With the regular season – and minor league regular season – arriving in just over a couple weeks, the page is going to turn from prospecting looks back and projections forward to current evaluations. I love the prospecting season during the offseason, for sure, but it gets exponentially more fun when the minor leaguers are actually playing games.
With that in mind, if the Cubs are to have a top tier farm system as soon as, say, next offseason’s rankings, they’ve got a long way to climb.
Although the Cubs do have four prospects considered by some or many of the various lists to be top 100 prospects in baseball, skepticism remains about the overall system. In the latest example, MLB Pipeline pegs the overall Cubs farm system just 23rd in baseball:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 10, 2020
The Cubs’ lack of percolating impact talent – particularly in the pitching side – remains a multi-year’s long thorn, as does their failure to really net many wins on the international market the last six years.
Yes, the Cubs have graduated and traded a ton of talent since their farm system peaked four years ago, but let’s keep in mind that the Dodgers have the third ranked system, and they win the NL West every year (query whether they’d have a title if they’d been more aggressively willing to trade in-season, but they have picked up guys like Manny Machado and Yu Darvish in this window). The Atlanta Braves still have a top 10 system despite tons of promotions, recent big league success, and getting hammered with penalties for international malfeasance that cost them prospects retroactively and going forward. The Cardinals are back to being annually competitive and they’re still many spots ahead of the Cubs.
That is all to say, we’re reaching the point where the Cubs are running out of excuses for having a bottom tier farm system for so many years in a row. At some point, even drafting low and having smaller bonus pools and on and on … you still need to be able to rebuild this thing. Hence the dramatic shift in drafting philosophy and the organizational development overhaul over the last two years. Here’s hoping it bears significant fruit by the time we’re having this conversation next year.