When digging through the data of the new MLB Pipeline 100 a few things stood out above a few obvious statements.
Boston clearly is the leader in developing a pipeline above all other teams though the Cubs are right on their heels, (144.54 to 131.11). Yes Boston has nine players (plus the 4th best 1B ranked probably between #'s 101-105, as the Cubs appear to also have a 1B probably ranked between #'s 106-115---a wash even there). But when assigning values to players within a time frame of being called up in 2014 or 2015 or 2016, as well as, assigning value to player's positions their overall ranking and other variables like LEFT Handed throwing/hitting or relative ranking within their current positions, something jumps up---Cubs are essentially one prospect behind the Red Sox and appreciably and ahead of Houston, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, as a system.
Actually when looking at the prospect rankings grouped by teams there are eight defined groupings, which emerged, again led by Boston then Chicago those two are roughly 20% above the next grouping, of the aforementioned Houston (109.1), Minnesota (104.48) and Pittsburgh (95.88). Then again that grouping is about 30% ahead of the next grouping of KC, (67.96), SD (65.93), Mets (65.26), Colorado (65.01), Baltimore (61.51) and Dodgers (59.56), the upper middle class if you will.
The difference between them and the next grouping is conflated but well-defined at about 12% and includes, Arizona, (52.18), Cleveland, (51.71), Texas (51.09), St. Louis (50.28), and Miami (50.0), the middle of the middle classes.
Again underneath the middle-middle is a grouping that is 11% lower, the lower middle class: Toronto (44.58), Seattle (37.79), Detroit (36.69), Philadelphia (35.1) and Tampa Bay (34.01).
Seriously in trouble are the lower class systems running about20% below the lower-middle class is a grouping of six clubs led by San Francisco (27.59), Washington (26.83), Cincinnati (25.05), Oakland (23.03), the Yankees (22.25), and the White Sox, (19.67). Finally there are three impoverished clubs, Atlanta, (11.98), Milwaukee (10.95) and the Angels who have no player in the top 100. (Their best player is possibly a 101-105 ranked as a 1B someone just a hair better than Vogelbach. I consider 1B one of the lowest position player values.)
So six clubs are in a great position, 15 clubs are in the middle class either just above average or below average leaving nine clubs who are in some degree of serious trouble. Not having prospect pipeline limits a club’s flexibility to either make trades or roster moves, leaves ac club exposed to injuries and performance failures.
Other points of interest: 40/100 players are Right-handed pitchers, while 11 are Left-handed, thereby making up 51% of all players. Twelve players are considered shortstops and ten considered center-fielders, naturally the best athletes possessing speed, fielding throwing talent, as well as, hitting prowess. Surprisingly, there are nine third-baseman, six each include those considered right-fielders and catchers, (a position along with Left-handed pitchers considered as the most sought after in baseball). Identified Left-fielders and second-baseman are only account for three apiece.
Now looking at what this foretells specific the Cubs. In many ways the data confirms what many intuitively see with their eyes but there again is much more is revealed. Most of the Cubs top 100 prospects are 2015 (5/7) or later while (40%) are projected to play in 2014. 34% are projected to be arriving in 2015. 17 are expected in 2016 and 9 are 2017. Comparing to Boston who have 4/9 projected to be at the MLB level this year. When assigning points in my analysis Boston who 144.54 to 131.11 for the Cubs this in of itself gave Boston six more points besides having two players.
What is interesting is that the Cubs Top 100 prospects who are expected to arrive this year are expected until later in the season, while two prospects that are said to be slated to compete in Spring Training are former Pipeline 100/50; Olt, (ranked 16th in 2012, later 58th in 2013), and Vizcaino, (was ranked 46th in 2011 and 68th in 2012). We all know their stories of injuries diminishing their values and playing time but the fact remains both are believed to possess bona fide MLB talents. If this comes to pass where one or both are called up by May 30th then the Cubs will have some flexibility to either add both to their big league ball club and pipeline. The reality is that a minor league system is asset based, certainly you seek to find/develop the next HOF and perennial All Star performer, (yes youthful difference makers, play makers) and then secondly you are developing long term contributors/starters. But also you also seek to develop options and redundancies, especially in valued positions, (i.e., pitchers, pitchers, middle infielders, versatile outfielders and corner infielders). That redundancy is what you use to trade for positions or opportunities and that you seek to add or fill in. That said minor league prospects and perceived values are as perishable as fresh produce. Not only does physical injury and psychological happen but so does age, Rule V and simply misplayed judgment.
So other things are clear. Tampa Bay is seeking to correct their system poverty through Price. The Yankees are due for a big fall. Angels are in desperate trouble. Milwaukee is even in dyer straights. Pittsburgh will remain a power for a while, possibly long while. St. Louis is on the cusp of trouble. Minnesota is on the rebound, while Houston should be in better shape.
All-in-all if a few other sub 101 prospects materialize and contribute above average this club could rebound very fast.