We’re no longer in the halcyon days when we could relax and follow a system that was more exciting than the big league team, but that doesn’t mean the farm is barren. MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, revealed in January, featured five familiar names. Even pulling Albert Almora from among the ranks of the farmhands leaves you with four. Then you consider pitchers like Oscar de la Cruz and Trevor Clifton and you figure on a handful of kids to follow.
But when FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen dropped his century club Monday, the results were somewhat underwhelming. And by that, I mean only two Cubs prospects were listed. Wait…say again. There are only two Cubs prospects among the top 100?
Yep, you heard me right the first time. It’s important to note that the rankings in this case are based on Future Value (FV) as expressed on the 20-80 scouting scale, which presents a little room for debate. Longenhagen does note the imperfections of such rankings — and, really, any subjective cataloging of young players — and offers links to further explanation of the process, so it’s worth educating yourself before launching into full-scale criticism.
Then you consider that the further you go down the list, the smaller the gaps between individual players become. That’s not necessarily saying the rankings are interchangeable as the numbers beside the names get bigger, but those players are not separated by as much when it comes to talent or risk or what have you.
That said, only two Cubs prospects!?
If that’s not enough to chap your ass, how about Gleyber Torres being ranked 7th, tops among the 60 FV prospects? I’ll go to my grave saying the trade of Torres (and others) for Aroldis Chapman worked out for the Cubs, but it’s never going to be easy to see him tearing it up in the Yankees system. You have to drop down eight more spots (still in the 60 FV crowd) to find a kid who’s still actually playing for the Cubs.
Eloy Jimenez comes in at 15 on the list, accompanied by the following report:
Jimenez’s body has matured more quickly than I anticipated when I saw him make his stateside debut in the AZL. He’s got 70 raw power right now, flicking lasers over the left-field wall with ease during BP and stumbling into wall-scraping homers he barely squares up in games. I think he’s going to have elite power in his mid-20s and there’s solid feel for contact here, too.
Sounds pretty accurate and there’s a sense that another season of exposure could see Jimenez moving up the charts. One need only see what he’s been doing at Spring Training to know this is the case. The only real surprise here is not the decent jump over his MLB Pipeline ranking (23), but how far he is ahead of the next Cubs prospect.
In order to find Ian Happ (21 on MLB’s list), we’ve got to scroll all the way down to 51, just after Josh Bell of the Pirates. I actually tend to agree with this assessment a little more than the higher rankings by other services. Happ strikes me as a guy who does everything well but doesn’t do anything great. That said, he still has potential to be a really good player, which Longenhagen acknowledges:
There’s some dissent among scouts about Happ’s ability to play second base, but modern infield positioning should help allow for it. Though he sometimes fails to get the bat head out into the zone in time to pull the ball with authority, Happ has enough bat speed to do damage the other way. A .270 hitter with 18-plus homers profiles just about anywhere, and that’s where I believe Happ is headed.
Though there are no more Cubs prospects in the top 100, we do find some of them among the 50 names listed in the honorable mention section. This is where it’s important to note the whole thing about the decreasing talent gaps as you get lower. In essence, these names could be swapped out with some of those in the 80’s or 90’s without a whole lot of argument.
Candelario is one of only four infielders listed and de la Cruz is one of the 13 right-handed pitchers listed. While I’m still a little surprised by Cease’s absence, that may be largely due to questions about his durability and the fact that he’s yet to play full-season ball in his young career. If he’s able to loose the fateful lightning of his swift right arm, however, he could rocket up the various lists.
The only real takeaway here, other than to say that such lists must always be taken with a grain of salt, is that Eloy Jimenez is fast becoming the Cubs’ clear-cut top prospect. I suppose we could also say Happ is the obvious number two, with the rest of the group lagging behind. But don’t take this to mean that the Cubs are talent-starved by any stretch. While they do lack impact, major league-ready talent in high volume, they’ve got a lot of depth in the system.
One final non-Cubs-related note: the top 100 is littered with the sons of former big leaguers. From Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (24) and Cal Quantrill (25) to Fernando Tatis, Jr. (78), and probably some others I missed, the guys I grew up watching now have kids my kids may grow up watching.