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Theo deflects praise for Cubs' system

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' farm system has received a lot of fanfare -- including the No. 1 ranking by ESPN.com -- but president Theo Epstein says they don't deserve the attention because "we haven't accomplished anything yet."

"We don't deserve to be on the cover of magazines, we don't deserve to be really be lauded right now because we haven't done anything right now," Epstein said Wednesday. "At best, what we've done is put ourselves in a position to make a lot of interesting decisions going forward and hopefully have two of the most important currencies in the game: impactful young players and available payroll dollars. But we're not there yet, we haven't accomplished anything yet."

The Cubs had four players in the midseason top 50 prospect rankings by ESPN.com's Keith Law, including three in the top 10. Kris Bryant is the top overall prospect, the recently acquired Addison Russell is fourth and Javier Baez is eighth. Jorge Soler, who was promoted to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday night, is at No. 28. That ranking doesn't include the recently promoted Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Schwarber, who was just drafted in June, and 2012 top pick Albert Almora, who was moved up to Double-A Tennessee this week.

"That's nice in that it reflects a lot of hard work by our scouts, our player development people and the players themselves," Epstein said. "But it really doesn't mean anything. We're in last place, so almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us."

Epstein says he and his staff can't focus on those rankings, but he understands that it's fun for fans.

"True baseball fans really like young players," Epstein said. "They like following players along the whole journey, players who are homegrown they get to know and they can see play here ultimately. They really enjoy that part of it. If all goes according to plan, we'll be able to provide them that experience. Maybe a whole group players that they can get to know for a decade and appreciate and win together."

Epstein said the Cubs have work to do this offseason and even when the prospects arrive at the big league level, it will hardly be smooth sailing for a team that is headed for a second straight last-place finish.

"So what do we have to do [this offseason]?" Epstein asked. "We have everything to do. We have to continue to build an organization, and we have to continue to improve the major league team. That generation [of prospects], they're going to break in at some point and then the process of adjusting to the big leagues starts. A lot of times they have to go struggle and fail and make adjustments and find themselves. Look at [Anthony] Rizzo, look at [Starlin] Castro as great examples. We all have to be prepared for that for these young players."