2B – Amaya has been slumping for much of this season, but despite those struggles he has respectable wOBA of .332. He still projects as a starting second baseman who makes a living with very good defense and by spraying line drives to all fields.

19. Trey Masek, RHP – Masek could move up the system quickly, but for now he putting in some work with Boise. Masek could feature at the back of the bullpen or in the middle of a rotation, but right now I am leaning bullpen. In that capacity he could follow a trajectory similar to…

20. Tony Zych, RHP – If Zych can ever tame that walk rate (4.2 BB/9 this season) he would be the clear favorite for Closer of the Future. He has dropped his WHIP from 1.541 to 1.349 in his second year of Double A, and I still see him as a strong candidate for the Chicago bullpen sometime next season.

21. Christian Villanueva, 3B – I feel like this is a little low for a good defensive third baseman who has a wRC+ of 115 in Double A in his age 22 season, but then I look at the strike out rate (22.7%) as compared to the slugging percentage (.438) and I’m not sure the second of those numbers is large enough to justify the first one. There is a lot to like here, but there is cause for caution as well.

22. Jacob Hannemann, OF – This is another ranking I think might be a touch low. The more I study Hannemann the more I like what I see. Outside of Almora and Soler, I think Hannemann has the best chance of any Cub outfield prospect to have a marked impact at the major league level. This is another player to watch closely.

23. Alberto Cabrera, RHP – Cabrera has looked very good at times in his return to the starting rotation with Tennessee, but he has had success at this level before without that success translating higher up. Even so, I like his odds to emerge as a mid-rotation starter in Chicago perhaps as soon as this fall.

24. Matt Szczur, OF – I have a hard time picking holes in what Szczur had done this season for the Smokies. His line of .287/.357/.384 is a little light on slugging, perhaps, but as a high OBP guy with 20 steals he still has plenty of value. I haven’t given up on him as a starting center fielder quite yet, but I still lean towards him having a future as a fourth outfielder.

25. Dillon Maples, RHP – Maples plummets down this list thanks almost entirely to risk. He was my No. 8 in the preseason and he still has the same No 2 starter potential that led me to ranking him that high. But now he also has control issues connected to a work-in-progress makeover of his mechanics, and that is a little concerning. Don’t write him off, but don’t bank on him either.

26. Marco Hernandez, SS – Hernandez might be the best pure shortstop prospect in the system behind Baez (if you think Baez can stay at short) but he still has a lot of work to do before he is major league ready. He is on the young side for the Midwest League, though, so in a sense he is already a little ahead of schedule.

27. Josh Vitters, 3B/1B/OF – Unfortunately, this is looking like another lost season for Vitters. This guy has been banged around a lot in his career, but when he is completely healthy has actually produced pretty well. He had a very nice season for Iowa last year; hopefully he can build on that when he is finally able to return to the diamond.

28. Brett Jackson, OF – The glove is there. The power is there. The speed is there. The pitch recognition is there. The ability to make contact consistently? Well… that’s why Jackson is all the way down at 27. Right now he is a nice major league fourth or fifth outfielder who could do well in a platoon role. There is still a ceiling there, but we need to see some progress at the plate to keep him on this list at all.

29. Dustin Geiger, 3B/1B – Geiger exploded into the scene as the third power bat in Daytona’s three headed monster with Baez and Soler. But now that Soler is injured and Baez is promoted Geiger has been left to carry the offense alone… and he has done just that. Sometimes the raw, toolsy high school guys come together, and Geiger is looking like one of those cases. There is still a lot of risk here, but there is also some reason for excitement. Stay tuned.

30. Yasiel Balaguert, OF – Balaguert has been lurking in the Cubs organization and drawing some rave reviews from some scouts and analysts (including, if memory serves, Keith Law), for some time now, but we have never seen him put those talents into action like he has this season. An SLG of .511 and a walk rate of 13.2% in Northwest League at twenty years old is a very good sign for the future.

31. Duane Underwood, RHP – Underwood has not gotten off to a great start with Boise, but he has still struck out 18 in 20 innings while flashing the sort of stuff that made him an early pick in 2012. He is inconsistent still, and that makes his ceiling hard to peg, but the raw materials are there for him to emerge as a mid-rotation starter or better. He is a project, but one worth waiting on.

32. Shawon Dunston, OF – I need to see more out of Dunston than a few good weeks in Short Season A to rank him any higher on this list, but his talent levels argue for a slot quite a bit further up the list. His game is speed, but speed depends on getting on base. So far this season he has done exactly that. If he keeps that up we could be looking at much higher slotting the next time this list is assembled.

33. Corbin Hoffner, RHP – I think Hoffner is likely to remain a reliever, but he has been pitching very well for the Hawks in that capacity. The 18 K in 17.2 inning are a good sign, but it is the combination of that with the 2.00 GO/AO that sticks out for me. A ground ball pitcher who can get the strike out is a pitcher with a future. And to top it off, Hoffner does not turn 20 until 7/30.

34. Zach Rosscup, LHP – Rosscup should arguably be twenty slots higher on this list, but as good as he has been this season I am not yet convinced he has future closer potential. I am completely buying into Rosscup as a high quality bullpen arm, though. He is possibly the next Cubs lefty bullpen stable in the line of Marshall and Russell .

35. Eric Jokisch, LHP – Jokisch was quite a bit higher the last time this list was made, but his fall has nothing to due with his performance in Tennessee. He has pitched quite well for the Smokies, but we knew he could handle Double A. I’d like to see what he can do against Triple A competition soon, hopefully this season. Right now he projects as a fourth or fifth starter.

36. John Andreoli, OF – Andreoli is a speed-first outfielder who has a knack for getting on base. He followed up his .387 OBP in Daytona last season with an OBP of .394 in 303 trips to the plate there this year before finally being promoted. So far in Tennessee his OBP is a solid .351. Don’t let the surface comparison to Tony Campana fool you; Andreoli is better in the field, has a stronger arm, more power, and is a better hitter.

37. Bijan Rademacher, OF – Rademacher had a bit of a breakout performance for Kane County this season, and he was rewarded with a promotion to Daytona after 55 games. In limited time in High-A he is continuing to show the same patience and assortment of tools that allowed him to earn that promotion in the first place. Rademacher is a ways away from the majors yet, but he one of the more intriguing sleepers in the lower levels of the system.

38. Reggie Golden, OF – Golden has some of the best tools on Kane County’s roster, but thanks to a series of injuries he has lacked the time to learn to use them. He has predictably struggled in 27 games this season. It will take some time for Golden to shake off the rust and gain the experience he needs to translate his talents, but his ceiling is quite high. Right now the key for Golden is simply to stay healthy and play.

39. Matt Loosen, RHP – Loosen has not given up a run in 21 straight innings and has struck out 45 in 43 innings with Daytona this season. He struggled with Tennessee to start the season but since then is reported to have cleaned up his command and now is about as dominant as any pitcher in the minors. He will get another shot at Tennessee no later than next year, and I would not be surprised if he succeeds the second time around. Loosen has mid-rotation starter potential, but I’d be interested to see how his strikeout inducing stuff would work in the bullpen.

40. Jordan Hankins, C/INF – The Cubs have loaded up on interesting catcher prospects in the past two drafts; surely one of them will break out eventually. If that is to happen, Hankins might be the favorite to do so. Unfortunately, in very limited time with Arizona and Boise, Hankins hasn’t been playing catcher. Scouts were highest on his bat when he was drafted in 2013, and it appears the Cubs are willing to try him at a number of position in order to get that bat in the lineup. I’m not sure where Hankins eventually lands, but if it isn’t behind the plate I’m not sure he stays on this list.

And that’s the list. There are a lot of names that are not on this list, a lot of omissions (particularly from the 2013 draft) who could have fit anywhere in the lower parts, but but that is a good thing. That means the Cubs have a tremendously deep system. But unlike past years, it is also a system with a very impressive collection of very good prospects at the top. And, believe it or not, there is a fair amount of pitching depth appearing as well.

The Cubs have built an impressive farm system and the cornerstone of a bright future.

  • Cast

    [img]http://twitter.com/MLB/status/356432238944059392/photo/1[/img]
    Look at that back pocket hanging out now that’s a future Chicago Cub

    • Jp3

      Strike 1 Cast:)

  • Patrick G

    From Jason Parks

    @ProfessorParks: Sano’s BP was insane, but Alcantara’s was also legit, showing impressive bat speed and pop. #Cubs

    • Jp3

      That’s awesome to hear his BP went well as we expect now

  • Randy

    It sure is good to see Baez already making adjustments in AA and filling up some stat lines. Still swinging as hard as he can every time, but at least he’s seeing good pitches and has walked in two of his last three games.

    Hopefully he doesn’t revert back to the plate approach he had a week or two ago, but those recent games of his in Tennessee are pretty easy to get excited about. Hope we get to see him in the majors before becoming “buyers” in a year or two and going big on a trade for someone like David Price. Theo & co. seem very good at knowing when to sell high. I just want to see him playing everyday in the bigs before we end up potentially giving him up in a trade for a more established Mega-impact player.

    Hope it doesn’t happen, and now we have the player development resources to actually develop in-house talent, but since I can never remember following our prospects this closely (or being near this excited about them in the past), I’m going to have some serious separation anxiety when we finally have to move some of these guys that we’ve all learned to love!

  • Jp3

    Bryant’sbeutiful swing if anyone hasn’t seen it in this awesome cubs gear.

    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/video/p2p-76648315/

    • Randy

      It really is amazing how much power he’s able to generate, with so little movement in his swing. No wasted energy, his bat stays in the zone forever – especially for someone so tall and long. Has to be a great thing for helping him move through the system quickly. just has to see the pitching and make the mental adjustments. with all of the scouts praising his intelligence, this guy is poised to be a total stud. great job by the Cubs resisting the urge to take Gray, and for getting this dude signed. Sync these swings with the tune of hearing those wooden bat cracks at Wrigley :

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUdTJFzEEY&feature=relmfu

      Prospect boner

  • rockin’ dawg

    Great list, Brett. Thanks for all you do! Personally, I would flip-flop Johnson & Viscaino and drop Zasrynzny out of the top 10. But what the hell do I know?

  • rockin’ dawg

    Oops…Luke, not Brett. Sorry!

  • Jono

    It’s exciting to see Bryant and Alcantara up there! Wish there were a couple more potential aces, but hey, this looks great for still being relatively early in the rebuild. Epstein and hoyer have done an great job improving this organization in a short period of time.

    Also, the timing of this article goes perfectly with a phil Rogers article in the tribune today about the the cubs’ top prospect and their expected ETA

    • Jono

      Correction: this looks great for any organization, but ESPECIALLY great for being relatively early in the rebuild

  • Kygavin

    Hard to argue any order that you put the top 4. Same with Johnson/Alcantara. The only one I have a problem with is Lake. I just dont get all the love for him

  • Timmy

    Let’s be serious that it’s apparent now that this “destroy everything to rebuild it” process was largely elective. It was influenced by three factors: 1) Owners telling Theo he wouldn’t have “real” money to work with for some time while they attended to making the team even more profitable with ticket revenues. 2) Theo’s “vision” for some kind of super minor league system that would perpetually refresh itself. 3) The urge to make the team completely his.

    What’s not appropriately said is that the timeline for all of this is completely unacceptable, unrealistic, and frankly dishonest considering the sheer amount of time, money, energy, and history that Chicago has and continues to put into the team. The team will always be in Chicago, but it probably won’t always be helmed by the current owners or Theo. So a 5-7 year “playground” to make a whole lot of money and fiddle around, without ever attempting to win, is on the side of absurdity and unsportsmanlike.

    Besides these points, the minor league system is indeed improving. The team will have to be completely rebuilt again and a few of our younger players got screwed by this.

    • DarthHater

      Translation:

      [img]http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2814/9160539491_13f37f9c16_o.jpg[/img]

      • Jono

        Seriously

      • Kyle

        The long-term rebuilding plan: [img]http://dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/20000/3000/800/23887/23887.strip.gif[/img]

        • DarthHater

          [img]http://t.qkme.me/3qf8d1.jpg[/img]

        • Timmy

          Kyle has this completely right, Jono is on the wrong side of history as usual.

          • Jono

            You and kyle are wrong because the cubs’ sales weren’t all that weak last year and are still decent this year. Sure, they’re not drawing 3 million, but 3 million is very robust. There’s a middle ground between the weak sales that kyle suggests and 3 million in attendance. The attendance this year isn’t bad for coming off a 100 loss season

            • Kyle

              It’s more of a vague joke about how they are putting off having to show any real results and thus avoiding culpability.

              • Jono

                Right. Signing a bunch of free agents to long and expensive contracts works so well….It takes time to build an organization like the cardinals have, and they’re clearly on their way.

                • YourResidentJag

                  They don’t need to sign FAs that are costly necessarily to get good value. That’s always the “out-clause” for every fan of the FO on here, and what’s more, will be as long as they’re here. Tampa and Oakland should inform you of that. My post today of comparing slash lines of Kelly Johnson and Josh Hamilton should inform you of that. The old “what do you want, Albert Puljos?” argument is as tired on here as the “We gave up a haul for Matt Garza.” statements. I get more exhausted sifting through comments like these month after month.

                  • Jono

                    Tampa and Oakland are successful because they draft well and have lots of good pitching prospects. The cubs are starting to draft better and let’s hope the pitching prospects come along with the development of the volume strategy. They haven’t chosen any first round pitchers, but they attack arms with volume. Hopefully that strategy starts producing waves of pitching prospects. And since its only been two drafts, we shouldn’t have expected to see the outcome of those drafts yet

      • Timmy

        I want effort on the field, not necessarily a title. I can wait 5 years for the team to be rebuilt into a perpetual contender, but I see no evidence that completely stripping and sabotaging the on the field team for 4-5 years is necessary to accomplish this.

        In fact, it’s obvious to everyone that the current roster has destroyed our recent future stars. Maybe they’ll bounce back in the future with a better lineup, but more likely they’ll need a change of scenery to reawaken morale.

        • cms0101

          It puzzles me why the team’s approach to rebuilding is still a debate. They’re doing it exactly how they want to do it. Fans are still going to the park, despite the losing. It may be down a little, but it certainly isn’t sending a message to the front office that things better change. And I really don’t see a lack of trying on this team. They’re not overmatched like they were some parts of the end of last season. They had worse performance out of the bullpen this year, otherwise they’d be in a playoff race right now. They spent money on a Japanese close that didn’t pan out due to injury. They brought back a bad Camp at Sveum’s request. Marmol reverted after having a solid 2nd half last season. Gregg was signed and installed as closer too late. That’s the difference between a playoff contender and being 7 games under .500. This isn’t the gloom and doom scenario you’re painting. In 2012, they didn’t have enough pitching to make some of the trades they made and then sustain a mediocre team. And despite the lack of hitting, nobody wanted Aramis Ramirez back because of the clubhouse lawyer he had become at the end of his tenure. The didn’t strip the team down and sabotage it. This team was every bit as bad in 2011. Aramis Ramirez was the one major subtraction. Carlos Pena was awful. Marlon Byrd was terrible last season, then got suspended. Nobody could predict what he’s don’t this year. We’re in the middle of year 2. For you to say they’re sabotaged for 4-5 years is just wrong. They’ve already rebuilt a starting rotation with 2-3 mainstays, and revamping the bullpen with live arms seems to be working as well. The rebuild is working. They have a better record this season than this time last year. I’d love to see Garza stay and be in the rotation long term, but you can’t pay him $18-20 million a year like he’s going to want. Jackson has turned things around in his last 4-5 starts. This team will approach .500 next season, and possibly better than that, all while having a much deeper farm system and a lower payroll to provide them flexibility in adding pieces as needed. Castro and Rizzo will rebound from their season long funks. They have to make adjustments, just as pitchers have adjusted to them.

          • http://a-rodminorsavg.324hr/yr7 cub2014

            Well said cms0101, but to compete in 2014 they
            need some short term FA. They are that clos.,
            The one thing the FO has shown a willingness to do
            is lock up starting pitching and I think they will do that
            again this season and the upcoming off season.

            • cms0101

              They definitely will have to play the short term free agent game again this offseason. They’ve shown they can do that pretty well, so I have confidence in that. I know Kyle has come out several different times and ripped different things that have happened, but they are showing improvements. Ramirez was the lone big league guy they let get away from the 2011 team that might have had any value to them going forward, but while they missed his bat, they allowed a rookie manager to control his clubhouse without a malcontent. I am sure Theo/Jed would have wanted Cespedes, Darvish, Ryu, Puig, or any other international free agent they missed out on, but 28 other teams missed out on those guys too. I don’t understand how you can rip them for not signing those guys. They made an attempt and it came up short on all 4. It sucks. They’ll have to evaluate the dollars it takes to get the top guys, no doubt. But every account states they were in the running, top 3 bidders or better, on all those guys. How can that be viewed as they went cheap? There are clearly no predictions on how much teams will bid on players, especially the Dodgers. And just to be fair, they have definitely made bad moves. I’m not just worshipping at the alter of Theo. Ian Stewart was a bad call, twice. Kyle was the first one to call that. Signing Camp for 2013 was a bad idea. He was overused last year and was clearly not the same pitcher in the second half. All signs pointed to he was done. Jason Berken and Justin Germano shouldn’t even be starting pitchers for the Iowa Cubs. But in the end, this team is improving. And we all know the farm system is improving. The rebuild is working, despite it’s detractors.

              • Kyle

                The rebuild is definitely working in its early stages. I don’t want to say paint them as some sort of hapless Three Stooges goons who can’t do anything right. Honestly, I get supremely frustrated that they don’t do better simply because they can do so well.

                My main complaints are:

                1) It didn’t have to be this way. We could have rebuilt the deeper organization simultaneously to having success at the MLB level. (Although it’s looked lately like this had more to do with decisions made before Epstein was ever hired than anything Epstein is doing intentionally).

                2) They get overpraised for what are essentially the easiest steps of a rebuild. It’s not hard, especially when given carte blanche to divert every possibly resource to it, to shoot up the farm. The hard part comes in converting those deep resources into MLB success (as the Royals have been finding out for years) in what looks like it will be a brutally tough division over the projectable future.

                • Timmy

                  I am in complete agreement here. They’re being over praised for only doing 50% of what GMs do, and taking twice as long as usual to do it. I’ll wait until this time next year before I echo the Boston press and call Theo a lucky joke, but this whole process is seeming transparently disingenuous from the start at this point. Mainly due to the owners, but also due to Theo’s incapacity to put together anything resembling a major league team to this point.

                • jt

                  “It didn’t have to be this way. We could have rebuilt the deeper organization simultaneously to having success at the MLB level.”
                  –Kyle
                  *
                  I buy into the theory that the mess in 2012 was needed in order to evaluate talent. They did not just put a stick in Valbuena’s hand and ask him to show what he could do. They actually worked with the guy to see if there was something more to be had. They tried Byrd and Soto and decided to cut bait and move on. Again, I pretty much buy into the excuse that it had to be that way in 2012.
                  They could have accepted 2013 Rizzo and Castro as finished products. They continue to patiently work with both. Yeah, I’m glad to see them doing that. That indicates that the evaluation is still in progress.
                  I believe they were genuinely surprised at how bad the bullpen was early in the year. It was a miscalculation that cost them several games. Again, I believe it was an honest mistake. Like Marmol pitching in the 9th, they blew that one and it cost them several games. Otherwise they built a close to 0.500 team in the 2nd year of evaluation. That is a lot more than I expected. It seems somewhat impressive.

                  • Rebuilding

                    Whatever you may say about Sveum… And lord knows I’ve been critical about his in-game decisions at times. These guys play hard and they play to win. I’ve yet to see insobordination or a lack of caring. That’s credit to the manager. I still think he needs an old, retired bench coach, but I think Sveum is actually pretty safe right now. We could do worse

                    • Timmy

                      yeah, he’s a great coach for a bad team! he’s very very low on the totem pole of cubs problems and we should be supporting him.

                    • Rebuilding

                      Please go away. I know you are prob just trying to be that guy, but you got tiresome weeks ago. At least be occasionally funny

                    • Timmy

                      dude i am so funny that you don’t get the humor, because you are the humor

            • Jono

              Theyre definitely moving towards a winning season, but it takes some time to do it right. We saw what happened over the last 5/6 years when a GM tries buying a successful team through free agency. Two good teams then a series of bad ones stuck under expensive contracts. It’s 6 years later and they’re finally about to come out from under those decisions

        • DarthHater

          If your views are “obvious to everyone,” why do you often complain that people here either attack you or don’t listen to anything you say?

          • DocShock8

            Because he hates the Ricketts for whatever reason and will take any chance o say it. In fact when he Cubs win it the World Series and are consistent contenders, with the Ricketts as owners, he will probably say that they are just doing whatever they can to make sure when they sell they get the biggest profit. As long as they own the Cubs, he will never be happy.

            • Timmy

              When I see evidence that they actually care about the sport and not the profits I’ll change my tune, especially if they start giving a chunk of their significant wealth to decent philanthropic sources. I hate how the most rock of the rich try to turn beloved things into shopping malls to make even more money that they don’t need, yes.

              Especially when they’re suing their own neighborhood and running racist attack ads against politicians. I’m not even a Democrat but their whole pursuit in life is sickening to me.

              • Jono

                If they only cared about profits and not the sport, they wouldn’t be spending so much money on amateur talent or that new Dominican development. They made the most money last year of all the teams, so they clearly don’t have to be doing that stuff to keep reeling in the dough

              • Jono

                Racism is a pretty serious charge that shouldnt be thrown around lightly. Can you provide one piece of evidence that those attack ads were racists? Attack ads happen all the time in politics, yet when they are aimed at Obama, it must be racism? Why? I hope you can back up your claim of racism with evidence. Otherwise, you’re no better than the attack ads you’re criticizing

                • Timmy

                  ok i agree with this and will take a step back. they were *affiliated with racist advertisements for a time and pulled back due to political pressure. but it was a political tactic they weren’t above for a while, even though they didn’t see it through.

              • DocShock8

                Suing own neighborhood? I have not heard about this, please provide evidence.

                Do you require all rich people to give large chunk of their wealth to philanthropic causes or just the Ricketts? For instance what about all the Cubs and other athletes who make large sums of money? Politicians? Hollywood movie stars? Can they be any causes or just ones you support and believe are right? Do you hold yourself to same standard since most Americans make up the top percentage of owners of wealth in the world?

                Essentially I am saying, if you dislike the Ricketts just say so. If that is your opinion fine, but if we disagree don’t act like we are supporting some evil group just because you think of them that way.

                • Timmy

                  i do openly say i dislike the way the ricketts run the team on every single level… i’ve never been veiled about it. i also hate how they’ve politicized everything instead of just run a danged baseball team. always having to read about their fights with the neighborhood, the city, the president, and each other is a total bummer. plus they’ve reduced team salary significantly. they suck.

                  • Timmy

                    they’re examples of how “baseball” is no longer baseball. nothing about what they do is fun, and there’s now a generation of fans who don’t even find fun in baseball…they just plot fantasy baseball lines for sneaky tactics and saving money. some of you guys are better playing monopoly against your grandma than watching sports.

                    • fromthemitten

                      you’re more ween troll than die hard troll

                    • CubsFaninMS

                      I like how you blame the Ricketts family for the frequency in which the news media reports on them. Did one of the Ricketts brothers give you an atomic wedgie in high school?

        • Drew7

          “In fact, it’s obvious to everyone that the current roster has destroyed our recent future stars.”

          I’ve yet to see *anyone* else take such a ridiculous, hyperbolic stance like this.

        • Fuck Timmy

          Congrats on your summers eve douche of the year award. Fucking Moron.

          • Timmy

            I think this reaction means that I finally got through to one of the monopoly-minded guys.

            • Fuck Timmy

              How is that, You really are pretty ignorant huh.

              • Timmy

                this kind of anger is called “striking a nerve”, so deal with your own issues and use appropriate language around the children clown.

                • Fuck Timmy

                  I simply gave you a douche of the year award it seems to be you that has the anger problems Timmy. It’s ok buddy calm down

                  • Timmy

                    you can be mad at me on here, but you should be mad at the owners for ruining chicago baseball by making it into political attacks and turning the ballpark into a mall. solidarity with other cubs fans is part of what disappeared with the Theo generation.

                    • Fuck Timmy

                      I’m not mad at you but your ignorance on this just makes you sound like douche. Thus the award.

                  • Timmy

                    at least we agree about my last point. i accept your award.

                    • Fuck Timmy

                      Well your welcome and have a good day.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    There is only one option with Timmy – IGNORE HIM COMPLETELY. He wants attention, he wants to get under your skin and if everyone ignores him he will either leave or become more aggressive to the point the BanHammer comes down. But engaging him is exactly what he wants.

                    • Timmy

                      and btw i really resent being called a troll for wanting to win within the next 5 years. this is not a tall order, it’s just currently prohibited.

                  • Timmy

                    here comes the censor again. a guy disagrees with ownership and for goating its like i’m a cardinals fan or something. and i’m always diplomatic if opinionated about the importance of coaches and players instead of profits and politics. maybe that’s not how baseball is played in michigan but it was when i grew up.

            • MichiganGoat

              Well you have set the bar for annoying Douchebaggery – keep baiting away and you will get all the attention you desperately desire

              • Timmy

                i think we all agreed to call it “goating” instead of baiting a few days ago.

                • X the Cubs Fan

                  I think that was just you because im pretty sure no one on this site likes an no one would agree with you about anything besides maybe “Die Hard”. But even he is less obnoxious than you.

                • AlwaysNextYear

                  Timmy let me ask you something was it Ricketts or the politicians that made the renovations about politics. Was it the rooftop owners who made this about politics. 2nd with the team and salary who would you have signed to expand the payroll cause honestly I can’t figure out anybody worth the money that could have really helped this team.

                  • Timmy

                    prince fielder, torii hunter, kyle lohse, cj, carlos beltran

                    • AlwaysNextYear

                      So well over 100-200 million in total salary for players who are old when this teams younger players are ready to compete year after year sounds like a great idea “Roll eyes”

                  • Timmy

                    really anyone who could have helped the young players and anchored the middle… also more reliable pitchers who could not only put in innings but actually had a winning track record

                    • AlwaysNextYear

                      Well the rotation has been great so again where’s any real reasoning behind your logic.

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  • Blublud

    Baez at #1 is good to see again. This system has was always deep with potential MLB players, now it’s deep with potential impact players, plus we have 10 or so potential stars and 2 or 3 potential Super Stars. I think our system is #1 in baseball as I dony fall for the 2 studs at the top in Minny so they have the best system. The rest of their system is pretty week to me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      What I love about the Cubs’ system and rankings? There is literally no ordering of the top four that I could argue with.

      • Jono

        You lawyers and your ability to see things from different angles….jeesh

  • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

    Great article and list Luke. Not much to disagree with. Can’t wait to see the longer more analytical article in the offseason!

    My top 10(going by who I think ends up being the best big league ball player)
    1. Almora
    2. Bryant
    3. Soler
    4. Baez
    5. Alcantara
    6. Johnson
    7. Vizcaino
    8. Lake
    9. Hendricks
    10. Paniagua

    • Jono

      Thats my order, too. Paniagua can move up pretty quickly

  • sclem21

    Good work. Thing that stands out is Skulina at 15 with a ‘#2 projection’. As you said in the intro, ceiling and projection are not the same. His ceiling may be a 2 but there’s no way his projection is. K-Law seemed to think he’s a reliever in the end. Say his projection was actually a #2 though, not sure how he could be ranked 15th…he’d have to be much higher.

    Anyways…solid stuff, thanks.

  • AB

    Where’s Ben Wells??

    I would rank him above Maples at this point.

    • Dumpgobbler

      Same. I probably have him 5th Pitching prospect behind Johnson, Pang, Vizcaino and Blackburn. Wells is certainly legit.

  • Headscratchin

    I’m going to the Frisco Roughriders (Texas AA Afiliate) game tonight. Any particular players I should be focused on? Any hints Assman??

  • Cub Style

    I like Skulina a lot. Personally, I’d have him rated a little higher, but hence is the deal with prospects below about #6.

  • Cast

    Getting to watch Alcantara for the first time today in the futures game and I’m really impressed so far. An absolute bomb and he hit the ball hard in his third at bat also

  • Die hard

    The top 40 indicates follow thru on long term plan to build a slugging run scoring team that can win with just avg pitching.. 7-5 scoring games being the desired outcome as Wrigley to be a hitters paradise after lawsuits over and renovations done… Assumes winning the litigation which could delay Jumbotron til 2016 even if successful

    • Kyle

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have loaded up on power at the same time that power seems to be becoming one of the scarcest commodities in baseball.

  • jt

    The order of the list is interesting; the comments as to why… more so. Another great job.
    That which is getting me a bit giddy is I’ve actually started following some of the guys listed 29th – 40th.

  • sossa

    It is simple, if I’m the GM this is the move I make. Trade soriano, garza, barney, the ghost of carlos silva’s past, milton bradleys snapped bat and a signed mark derosa batting glove to cleveland for terry francona, justin masterson, a bucket of fried chicken and a 30 pack of PBR

  • Cheese Chad

    Seriously Luke, you doing this list among all the other minor league updates is unbelievable. I love following this stuff and you make it so much easier. Thank you.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Thanks!

  • CubsFaninMS

    Great work. My only contention would be whether Rock Shoulders should be included in the Top 40. If I had such a list, I’d put him somewhere in the 20-30 range. I know, them being prospects, that projecatability (a near intangible) is always mixed into rankings such as these so everyone’s list will be somewhat different.

    • desertrat

      I was also hoping to see Rock Shoulders on this list. He is playing for Kane County, same as Vogelbach, his defense is better, and his current .848 OPS beats Vogelbach’s .795. If Vogelbach made the list at #11, how could Rock Shoulders not be on the list at all?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Vogelbach projects much better than Shoulders. Shoulders has played much better than I expected for Kane County but I have a hard time putting him in the same category as Vogelbach talent wise.

        Shoulders was one of the last guys cut, and his omission is more a testament to the depth of this system than anything else.

  • Boomtown

    Timmy = diehard, same person, pulls the same Schtick
    On the chicago cubs message boards

    • Timmy

      i am not alone with the tenor my comments, i just state things strongly so you guys read them. sometimes team loyalty means showing a problem with how the team is being run so that the team is getting hurt.

      • http://none millhah

        no, it’s calling trolling.

  • Indy57

    Luke, outstanding job! Can’t believe how much work has to have gone into this. As others have already said, the turn around in the Cubs’ minor league system has truly been amazing. We are on the cusp of a home grown major league team. Thank you.

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  • Lance Dickson

    How close did Willson Contreras come to making the list?

  • Starlin Backer

    Timmy, congrats, you drove me to write for the first time. Not everything a Republican does is racist. Running ads (and this was Rickett’s father) simply pointing out a very questionable association with a crazy (and truly racist) close friend and mentor is questioning one’s judgment and is in no way racist. If I hung out with a clan member, I would expect to be called on it and would not cry racism. More to come…

  • Starlin Backer

    Additionally Timmy, morons like you who feel they have the right to tell people where to spend there money and how charitable they should be, are a real detriment to society. IT IS NOT YOUR MONEY AND NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! I have found jerks like you are nearly always the least charitable in this country. These thoughts of yours deem anything you write baseball related, must skip material.

    • MichiganGoat

      just ignore him and anything like him… he wants to cause strife and needs the attention, so just ignore him like the MLB ignores that they once made a ton of money on players juiced up. Let the Shunning commence

      • Jp3

        This is true Goat. All this animosity the MLB office towards players that are “cheaters” is funny mainly because when the strike happened the MLB loved it the following years to get fan’s attention (and money) again since immediately after there were tumbleweeds in all the ballparks.

        • MichiganGoat

          Think you replied to the wrong comment?

          • Jp3

            Ha yeah!! Whoops, you knew which one I was replying too😊

      • Starlin Backer

        Goat, I enjoy your posts and thought you may have an answer. Does Bud Selig still receive deferred payments from the sale of the Brewers? If so, it clearly appears to be a huge conflict of interest regarding a possible permenent suspension of Braun. This aggressive move toward permanent suspensions would appear to be no more than a way for teams to get out of bad contracts.

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