The prospect ranking season is in full bloom.
Although, instead of ranking the individual prospects from each organization (although he’ll be doing that, too, next week), Law has ranked the various organizations by the strength of their farm system as a whole.
The entire project has been split into three distinct parts, which you can see here (bottom ten), here (middle ten), and here (top ten), so long as you’re an ESPN Insider. The Cubs, perhaps expectedly, didn’t rank too highly, but they have some positive things to look forward to, as well as no reason to be upset.
Although I won’t provide the full rankings and discussion therewith – because the content is protected behind a paywall – I can discuss a few various notes about the list. First, and foremost, the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, and San Diego Padres lead the way with the strongest systems in the Majors. These are unsurprising choices, given that each farm system was bolstered by several big player-for-prospect trades over the past year or so, and all three have spent aggressively in the international market.
In addition, the White Sox were able to jump up 12 spots from their previous 2016 ranking, after trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton completely redefined their system and kick-started their rebuild.
As for the rest of the NL Central, here’s how things shook out:
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Milwaukee Brewers
8. Cincinnati Reds
13. St. Louis Cardinals
18. Chicago Cubs
Not only is the Cubs’ farm system in the bottom half of the league, it’s behind each of the four other NL Central teams – three of which rank in the top ten. Plus, with the exception of the Brewers who slipped from #5 last season to #6 this year (hardly a terrible fall), each of the Cardinals (previously: 19th), Reds (previously 12th), and Pirates (previously 8th) have gotten stronger over the past year or so.
The Cubs, on the other hand, went from a pre-2016 ranking of 4th(!) in the league, to their current spot at 18th overall. With that said, it isn’t all bad.
Yes, the Cubs traded Gleyber Torres, Dan Vogelbach and others, while promoting Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, and others, but they did get a World Series victory out of their moves in 2016, and they certainly did not leave the cupboard empty. Law is still very impressed with a Cubs system led by high-end hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez, although he admits it’ll likely remain in the bottom half of the league while the Cubs are still in full-on contention mode.
I think it’s important to remember, now as much as ever, that the Cubs organization as a whole is still as strong as any team in the league. Were this a ranking of the best young talent overall, I suspect the Cubs would still be very much near the top. They’re simply penalized (so to speak) for having graduated so many of their top prospects over the past two seasons.
It’s not a bad thing; it’s the mark of a strong, healthy organization.
*That’s* what the Cubs are.
[Brett: Heck, I’d add that even being ranked 18th – after everything Michael mentioned plus having no picks in the first 103 selections, plus being in the IFA penalty box for the past year – is actually really encouraging. The Cubs will have two picks in the first round this year, and, depending on development and midseason trade needs, could easily bounce back into the top half of the league by next offseason. [To be fair, of course, other pundits may not rank the Cubs’ farm system quite this high. I would not be surprised to see them a few slots lower to other publications. [Ooh, a rare double-bracket! Now triple!]]]