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MiLB+1: Cubs farm system, phase 3

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An update on the Cubs minor league system and where it stands.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

When I began as a front page writer here, it was to “write about the rebuild.” Back then, it wasn’t universally accepted. My thought was, the plan of “getting the finances under control” and “developing the system with commitment” seemed a reasonable plan. As the 2018 season kicks in, the Cubs are in Phase Three.

“What is Phase Three? What were phases one and two?”

I’m glad you asked.

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Phase One was getting the team competitive. Which took quite a bit of rehabbing the entire roster. And upgrading the pipeline.

Phase One was finished by the start of 2015, but was largely completed by July or August of 2014.

Phase Two was filling in the weak spots for a run at contention. Jon Lester. Ben Zobrist. Tyler Chatwood. Yu Darvish. Much of the current Cubs bullpen. A few others. Phase Two is now complete, and a few data points suggest Phase Three is underway. Though it wasn’t, yet, last season.

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Phase Three is developing your talent at the MLB level, so teams want to trade for them as viable MLB starters.

As Jeimer Candelario and Dan Vogelbach failed to impress at the MLB level before being traded, the Cubs weren’t to Phase Three before now. With Victor Caratini making the Opening Day roster, perhaps they are, now.

Imagine if Caratini represents (at the MLB level) being a “top-half of the league” starting catcher. While sitting behind Contreras. That is how you ooze system depth. Especially if creating more catching internally, at the same time.

If Kyle Schwarber has a big year, the same thing happens. Or Albert Almora.

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Over the off-season, the Cubs dredged in the standard 10 or so pitchers as innings-eaters for the spring training season. I certainly didn’t expect quality out of Anthony Bass, Alberto Baldonado, or Kyle Ryan.

However, all three have thrived under the tutelage of pitching coach Jim Hickey. While all three figure to start in Iowa, along with spring sensation Justin Hancock, the four show how the Cubs can take leftovers and craft a culinary delicacy.

Which is Phase Three thinking.

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In April of 2016, the Marlins ran a struggling pitcher through waivers. The San Diego Padres bit on the starter-reliever who had flashed a WAR the preceding year of -0.8. Since then, Brad Hand has become a beast.

With Phase Two completed, the Cubs have precious little MLB room for any “developing relievers”. However, if the Cubs can parlay some of the options that fans are unfamiliar with into quality MLB talent, those youngsters can be traded as value. If they do well as bit pieces, with cost-controlled years ahead.

Or, they can take the jobs of the veteran arms, who can get traded.

Phase Three thinking. It’s as different for fans as jumping from Phase One to Phase Two.’

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The Cubs have already made a Phase Three move. Trading Jorge Soler for Wade Davis was peak Phase Three.

However, amid Phase Three, developing players to an extent that they can do well in MLB as reserves is a desire. And, it’s tough to do.

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What is Phase Four, you ask?

Phase Four is forcing other teams to adapt or else. Which they’ve already started to do.

The White Sox now believe in prospects.

The Cardinals overspent internationally.

Adapt or else.

Forcing others to decide which is Phase Four.

The Cubs aren’t quite entirely there yet.

Though a good season from the pipeline, and a useful draft might help.

Who are you interested in at 1.24?

It’s a very valid question.

Whichever of the four Phases you have the Cubs in.