As February continues to inch along, so do the release of Top 100 prospect lists. Today, we have the ESPN Insider Top 100 MLB Prospects*, and, hey, the Cubs have a top 20 prospect again! In fact, they have two top 30 prospects, three top 50 prospects and a grand total of six prospects in the top 100.
If you recall, the Cubs have previously placed six prospects in the Top 100 of MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus, but each of the top four, here, have beaten their previous high mark from the other two publications. Additionally, this list includes Dylan Cease, but excludes Eddy Julio Martinez (included in BPs Top 101) and Duane Underwood (included in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100). So, all together, it’s sorta like the Cubs have 8 total top 100 prospects.
Before we dive into any more analysis, let’s take a look at where the Cubs prospects ranked:
27. Willson Contreras, C
47. Ian Happ, OF/2B
69. Billy McKinney, OF
88. Albert Almora, OF
91. Dylan Cease, RHP
This is the best overall showing for the Cubs farm system so far, but perhaps, we shouldn’t have been surprised. Just yesterday, we learned that Law ranked the Cubs’ farm system fourth best in baseball, behind only the Braves, Dodgers and Twins. The Cubs are known to have solid depth, especially in the 100-250 range of prospects, but if Law really believes they have three top 50 guys, too, it’s not hard to understand the lofty fourth place finish.
So, again, Dylan Cease is the differing name on this list, replacing Eddy Julio Martinez on Baseball Prospectus (whose prospect value is extremely tough to pin down) and Duane Underwood on MLB Pipeline (whose ranking is extremely upside/ceiling-based).
When Torres was ranked in the top 30 by MLB Pipeline, we were thoroughly encouraged – perhaps even a little bit shocked, to be honest. But, with increasingly more eyes on the young shortstop, more and more positive reviews have been pouring in. Torres might be the real deal and the Cubs may have, yet, one more true, high-impact prospect up their sleeve.
But not to be forgotten is Contreras, who cracks into the top 30 prospects in all of baseball, according to Law. Having previously been ranked 50 by MLB Pipeline and 57 by Baseball Prospectus, this is a lofty bump up for the Cubs’ young, converted catcher. Unlike Torres, you should expect to see Contreras at the big league level, at one point or another, in 2016.
Looking at all three top 100 lists, I find the extreme variety of the Cubs prospects particularly encouraging. For example, of the eight Cubs ranked in various top 100 lists, four were drafted by the Cubs, three were international free agents and one was acquired via trade. There is one catcher, two infielders, three outfielders and two starting pitchers. And lastly, their ages range from as young as 19 (Gleyber Torres) years old to a max of 23 (Willson Contreras).
The Cubs system is well-rounded, well-represented, and has an equal mix of high-ceiling talent and low-risk players. The main stage at Wrigley Field might be doing just fine, but it would seem that the Cubs farm system is as healthy and strong as ever.
*(For more on the rankings and each individual player, check out the ESPN Insider Top 100 list here. It’s premium content, so I didn’t want to give too much away. Corey Seager and Byron Buxton lead the pack. Also, the Cubs’ six prospects in the top 100 was tops in the NL Central, ahead of the Pirates (4), Cardinals (3), Reds (4) and Brewers (4).)