MLB Pipeline Strikes Back: Cubs In It for the Long Run

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gleyber 59 2015The prospect lists this winter have been pretty schizophrenic when it comes to where to rank the Cubs system compared to the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball. Baseball America had the Cubs at #20, which many, including myself, thought was too low. Then there was Keith Law who placed the Cubs at #4 which many thought was too high. I thought the Cubs should be somewhere in between these two – likely in the 10-12 range, 15 at the worst.

This week, MLB Pipeline (Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) released their top 30 Cubs prospects. About a month ago, six Cubs had made their top 100 Prospects list, a good sign. They were Gleyber Torres at 28, Willson Contreras, at 50, Ian  Happ at 76, Duane Underwood at 77, Albert Almora at 86, and Billy McKinney at 88. The rest of top Cubs prospects were similar to most other lists. On Wednesday, Mayo and Callis released their other top 24.

7 Jeimer Candelario 8 Dylan Cease 9 Oscar De La Cruz 10 Eloy Jimenez 11 Pierce Johnson
12 Donnie Dewees 13 Bryan Hudson 14 Darryl Wilson 15 Eddy Martinez 16 Carl Edwards
17 Justin Steele 18 Mark Zagunis 19 Ryan Williams 20 Dan Vogelbach 21 Trevor Clifton
22 Jake Stinnett 23 Carson Sands 24 Jen-Ho Tseng 25 Victor Caratini 26 Christian Villanueva
27 Corey Black 28 Hannemann 29 Brad Markey 30 Josh Conway

Mayo and Callis have yet to release where the Cubs system ranks, but it did not make the top ten which will be released early next week. I did find it surprising to see how they structured their top 30. It is not that much different than my Top 21 list in that there are certain groups of players in the top 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc.

clifton 69 2015What I did find interesting was their place of Trevor Clifton at 21. Good for him. I think he improved a lot the second half of the season and is poised to bust out this year along with teammate Jake Stinnett, who ironically is one behind at #22. What will help both pitchers is that they will be playing in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s league at Myrtle Beach.

It was also nice to see Brad Markey and Josh Conway make the list. The list is heavily tilted to two positions – outfield and pitchers. 12 pitchers made the list, and it is likely even more will do so next year. Having 8 outfielders is a large number. In addition, most of the list will be at two levels, low A and AA with a dispersion of players throughout the realm.

One other very interesting aspect to the team profile was that Mayo and Callis listed when they thought most of these prospects could arrive in the majors. Mayo and Callis estimated that five could arrive in 2016, 9 in 2017, and 13 in 2018. Add them up and that’s 27 over the next three years. That likely won’t happen considering who is already in the majors.

To start the 2018 season, Heyward and Rizzo will be 28, Soler 26, Bryant and Baez will be 25, Russell and Schwarber will only be 24, and Albert Almora 23. Stunning!!! Except for Heyward (who has an opt out after 2018), most will still have 3-4 prime years left as a Cubs at that point.

It is amazing for how long this team is built to last. And the list shows that depth is going to sustain the big league club long after 2018. Strap on your seatbelts. This team is built to go through 2024 and beyond with a high level of talent. I find that hard to fathom at times.

As a result, I see most of these prospects will be given plenty of time to develop in the minors. There will be no rush. By 2018, the Cubs will still be one of the top teams in the majors and one of the top systems in the minors.

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