Who Will Lead the Cubbie Revolution?
If topics among major league teams trended like twitter, "building the farm system" would certainly be near the top. All the new GM's and some of the old ones alluded to it one way or another as the key to sustained success and of course, there's a lot of truth to it. But there's also a lot of truth to the famous phrase, "it's easier said than done". For the new Cubs in charge, they'll be taking over a farm system that will likely rank in the lower third as an organization in overall talent that many of the self-proclaimed experts believe has lots of depth and marginal major league talent, but very light on the upper tier players. Unfortunately, it's those upper tier players that the Cubs are sorely in need of at that moment as they try to reverse a 3-year trend of losing while in the midst of saying goodbye to their aging core of players. Not only do the Cubs have to find(or soon find) replacements for the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Kosukue Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and so on, but they have to find players that are cumulatively better than those in order to improve. Just finding the equivalent isn't going to get the Cubs back into the division hunt. Personally, I don't see those players in the Cubs farm system right now and certainly not anyone ready in the next year or two. So to me that means having to dive into free agency and/or be willing to trade some of that depth for a few stars (much like the much aligned Garza trade last year) if the Cubs intend to compete next year and the subsequent years. Now if they want to go into a full 3-year rebuild, more power to them, but I don't see the Cubs taking that path. To me, it's identifying whom on this list and subsequent lists are going to be the average or above average major league contributors and not just roster filler, protecting those players and thus making everyone else expendable if a trade presents itself.
Before we get to the rankings, I like to share this bit of insight from Bill James via Joe Posnanski. Something to keep in mind that not all top 10 lists are the same.
A few years ago, Bill James told me something I had never thought about before but now think about all the time, especially after trades like this one: Every single baseball team has prospects. Every one. The best teams. The worst teams. The smartest teams. The dumbest teams. They all have prospects. Not only that — every team has enough prospects to fill out a Top 10 list. You never see a team’s “Top 7 Prospects” list because the team did not have enough to fill out 10. No. They all have 10.
To the list...
- Brett Jackson, OF
- Javier Baez, SS
- Matt Szczur, OF
- Trey McNutt, RHP
- Dillon Maples, RHP
- Welington Castillo, C
- Rafael Dolis, RHP
- Junior Lake, SS
- Josh Vitters, 3B/1B
- Dan Vogelbach, 1B
I was probably expecting to see Vogelbach a little higher, but I understand his defensive issues. I was surprised to see Lake and Dolis up there, but Baseball America has always been fans of their talent, if not their results. As expected, the 2011 draft spending spree is well represented, although one cannot expect to see any of them in the majors for another 4-5 years and then add another 2-3 years before they could potentially be impact players. And when 3 of those are in your top 10, that tells you how far off the system is from consistently providing talent to the major league club.
To me, Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur are the only players (excluding the 2011 draft class) that I think the Cubs should be very reluctant to move. And I'm not that reluctant on either to be honest, both certainly have their flaws and if they would help land a true superstar talent, I'd get over it pretty quick. But they certainly should be holstered unless an amazing talent comes available.
It's not to say that the other players may or may not prove useful, but I'd personally be just fine with 3 to 4 more Garza-like trades that brought in mid 20's players in the upper third of their position to start filling out the Cubs roster. Deals for players such as Gio Gonzalez, Logan Morrison, Chase Headley and so forth that are entering their prime years and would be under club control, but more at the expense of depth than true impact talent, of which I count just the two aforementioned players in the system (once again excluding the 2011 draft, whom the players are not eligible to be traded yet anyway).
Of course, much like building the farm system, those trades are easier said than done.