This is always fun to me, because it’s a completely non-traditional ranking of prospects – which you can then, in turn, use as a check against preconceptions that evolve from the more traditional lists.
It’s the top 100 prospects in baseball as spit out by the ZiPS projection system developed by Dan Szymborski. That is to say, unlike a traditional list, this one is entirely data-and-algorithm-and-historical-comp-based.
In this system, at present, the best Cubs prospect is … catcher Miguel Amaya, who comes in all the way up at number 27 on the ZiPS list. It’s not terribly hard to see why, given his age/level/performance/position, which has always been the predicate for my feeling like Amaya is underrated by the traditional services. What the system is saying is that prospects who look like Amaya purely in black and white tend to go on to have good big league careers. Notably, Amaya is the highest ranked prospect on the ZiPS list who was not ranked at all on FanGraphs’ top 100. Clearly, the data tells a story the scouts have yet to buy into (which has been weird to me for the last couple years on Amaya, because even the scouts agree that he’s got quality power potential despite a good approach and a high-contact bat, and he’s got plus-defensive potential across his game).
For context, the 27th-ranked prospect on the traditional FG list was Luis Campusano, the Padres catching prospect who was basically off the table in the Yu Darvish trade talks. So ZiPS sees Amaya as that caliber of catching prospect. (ZiPS is also higher on Campusano than the traditional list, incidentally, as he’s all the way up at 15.)
Elsewhere on the list, Brennen Davis shows up at 86, and Cory Abbott comes in at 96 thanks to his dominance at AA. Abbott has tended not to be loved by scouts because many see the success as more about pitchability than great stuff that will translate in MLB. But if he’s added some velocity over the past year? Well, maybe he’s not the third best prospect in the Cubs’ system, but we definitely tend to be higher on him than third party services. Abbott ranked in our top ten this year.
The Cardinals are the only other NL Central organization to have three prospects on the list, for what that’s worth.