CHICAGO -- After nearly three years of trading talented veterans, drafting high, some tremendous scouting and a little luck, the Chicago Cubs have the top-ranked farm system in baseball, according to ESPN.com Insider Keith Law.
The Cubs jumped from fourth in the preseason to first, mid-year, in part due to top prospect Kris Bryant's monster minor league year along with the recent addition of shortstop Addison Russell from Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal. Additionally, teams ahead of them in the preseason, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros, promoted some highly talented players (Gregory Polanco and George Springer), taking away from their minor league prospect base.
The idea of the Cubs with a top-ranked farm system is a foreign thought to anyone who has followed the team over the years. They've had their share of prospects come through the system -- most have failed -- but never have they had this amount of young talent throughout the minor leagues. They were able to accomplish so much in this regard in so little time in part due to the fact they didn't have the money to spend on free agents, especially the younger, international players who were available over the past few years.
"It may have been the best thing for us," Cubs president Theo Epstein said recently.
Now the Cubs can deal from a position of strength. As noted by Law, most of the Cubs' top pitching prospects are at the lower levels of the minors, although right-hander Kyle Hendricks, Tuesday's starter against the San Diego Padres, will be given a shot to win a long-term job in the second half. But if they want to move a position player for a pitcher, they'll have plenty of talent for teams to choose from.
As for prospects making it in the majors, the Cubs are playing with the odds. Only a certain percentage of even the good ones become major league players. That may never change. But the more the Cubs have the more will make it. The best case scenario has their farm system drop slightly in the rankings in the coming year, but for the right reason: many of their top players are making it in the big leagues.