It’s no secret or surprise that, when it comes to ranking the Chicago Cubs’ farm system as a whole in the post-graduation, post-prospect-trades era, they are consistently coming up near the bottom. Much of that is organic and expected and fine. But a significant portion points to a failing in talent acquisition and development. It is something that is quite difficult when you’re drafting late, not trading for prospects, and limited in international spending, but it is also something that the front office has – especially this offseason – conceded as a struggle.
Without some surprising breakouts this year on the farm, they figure to stay near the bottom of the pack in the eyes of Keith Law for a little while yet:
New ESPN+ post – my ranking of all 30 farm systems: https://t.co/hVYcS4iye5
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) February 4, 2019
Law tends to prefer prospects with impact-level upside, rather than guys with a higher likelihood to make The Show, but in a lesser capacity. Given that the Cubs’ farm system is currently very heavy on the latter types (“Hey, that guy could conceivably be a 5th starter or a middle reliever”) and very light on – maybe entirely devoid of – the former, I figured the Cubs would be way down on Law’s list.
Here’s some of what he had to say about the Cubs, ranked 29th in the game, ahead of only the woeful Orioles: “There may not be a starting pitching prospect in the system who projects as more than a No. 5 starter, and without last year’s draft class there’s only one position player prospect who projects as a regular.”
Concerningly, Law had the Cubs’ system 25th last year, which means they – in his eyes – took a noticeable step backwards in the intervening 12 months. Again, yes, the Cubs are behind the eight-ball when it comes to growing the farm system while in a competitive window, but they have one of the most robust and priciest acquisition/development infrastructures in the game. They are supposed to be finding ways to succeed, despite the challenges.
To be sure, not every rankings service would have the Cubs quite this low, and the organization, itself, might feel better about where it is than outside evaluators. But this is a data point, and it’s not a good one.
This remains a critical year on the farm for the Cubs’ organization if they’re going to be able to extend their competitive window without having to go right back into another tear-down rebuild in a couple years. Crazy, I know. But in today’s game, you simply have to keep producing impactful young talent internally if you want to sustain success.