Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com has updated his ranking of the Top Ten farm systems in baseball after the trade deadline. And despite losing three top prospects to the major leagues in Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, Callis still thinks the Cubs have the fourth-best system in baseball.
In the article, Callis writes that even after losing those big three, the Cubs still have five top 100 prospects in the system. That's Kyle Schwarber, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Duane Underwood Jr. and Carl Edwards Jr. Callis also heaps praise on Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Pierce Johnson and many of the young arms in the low minors: Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Justin Steele and Carson Sands.
(Schwarber is still considered a prospect until he accumulates 130 at-bats. That should happen sometime this week. Presumably, the Cubs' system ranking will take a hit then and drop another spot or two. It will still be very highly-regarded. However, the rankings don't include Iowa Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, and he would still be a top 100 prospect were he eligible.)
For the Cubs farm system to lose two top five prospects and another one ranked in the top 25 and still be considered to have one of the top five systems in baseball speaks a lot for the tremendous job that Theo Epstein and company have done building a system that will last for the long haul. We like to joke about the "waves and waves" of talent comment that Epstein made shortly after arriving in Chicago, but it really is an accurate description of what is being built.
At each level of the system, there is someone who could end up as an impact player in the majors. At Iowa, there's Baez and Edwards. Tennessee is the home to McKinney, Almora, Johnson and up-and-coming prospect Willson Contreras. Myrtle Beach has Underwood (although he's on the DL currently) and rising stars Mark Zagunis and Brad Markey. South Bend can boast of Torres and Happ. Eugene has Sands, Steele and outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Donnie Dewees. Cease is still down in rookie ball in Arizona.
Obviously not all these players are going to make it. Maybe even fewer than half of them will become productive major leaguers. But when a franchise has so many kids with a chance to make it big, the odds are in favor of at least some of them making a big impact on the major league level.
For the record, the three clubs that Callis ranks ahead of the Cubs are the Red Sox, Dodgers and Rockies. Right behind them is the Twins, who would be likely to pass the Cubs in the rankings when Schwarber dropped off, except that Miguel Sano is set to drop off the list for them as early as today. I'm just guessing, but I think the sixth-ranked Pirates would pass up both the Cubs and Twins with the Cubs remaining ahead of the Twins in fifth-place.
While the Cubs are having their best season since 2008, the farm system is the clear difference between this year's club and great Cubs teams in the past. This year's model is built to last.