Yesterday ESPN.com writer Keith Law ranked the Cubs as the top farm system in baseball, and today he named four Cubs to his Top 100 Prospects list, including his number one prospect in third baseman Kris Bryant and the number four prospect in shortstop Addison Russell. (Part 2 of that list is here.)
The four Cubs making his list are Bryant, Russell, outfielder Jorge Soler at number fourteen and catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber at number 90. As before, the list is an ESPN Insider only article, so you need to be a paid member to read his list. Although again, not to shill for Disney, but subscriptions to ESPN the Magazine, which comes with Insider access, are not very expensive.
In ranking Bryant number one, Law calls Bryant a "true middle-of-the-order hitter" who could end up hitting 30 home runs and a .400 OBP and "challenge for MVP awards once he has a few years in the majors." Law believes that while Bryant could handle third base, he could be a superior defensive right fielder.
Law has always been high on Addison Russell. He ranked Russell at number three last season and he only dropped to number four because he was leapfrogged by Bryant. Law believes Russell to be a "true shortstop" who should have no trouble staying at the position, although Starlin Castro may play a role in that. Law praises Russell's hands, both on offense and defense, and projects him to hit over .300 with double-digit home runs while sticking at short. While he's not making a comp, he does point out that the only other shortstop in the game who can put up those kinds of offensive numbers is Troy Tulowitzki.
Jorge Soler is the 14th-ranked player on Law's list and second-ranked outfielder, behind only the Twins' Byron Buxton. He praises Soler's "beautiful, rotational swing with long extension through contact." Law believes that Soler's late-season struggles were the result of him being too aggressive, but he notes that Soler wasn't that way in the minor leagues and feels that the Cuban outfielder will eventually adjust.
Law feels Soler has the tools to be an average or better right fielder with a strong arm, but he's a little concerned with his decision-making on defense at the moment. He projects Soler to be a .270-.280 hitter with 25 to 30 home runs a year and a solid walk rate. He also notes that might only make him the fourth-best hitter on the Cubs in the years ahead.
The only other Cub to make the top 100 is Kyle Schwarber at number 90. Law pretty much dismisses any chance that Schwarber has to stay behind the plate, but now seems to think that he can play left field at least well enough that it will be worth it to put him out there to get his bat in the lineup. As a hitter, he likes Schwarber's power and plate discipline. He writes that he'd be worth playing in left field at .280 and 25 home runs, but that the Cubs think he'll be even better than that.
Once again, Law discusses Bryant and other top three prospects in a video.
Looking around the NL Central, the Pirates placed three players in the top 40 with pitcher Tyler Glasnow at number 13, outfielder Austin Meadows at number 32 and pitcher Jameson Taillon at number 36.
The Reds are the only other NL Central team with anyone in the top 50. Outfielder Jesse Winkler is ranked 40th and pitcher Robert Stephenson is number 29.
Checking on on the other two NL Central teams, the Brewers top prospect is shortstop Orlando Arcia, who Law ranked as the 54th-best prospect. (He does note that new Brewers infielder Luis Sardinas is ineligible.) The Cardinals best prospect is outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who Law puts at number 62.
Law will be coming out with Top Tens for each team, and we'll have those lists when they become available.