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Cubs Place 6 Prospects On ESPN's Keith Law's Top 100 List

The Cubs farm system is still strong according to one of the leading prospect experts.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In his annual list of the top prospects in all of baseball, Keith Law of ESPN ranked six Cubs prospects among the top 100 in all of baseball. That number is up from four prospects on the list last season, although the four on the list last season were mostly higher-rated, including Law's number-one rated prospect from 2015, current rookie of the year Kris Bryant.

In any case, this is a sign that the "waves and waves" of talent coming through the farm system is in no danger of slowing down anytime soon.

As you probably have guessed, the actual list is available for ESPN Insiders only. (But seriously--they have discounts on membership all the time. Unless you're homeless and reading this from a library terminal, you probably can afford it.) But the actual list is broken down into two parts with prospects 1-50 here and then prospects 51-100.

The six Cubs who made Law's list are

15. Gleyber Torres

27. Willson Contreras

47. Ian Happ

69. Billy McKinney

88. Albert Almora

91. Dylan Cease

In his writeup of the six players, Law notes that Torres was a very advanced hitter for someone who was only 18 last season and that he showed plus hands and arm strength at shortstop. Law thinks that Torres could be a top five prospect in his list next season, although he does note that he's blocked at the major league level by Addison Russell.

With Contreras, Law mentions how surprising his breakout 2015 campaign was. While the possibility of regression for Contreras is real, Law believes that the catcher showed real skill improvements both offensively and defensively. He thinks Contreras improved his bat speed in 2015 and that, combined with his excellent skills at making contact, will keep his offense from sliding back. Defensively, Contreras has a strong arm but needs to work on refining his game behind the plate, in particular finer things like pitch framing and calling a game.

Law was a big believer in Happ before last year's draft and nothing that he did in 2015 changed Law's mind. Law high ranking of Happ is, in part, because he believes Happ can stick at second base where he can be a high OBP second baseman who can hit 15 to 20 home runs a season.

In McKinney, Law admits his limitations. All McKinney can really do is hit. He thinks it's a testament to how good a hitter McKinney can become that he can make this list with only one plus tool. Law loves McKinney's "beautiful" left-handed swing. Because McKinney isn't likely to hit more than 15 to 19 home runs a season and will only play average defense in left field, Law thinks McKinney's upside is limited. (Unless he hits .320 in the majors, which Law notes is not out of the realm of possibility.) But left-handed hitters who get on base a lot will always have a job in the majors.

Albert Almora is a pretty high-floor guy in Law's estimation. He notes that Almora's defense in center field is so good (Law puts a 70 on it) that he's going to be a major leaguer even if he doesn't hit much. But Law was impressed by the improvements that Almora made at the plate late last year and if those improvements hold, he should be a regular major league center fielder.

Finally, Cease was a guy who Law thinks could have gone in the top 10 of the draft had he not hurt his elbow, an injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Cease bounced back with a cleaner delivery in 2015 and was hitting 99 on the radar gun. As long as he stays healthy, there's top-of-the-rotation potential here.

Unlike last year's top four prospects (Bryant, Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber), none of these six players are ready to contribute immediately in 2016, although I wouldn't be surprised if Contreras and Almora see some major league time late this upcoming season. And there is also the issues about where the Cubs will make room for some of those prospects in the years ahead. But those are problems for another day. Right now, it's good to know that the Cubs are still holding several assets in reserve that will one day be able to step in the lineup in case of an unexpected vacancy or be dealt for needed talent at the trade deadline.