There are a lot of top prospects lists, but none are probably as prestigious as the ones that come from Baseball America. The 2014 Cubs top ten list came out on Monday and it is probably the most exciting Cubs prospect list in over a decade. The list and the team overview are free to everyone, although the actual scouting reports on the players are for subscribers only. Personally, I think a Baseball America subscription is worth it, but that's your call. By the way, the top 30 will come out with the Prospect Handbook early next year.
There was a little change in the Cubs list this year, as John Manuel took over the Cubs list from Jim Callis, who had compiled the Cubs list for many years. Callis left Baseball America this season to take a job with MLB.com. That's not any sort of downgrade as Manuel is the Editor-in-Chief, but each compiler does have his own biases and idiosyncrasies.
The list is:
1. SS Javier Baez
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. RHP C.J. Edwards
4. CF Albert Almora
5. RF Jorge Soler
6. RHP Pierce Johnson
7. 2B Arismendy Alcantara
8. 3B Jeimer Candelario
9. 1B Daniel Vogelbach
10. RHP Arodys Vizcaino
The first thing that stands out about this list is Edwards at #3, ahead of both Almora and Soler. Manuel acknowledges the questions about Edwards' durability and readily admits that he has a man-crush on Edwards. But if you're going by upside, as BA often does, Edwards is a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Putting it that way, it makes sense to put Edwards at No. 3. It's an aggressive ranking and I wouldn't put him there, but I can see his point. He also noted that Edwards didn't lose velocity at the end of the season this year, which might be a sign that his body can withstand the punishment of starting.
The comps that Manuel reached for to describe Edwards are pretty funny. All he can come up with is Oil Can Boyd and maybe Satchel Paige. Essentially, he's reaching for really skinny black starting pitchers.
It also pretty amazing that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer could get a prospect ranked ahead of Albert Almora and Jorge Soler for two months of Matt Garza. The news isn't as good for Mike Olt, who not only didn't make the top 10, he didn't make the list of top 15 talents under 25. Manuel lumps him in with Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson as disappointments and is not optimistic about any of them bouncing back.
Neil Ramirez didn't make the list and Justin Grimm has too much major league experience to be eligible.
The second thing that stands out is that if Alcantara is the No. 7 prospect, then this is a pretty impressive list. Alcantara has a pretty good chance of ending up on the overall top 100 list this offseason. Having seven prospects on that list is pretty amazing.
The drop-off after Alcantara is pretty steep, although Candelario and Vogelbach are the clear choices there. Manuel admits that Vizcaino, who has missed two seasons because of injury, is not an obvious choice at #10, but no one else really stood out for him. He also notes that the 16-year-old Eloy Jimenez, who has yet to play a professional game, was in the mix for that last spot in the top 10.
Personally, I'm also glad to see Pierce Johnson get this kind of attention at No. 6. He's got two plus pitches (fastball and curve) and a changeup that's getting better. His makeup and pitchability are good. Unlike Edwards, there are no serious questions about Johnson's ability to stay in the rotation. I love both Edwards and Johnson, but I'd actually rank Johnson ahead of Edwards because of his size and athleticism.
As you can read in the free article linked to above, one of the biggest problems the Cubs have right now is how will the Cubs get all these players into a major league lineup at the same time? That's a really good problem to have.
Is this the best farm system in baseball? No. The drop-off after Alcantara and then again the dropoff after Vogelbach shows the system isn't quite as deep as we would like. Yes, there are a lot of players who will end up ranked 11 through 30 who could have significant major league careers. But with a few exceptions, like the aforementioned Jimenez, there aren't a lot of potential stars in there. The system also lacks starting pitching. If Edwards winds up in the bullpen, then Johnson is the only pitcher who really projects to be a No.3 starter or better.
But I'm just nitpicking here. It's definitely a Top 5 farm system and a sign of better days to come.