Theo’s Farm System

Baseball America released its list of the Chicago Cubs’ top ten prospects. With the graduation of Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara to the major league club, the current list of highly touted prospects all share one trait. Can you guess the common denominator on this list?

1. Kris Bryant
2. Addison Russell
3. Jorge Soler
4. Kyle Schwarber
5. C.J. Edwards
6. Billy McKinney
7. Albert Almora
8. Gleyber Torres
9. Pierce Johnson
10. Duane Underwood

Every player on this list was acquired during the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer administration. Bryant (2013), Schwarber (2014), and Almora (2012) were first round selections in the baseball amateur draft. Johnson and Underwood were 2012 supplemental first round and second round draft picks, respectively. Russell and McKinney (both former first round draft picks) came to the Cubs in last summer’s Jeff Samardzija trade. The Cubs grabbed Edwards (among others) from the Texas Rangers in the 2013 mid-season trade for Matt Garza. Cuban exile Jorge Soler signed a nine-year free agent contract with the Cubs in 2012. Torres, still only eighteen years old, was an international signee in 2013 (the year the Cubs blew through all spending caps to rake in an extraordinary group of talented young foreign players that including Eloy Jimenez and Jen-Ho Tseng). In addition a dozen more of Baseball America’s top thirty Cubs’ prospects also joined the organization via Epstein and Hoyer.

The Cubs now have what scouts universally consider to be one of the best, if not the top, farm system in baseball. Epstein and Hoyer have completely remade the farm system that they inherited just three seasons ago. For comparison purposes, take a look at a middling farm system. Here is how Baseball America graded the Cubs’ top prospects headed into 2011:
1. Chris Archer
2. Brett Jackson
3. Trey McNutt
4. Hak-Ju Lee
5. Josh Vitters
6. Chris Carpenter
7. Matt Szczur
8. Hayden Simpson
9. Rafael Dolis
10. Brandon Guyer

Former Cubs’ general manager Jim Hendry traded Archer and Lee to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Garza prior to the 2011 season. Most of the other names on this list belong to players who either have yet to establish themselves in the big leagues or who are out of professional baseball all together.

When you assess the two farm systems, there really is no comparison. The past four years of astute talent evaluation, high draft picks, and veteran trades are now paying off with a massive pool of young talent. Only three years removed from a 100 loss campaign, the Cubs appear poised to take another step forward this season – with a the distinct chance at a winning season. More impressively, Epstein and Hoyer continue to assemble a strong minor league system that should provide the Cubs with the long awaited and ever elusive talent pipeline needed to sustain major league success over many years. So the next time you want to get excited about a big free agent signing such as john Lester, feel even more emboldened to know that this Cubs’ organization has the young talent needed to provide the depth and inexpensive star talent to augment several large free agent signings. The future starts now.