The Cubs' Farm System is Now Either Amazing or Terrible, Depending on Your Ranking Preference

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The Cubs’ Farm System is Now Either Amazing or Terrible, Depending on Your Ranking Preference

Chicago Cubs

I’m gonna tell you up front, as I have many times before when it comes to in-season farm system rankings, you have to be careful not to take too much from these. Pro or con. Moreover, as you’ll see, the difference between an incredible farm system and a truly disappointing one is not as wide as you think.

So, then, here’s the story.

After the Trade Deadline – which came just after draft signings are finalized – you often see updated farm system rankings. Because they don’t necessarily include the kind of in-depth individual player scouting report updates that you’ll see in the offseason, they aren’t perfect. They often reflect the movement of prospects much more than their development. I guess that’s another thing to keep in mind.

To that end, FanGraphs updated its farm system rankings, as did ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. The Cubs moved up in both, but boy could they not be much further apart.

According to FanGraphs, the Chicago Cubs now have the 4th best farm system in baseball (up from 7th) – almost a tie with the Pirates for third, in fact. Woo hoo! Things are progressing! It’s all working!

according to McDaniel, the Cubs now have the 18th best farm system in baseball (up from 19th) – almost a tie with the A’s for 17th. Oof. Why hasn’t there been any progress this year?! This isn’t working!

OK. So how could these two rankings possibly be THIS far apart? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a spread like this. And I think it speaks to the unique nature of the Cubs’ system right now: it is overloaded with true prospects – just a massive, massive volume at every level – but it lacks many sure-fire, tip-top, elite impact prospects. We talked about that issue just this morning, and it’s a real concern for now.

But I do want to provide a little context for you. In McDaniel’s rankings, he places a dollar figure value on certain tiers of prospects, and they vary pretty significantly from the values FanGraphs uses (to say nothing of their differences of opinion on individual prospects). For example, McDaniel’s system values Mets prospect Francisco Alvarez at $112 million (70 FV). FanGraphs’ system values him at $55 million (60 FV). I won’t say one is right and one is wrong, but I think that underscores how “farm system rankings” can get wildly disparate, even if you agree on the relative talent level in a system.

Moreover, consider this: the Cubs’ farm system is “worth” $215 million in McDaniel’s system. If the Cubs added Alvarez – just that one player – their ranking would go from 18th to 2nd. Literally the second best farm system in baseball because of a one-player change. Yes, it’s a massive player! But, again, I think this might help you understand that there’s some pliability here, and also how disproportionately important those tip-top impact guys are in McDaniel’s system.

Gut? Gut says the Cubs are probably looking at a system in the 8 to 10 range right now, but with a ton of upside if a couple guys pop. More is needed, but it’s a deep enough system that it could really help support the success at the big league level in the years ahead (if the Cubs, you know, bring in some additional good big league pieces in the years ahead … ).



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.