New Farm-System Rankings Has the Chicago Cubs Juuuuuust Outside the Top Ten

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New Farm-System Rankings Has the Chicago Cubs Juuuuuust Outside the Top Ten

Chicago Cubs

My gut says this is going to be a theme through farm system rankings season: the Chicago Cubs have a system that has improved dramatically over the last two years, but isn’t clearly in that top five group. They will frequently be in the 9, 10, 11-ish range, where it’s clear that they’re better than average, but not clear they’re top-tier until they have more breakouts.

Keith Law had the Cubs’ system at 10, and now Kiley McDaniel has the Cubs’ system at 11:

The Cubs seem to have turned the corner in their rebuild and are now left with the hard part: bridging the gap with the Cardinals at the top of the NL Central. Chicago has improved the big league team this winter and the farm system has notably improved over the last year.

Lefty Jordan Wicks and center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong both took big steps forward and the Cubs added a couple of prospects who now rank in the top 10 of their system in first-round pick Cade Horton and Hayden Wesneski, who came over from the Yankees at the deadline. The entire top tier of the system either held serve or improved, which was crucial with so many young high-variance hitters in the low minors.

I don’t think the Cubs will return to the playoffs in 2023, but I see a path to the farm system helping create a postseason contender in 2024.

McDaniel does his farm rankings at ESPN by pairing a dollar value to each prospect in the organization’s system that grades out for him at a 40 FV or better. (The dollar values are exponential, such that a single 60 FV top prospect is worth like 10-15 40 FV prospects; there is math to support this idea, but I just wanted to underscore the extreme value – in this approach – of having top prospects, rather than quality depth.)

The Cubs come in at a farm system value of $220.5 million for McDaniel, which is the 11th most, and up considerably from last year ($182.5 million, 19th). What’s interesting is that the Cubs are a good bit ahead of the number 12 team (Mets at $204 million), but not that far behind the Rangers all the way up at number 8 ($230.5 million). There’s kind of a cluster there of teams in the 8 to 11 range (Cubs and Rangers, with the Cardinals and Pirates sandwiched between) all within $10 million of each other. That difference is basically just one additional 45 FV prospect, or a couple 40s who flip to 45s, etc. – it’s not hard to see how different evaluators could move these teams all around. The difference is real, but small.

In other words, McDaniel’s approach does place the Cubs right where we would expect them to be: better than average, but not top tier. Roughly in the range of systems like that of the Cardinals and Pirates, solidly below the Reds (top five), and ahead of the Brewers (middle-of-the-pack).

Moving up from here is going to require significant internal development, as the Cubs will not be drafting at the top this year, do not have gobs of extra picks, and also do not project to sell off (fingers crossed).

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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.