Opinions varied throughout the off-season and up to Opening Day about the strength of the Cubs’ system a year after the team graduated Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler to the big leagues.
What the Cubs system may lack in impact talent it makes up for in depth. The Cubs have projectable talent at every level of the organization that many evaluators think will play in the majors one day.
Theo Epstein maintained even with the promotions that were made last season, the Cubs’ system still stacked up as one of the best in the game. Before Spring Training, Epstein said he thought the organization would fall in the five to seven range in the rankings based on internal and external evaluations.
Baseball Prospectus and Minor League Ball released their pre-season organizational rankings in the days leading up to the start of the minor league season. And as been the case, the Cubs were ranked in the middle of the pack.
Here’s how Baseball Prospectus, Minor League Ball, Baseball America and Keith Law saw the Cubs’ system before the season got underway.
• Cubs Organizational Ranking – 12
Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs system as the 12th best in baseball. Baseball Prospectus pointed out that if most organizations called up players the caliber of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, it would fall further down the rankings than the Cubs did.
Baseball Prospectus likes the additions of position players 2B Ian Happ and OF Eddy Julio Martinez. Plus, RHP Dylan Cease is healthy and C Willson Contreras had a breakout season.
• Baseball Prospectus’ Cubs Top 10: Gleyber Torres, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Billy McKinney, Eddy Julio Martinez, Dylan Cease, Albert Almora Jr., Duane Underwood Jr., Eloy Jimenez and Carl Edwards Jr.
• Number of Cubs in Baseball Prospectus Top 101: 6 – Gleyber Torres (41), Willson Contreras (57), Ian Happ (67), Billy McKinney (74), Albert Almora Jr. (83), Eddy Julio Martinez (97)
• Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Organizations: Dodgers, Braves, Rockies, Phillies, Red Sox, Pirates, Twins, Astros, Rangers and Brewers
Minor League Ball
• Cubs Organizational Ranking – 16
John Sickels placed the Cubs’ system in the bottom half of baseball. Sickels filed the Cubs under his ‘solid’ category. Sickels thinks the Cubs, along with nine other organizations including the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals, are “neither exceptionally strong nor especially weak.” There are systems in his ‘solid category that “have depth but need more potential stars” or “have good impact talent but need more depth.”
Sickels said the Cubs system “remains respectable” but he feels it is in “recharging mode at this point.”
• Minor League Ball’s Cubs Top 10: Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, Billy McKinney, Willson Contreras, Duane Underwood Jr., Carl Edwards Jr., Oscar De La Cruz, Eloy Jimenez, Albert Almora Jr. and Pierce Johnson
• Number of Cubs in Minor League Ball’s Top 175: 7 – Gleyber Torres (45), Ian Happ (112), Billy McKinney (114), Pierce Johnson (134), Willson Contreras (152), Oscar De La Cruz (162) and Jeimer Candelario (170)
• Minor League Ball’s Top 10 Organizations: Dodgers, Braves, Astros, Rockies, Brewers, Red Sox, Rangers, Twins, Rays and Phillies
• Cubs Organizational Ranking – 20
Baseball America ranked the Cubs’ system No. 20 in the Prospect Handbook. And while Baseball America sees the talent in the organization, they are just not as high on the players in the system as other publications.
Baseball America feels the Cubs system lacks high-end pitching prospects and pitching is the biggest need throughout the organization.
• Baseball America’s Cubs Top 10: Gleyber Torres, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Duane Underwood Jr., Dylan Cease, Albert Almora Jr., Billy McKinney, Oscar De La Cruz, Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario
• Number of Cubs in Baseball America’s Top 100: 3 – Gleyber Torres (41), Willson Contreras (67) and Ian Happ (87)
• Baseball America’s Top 10 Organizations: Dodgers, Astros, Braves, Red Sox, Nationals, Rockies, Rangers, Phillies, Brewers and Twins
Keith Law – ESPN
ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Cubs’ system higher than any other publication. Law believes the Cubs have the top organization in the division with only three teams in baseball having more projectable talent.
Law said in February that the Cubs system is “still loaded” and after being light on arms “there’s some pitching coming if you squint hard enough into the distance.”
• Keith Law’s Cubs Top 10: Gleyber Torres, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Billy McKinney, Albert Almora Jr., Dylan Cease, Eddy Julio Martinez, Duane Underwood Jr., Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario
• Number of Cubs in Keith Law’s Top 100: 6 – Gleyber Torres (15), Willson Contreras (27), Ian Happ (47), Billy McKinney (69), Albert Almora Jr. (88), Dylan Cease (91) and Eddy Julio Martinez just missed the top 100
• Keith Law’s Top 10 Organizations: Braves, Dodgers, Twins, Cubs, Brewers, Phillies, Rockies, Pirates, Rangers and Red Sox
It will be interesting to see where these four publications rank the Cubs’ system when the in-season updates are posted.