In Part 1 of my state of the Cubs minor-league system, I looked at some overarching conceptual stuff. Today’s analytical activities involve breaking down what the Cubs are doing well down on the farm and where they need to improve.
Young toolsy outfielders; a plethora of catchers; long and lean, physically projectable starting pitching; plenty of players with no rush, or need, to get to the majors soon.
There are probably more strengths that I could list, but those are the most obvious. Sometimes I look at what’s left of the Cubs’ system and I get a little scared. It’s not a fear of failure because I know not every prospect is going to make it.
The anxiety I feel is that when the current minor-league talent is ready in 3-4 years, it is nowhere near the level of the players who would theoretically be replaced. Yes, the Cubs have until 2021 to start producing more position players. But they don’t have anyone projected to be even close to Addison Russell or Javier Baez or Kris Bryant. There is no one that could even be as good as Albert Almora right now.
However, that could all change by 2020-21. DJ Wilson and Kevonte Mitchell are two prospects on the cusp of blooming in 2018.
And as far as I’m concerned, Nelson Velasquez holds the most promise. He’s only played rookie ball thus far, but no one else in the minors can match his raw power. If he can start producing at full-season A-ball, then the Cubs will have something worth talking about.
Areas of Concern
Underdeveloped pitchers; stagnation of several prospects at the upper levels in AA and AAA; few top-of-the-rotation starters in the pipeline; lack of overall power.
The fact that the Cubs have not produced any full-time MLB starting pitchers from among the arms they’ve drafted in the last five years raises several questions. Are they doing something wrong developmentally? Are they taking too many risks with the pitchers they select? Or could it be that the Cubs are not willing to pay big money to sign bigger-named arms in the draft?
I’m going to answer the last question because the Cubs know that, statistically speaking, selecting a pitcher is a big gamble over time. In the last two years, they have tried to remedy the lack of pitching by over-drafting and compensating with two high picks in the 2017 draft.
The fruits of those two drafts will be at AA next year and also filling up the staffs at South Bendand Myrtle Beach. Add in several arms that should be coming stateside from the Dominican Summer League, and the Cubs will have a ton of pitching to work with.
Remember the names Jesus Tejada, Danis Correa, Emilio Ferrebus, and Didier Vargas. Correa and Ferrebus actually helped Mesa win the Arizona Rookie League title.
Next season is going to be another transformative one in the minors. It’s going to see a lot of movement up and down prospect lists. While prospects should be judged on talent and projection, performance is going to have a huge impact on how some people see the Cubs farmhands in the post-Eloy Jimenez world. Doing well in low-A ball is not a prerequisite for MLB stardom, but it doesn’t hurt.
While a state of the [insert entity in question] address typically hypes the organization as strong, I don’t think I can attach such an adjective to the Cubs’ system right now. If forced to choose one word it would be “rebuilding,” or maybe “promising.”
Interestingly enough, that’s what I would have said about it when the current regime took over six years ago. And that’s a good thing.