Sep. 29, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson (7) reacts after striking out in the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Farm System Rankings: #12 Chicago Cubs

It’s that time of year again. Time to give this prospect junkie his fix. Last year, I did farm system rankings for all of baseball, and so I wanted to do so again. As I explain with any farm system rankings, this is a completely subjective business. I do watch minor league baseball, I do a lot of research on the players, and I do talk to people who do talent evaluation in baseball. I certainly don’t have the clout in the prospect world that the guys at Baseball America have, nor do I care to. This is meant to be fun for me, and hopefully fun and informative for the reader. At the very least it should allow for some debate from other teams’ fans, as well as allow Tigers fans a glimpse into other organizations farm systems, so when the Tigers make a trade, there may be some knowledge of who they are getting. Last year, the Texas Rangers took the top spot. Who will it be this year?

Top Ten:

1. Javier Baez (SS)- There are some questions about Baez’ ability to stick at short, but there is very little question about his ability to hit, and hit for power. He is probably a bit more athletic right now than given credit for, but even a move to 3rd base won’t take much value away for me.

2. Jorge Soler (OF)- Soler looks the part physically of a guy who can play right field and hit in the three hole for a long time. He is physical, runs well, and throws well. I just need to see a bit more of how well he does as he moves up the minor league ladder.

3. Albert Almora (OF)- Almora is a little less ceiling and a little more floor than the previous two guys. His biggest credit is his approach to hitting where he should hit for average and solid power. He also has good athleticism and should be a top of the order type hitter.

4. Dan Vogelbach (1B)- Vogelbach is a healthy sized kid that is for sure, but so is Prince Fielder. Like Fielder, Vogelbach thus far has shown an ability to destroy baseballs like few others can. So what if the pressure is all on his bat? It looks pretty damn good right now.

5. Duane Underwood (SP)- In a system that is a bit short on pitching right now, Underwood’s immense ceiling makes him the top pitcher for me. His low to mid 90′s fastball, and solid curve and change remind me of Cardinals prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

6. Gioaskar Amaya (2B)- Amaya is a bit of a stretch ranked here, but I’m going to stick by it. I believe he is going to have a plus bat down the road, and be able to field the position at an above average level as well.

7. Arodyz Vizcaino (P)- Nobody has doubted Vizcaino’s stuff, but his injuries are likely going to relegate him to the pen where he can let his plus fastball and above average slider do their thing.

8. Arismendy Alcantara (SS)- Alcantara is an above average athletic with quality defensive actions at SS. He projects to hit for average, and while mostly a line drive gap hitter, there is occasional thunder in the bat as well.

9. Christian Villanueva (3B)- Villanueva is a good athlete and it shows up defensively where he is an above average defender. At the plate, he needs to be more patient, but he runs well, and has some pop. If he learns better pitch selection, could have solid bat as well.

10. Paul Blackburn (SP)- There is a good deal to like about Blackburn. Smooth delivery, good frame, some projectability, his fastball is in the low 90′s and he shows ability with the curve and change. He is also pretty athletic as well.

Just Missed The List:

Pierce Johnson (SP), Dillon Maples (SP), Marco Hernandez (SS), Junior Lake (SS)

Johnson has himself a good arm, but he can’t seem to stay healthy long enough for me to rank him highly at this point. Maples has tremendous stuff, but has a lot to work out mechanically. Hernandez is a solid player all around, and would be in a lot of top 10′s. Lake is a frustrating tool shed who will likely have to find a home in center.

Sleepers:

Juan Carlos Paniagua (SP) and Ben Wells (SP)

Paniagua has generated a bunch of buzz for having himself a power arm. Wells is a big strong kid that could wind up a valuable mid rotation innings eater in three years.

Summary:

There really is a lot to like with this Cubs system right now. It’s obvious strength lies in position prospects, and they would rank higher if the pitching was a bit better. I didn’t even mention prospects like Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and Jeimer Candelariowho all have the talent to make it in the big leagues as well.

Even though I am not a Cubs fan in particular, the treat for me is that I do most of my “scouting” in the Midwest League and the International League. The Kane County team for 2013 should be a joy to watch offensively. I expect that at least to start the season I could easily see Vogelbach, Amaya, Hernandez, Candelario, Soler, and Almora all on the same squad. That is something worth seeing.

I suspect that the 2013 draft for Chicago is going to revolve heavily around pitching, and if they could land a couple good prospects, and their positional guys continue to perform, this system will have top five potential this time next year.

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