Fab Four No More

Baseball America released its much anticipated 2014 ranking of the Cubs’ top ten farmhands, and lo and behold, there is a shakeup in the ballyhooed top four. To no one’s surprise, Baseball America ranked super-prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant first and second overall in what was admittedly referred to as a very close call. Baseball America ultimately viewed Baez as the higher “ceiling” player of the two as he appears more likely to stick as an infielder at the major league level while Bryant’s tall frame seems more consistent with a conversion into a corner outfielder.

After the top two, however, Baseball America moved fast-rising pitching sensation C. J. Edwards into the third slot. Edwards, acquired in last year’s midseason Matt Garza trade, pitched extremely well after joining the Cubs – leading his Daytona team to a league championship. Despite putting up excellent numbers last year, the 48th round draft pick’s thin frame (six feet two and 155 pounds) leaves many scouts concerned with his ability to handle the number of innings required of a major league starter without wearing down. Scouts frequently compare Edwards’ frame to that of 1980s pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. Unfortunately, Boyd stands out as Edwards’ only close pitching comparable from the last thirty years. Despite these concerns regarding his frame, Baseball America is betting on Edwards’s excellent fastball/curveball combination to propel him to major league success.

Following Edwards, Baseball America ranked what many previously considered to be the other other half of the big four, Albert Almora and Jorge Solar, fourth and fifth respectively. Rounding out the back half of the top ten were right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson, promising second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, intriguing young third baseman Jeimer Candelario, heavy-hitting slugger (and flat out heavy) Dan Vogelbach, followed by often-injured but high-upside pitcher Arodys Vizcaino.

In three short years, the Cubs have transformed a minor league system devoid of high-end impact talent into one of the top five in all of baseball. With the fourth pick in the upcoming draft, the Cubs look to add to their surplus of minor league talent. Over the next several months, we will profile the Cubs’ top ten prospects as well as selected other interesting players in the minor league system such as impressive young recent international free agent signings Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. While the front office preaches patience, the minor league system inspires a great deal of optimism.