So, I think it's clear the only thing that it's possible to be excited about for the Cubs this season is the improvement of how the minor league talent is rated.
With that said, it's not hard to come up with a pessimistic statement like:
"Great, we've got 5 of the top 100 prospects, so possibly we could be putting players out on the field in 3 years who are as good as Felix Pie, Kevin Orie, Corey Patterson, Hee-Sop Choi, and Brooks Kieshnick"
Right now MLB.com has 5 Cubs prospects listed in their top 100, and while I don't think they'll all end up being All-Stars, I can't bring myself to live in a world where they all end up being Kevin Orie or Felix Pie.
So, I wondered, what if instead of thinking how bad it could be, what can I find out about what 5 top 100 prospects tend to turn into?
I started with the rankings from MLB.com for their top 100 and took a look on baseballcube to see what the group of players ranked at those spots looks like from recent history. The teams in parentheses are the organization the prospect was with that year.
*Sorry the editor was showing a table here that I cut and pasted from word, for now it's a list by ranking following the order shown.
Carlos Santana – C (MIN)
Neftali Feliz – P (TEX)
David Price – P (TB)
Andrew Miller – P (DET)
Casey Kelly – P (BOS)
Eric Homser – 1B (KC)
Nick Adenhart – P (LAA)
Clayton Kershaw – P (LAD)
Michael Taylor – OF (OAK)
Jarrod Parker – P (ARI)
Adam Miller – P (CLE)
Colby Rasmus – OF (STL)
Mike Montgomery – P (KC)
Aaron Hicks – OF (MIN)
Reid Brignac – SS (TB)
Adam Lind – 1B (TOR)
Kyle Gibson – P (MIN)
Dayan Viciedo – OF (CWS)
Neil Walker – 2B (PIT)
Erick Aybar – SS (LAA)
This is, of course, all highly unscientific and proves nothing. However, I think it provides a better frame of reference for what might be as opposed to memories of Felix Pie.
Besides proving that I have way too much time on hands, here are a couple of my observations:
Andrew Miller is an interesting case. He's been fairly effective out of the pen for Boston the last two seasons (3.04 ERA in 71 IP) who is now on the 60 day DL. He's not exactly something to build a franchise around but he was however, part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, and that is the value that the Tigers were able to leverage out of him as a prospect. I certainly wouldn't say that I expect the Cubs to be able to package one or a couple of theses prospects into a trade that will net the best hitter in the game, but having a lot of good prospects allows a team to go out and make those big trades.
As a group the guys from 2007 would make for quite a nice core, in terms of bWAR they add up to 12.4 this year (Aybar 1.0, Lind 0.9, Rasmus 3.8, Kershaw 6.2, Miller 0.5) and collectively have already compiled a Cy Young (Kershaw), Gold Glove (Aybar) and Silver Slugger (Lind).
Adam Miller is in the Yankees system at 28 years of age, still waiting for his first cup of coffee. Brignac is a .221 hitter in 763 ABs across 6 seasons with the Yankees, Rays and Rockies. And we'll never know what Nick Adenhart could have been. Price is obviously a perennial Cy Young candidate and Walker is a reliable but not stellar option at second. I think a yield of one superstar and a solid position player is not bad at all, even with the three "busts"
As a group is interesting, what you have is Feliz trying to come back from a major injury, and 4 young guys getting regular playing time who aren't necessarily disappointing, but none of whom is exactly tearing it up. As a group they could be a nice young nucleus to try and build from.
Now we get to where the jury is definitely still out on guys. Casey Kelley was traded by the Red Sox to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal and is not pitching this year after Tommy John surgery, Mike Montgomery is pitching for Tampa's AAA affiliate and has numbers that don't look impressive, he was on top 100 prospect lists at the start of '10. '11, and '12 but not this year. Kyle Gibson has made 8 starts this year for the Twins with a 6.43 ERA. MIchael Taylor is 27 and has a .135 batting average in 74 MLB at bats, so it might be time to call him a bust. Finally, we have Carlos Santana who's pretty good hitting catcher. This may be the least encouraging, but least relevant group to look at as all of the Cubs top prospects are position players and we're talking about 3 pitchers here.
Out of the position players I would say more than half of them have "made it" in the bigs.
My thinking is that 2-3 of these guys will be solid or impact players for the Cubs, my money would be on Baez and Almora.