With a number of midseason prospect rankings accounted for, the Chicago Cubs are sitting pretty (well, on the prospecting side of the ledger, anyway). All lists have Kris Bryant among the top three prospects in baseball, and virtually all lists have Addison Russell and Javier Baez in the top ten. From there, guys like Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, and others make intermittent appearances, at least as honorable mentions. The lists, mind you, are generally of the top 50 variety, so we don’t have a true sense of just how many Cubs could be listed on top 100s. Kyle Schwarber? Billy McKinney? C.J. Edwards? Jen-Ho Tseng? I could go on.
We know that the Cubs’ system is stacked, and we know that most farm system rankings – were they taking place now – would probably have the Cubs on top. But, placed in an historical context, is this system, like, one of the best ever?
That was, essentially, the question posed to Baseball America, who responded with a thoughtful take. Among their remarks:
[I]f the three Cubs in the top 10 retain their current spots, they would be the the highest-ranked three prospects from one organization in Top 100 Prospects history …. Some of the Cubs’ prospects will fail to live up to expectations—it always happens. They need to figure out how to move players around to work around a present overload of shortstops. And they will have to develop or acquire pitchers to go with this group of hitting prospects, but Chicago’s current farm system looks to be one of the best we’ve seen in recent years.
So, should the Cubs’ top prospects remain about where they are, and if several others wind up in the top 100 – as BA suggests they will – then, yes, the Cubs would have the best top of a system at least as far back as BA has been ranking prospects.
Prospect rankings matter and they don’t. As a reflection of expected quality, they matter. As an indication of asset value, they matter. As any kind of guarantee, they don’t matter. As an actual award or championship or single win at the big league level, they don’t matter.
While not all prospects pan out, the elite ones tend to pan out at a disproportionately good rate from the lesser ones (especially in recent years, as rankings have gotten better and better). And, while not all prospects pan out, the best players in MLB tend to have, at one point in their past, been top prospects.
In sum, while having a top system – perhaps even historically good – isn’t going to guarantee the Cubs anything in the future, it’s a damn good place to be. Which, of course, is why they’ve worked so hard to get there.