Another Pundit Has the Chicago Cubs Farm System Making a Huge Leap Since Last Year

I’m heartened. Heartened, I tell you! That was about all I was hoping for out of the latest set of farm system rankings, so I’m content to land at heartened.

Last week, Keith Law started rolling out his pre-season prospect content at The Athletic, and there was almost no mention of the Cubs whatsoever (including just one prospect in the top 100, and none in the guys who just-missed). That had me wondering whether Law would see the Cubs’ farm system as on the rise throughout 2021, as we have discussed at length, and most recently saw confirmed in at least one set of rankings over at Baseball America, with the Cubs’ farm system ranking jumping from 22 to 15 over the course of the year. Heck, BA went so far as to write up the Cubs’ system as one that could take another big leap from here.

Find yourself heartened like me to learn that Law sees the Cubs’ system much like BA does: middle-of-the-pack for now, but vastly improved and hinting at upside from here. Moreover, Law is jumping the Cubs 10 spots from where they were last year, when he had them just 26th in baseball.

Ranking the Cubs’ system 16th, Law writes glowingly of the Cubs’ latest draft in particular:

The Cubs placed just one prospect on the top 100, but they have a large group of guys who are just bubbling under, nearly all of whom were in the complex league last year but should spend 2022 in full-season ball. The selloff at last year’s trade deadline netted four of their top 10 prospects now, along with one more they added the previous winter and at least three other prospects who project to some major-league value. Their 2021 draft showed a different philosophy and looks to be their most productive since they were drafting in the single digits.

The Cubs’ 10-spot leap in the rankings was eclipsed only by the Mariners (from 13th to 2nd) and Rangers (from 24th to 11th), and matched only by the Pirates, who went from 16th to 6th. These size jumps year-to-year happen for only a handful of organizations, so this is a meaningful shift.

(Note that Pirates had the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, and four of the top 72 picks overall. The Cubs, by contrast, didn’t pick until 21st in the first round, and didn’t even have their THIRD pick until number 93. The Pirates have also obviously been in the midst of a selloff, just like the Cubs. So, hey, I’m gonna be a homer and say the Cubs’ 10-spot leap was more impressive.)

Like I’ve said before, these rankings don’t matter in any SCOREBOARD sense, but I do like to see outsiders – who’ve done the work to evaluate and speak with other evaluators in and around the game – picking up on the idea that the Cubs’ farm system has improved dramatically from last year *despite* all the injuries. It’s easy for Cubs fans to feel like, yeah, wow, things are definitely moving in the right direction on scouting and player development, and these were some good trades! It’s another thing for outsiders to be seeing and hearing the same.

Obviously there are two big cautions: (1) middle-of-the-pack is still middle-of-the-pack, so in an absolute sense, the Cubs still have a long way to go; and (2) farm system rankings are only as impactful as the translation of the talent to the big leagues (by way of further development and/or trades). The Cubs have done the part where they have brought in a ton of additional young talent the last year and a half. Now let’s see some huge breakouts, eh?

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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