Since the day Theo Epstein arrived in Chicago his number one goal has been to build up the Chicago Cubs farm system, and by all accounts he has been incredibly successful. Going into this season the Cubs had the number two-ranked system in all of baseball, per baseball prospectus, and currently have seven prospects ranked in MLB.com’s top 100. A far cry from the period of 2002-2005, when all seven of the Cubs first round draft picks failed to make it to the big leagues. However, lets not erect any statues in Mr. Epstein’s honor just yet. It’s true, the Cubs farm system is stocked with talent, but there is also a major logjam. Javier Baez (1), Kris Bryant (2), Arismendy Alcantara (6), Jeimer Candelario (9), and Dan Vogelbach (10) are all vying for positions that are currently occupied or overstocked at the major league level.
The Starlin Castro vs. Javier Baez debate has been raging since Baez tore up the Cactus League in spring training. Both are incredible talents, but only one can play shortstop for the Cubs. So naturally one of them will most likely be moved to second or third base. But wait. Third base is already jam packed with, former Rangers top prospect, Mike Olt, and Luis Valbuena. And don’t forget about Kris Bryant who is burning his way through the minor leagues. He is also a third baseman by trade. So the focus now shifts to second base, where Arismendy Alcantara is the likely successor to the Barney/Bonifacio tandem. And then there is Dan Vogelbach; whose power numbers could have him on a collision course with Anthony Rizzo at first base.
The point is, this tangled web of prospects will make piecing together a starting nine very difficult. There are only so many of them that can be (legitimately) moved to the outfield, where, oh by they way, the organization’s number three prospect, Albert Almora, will be waiting.
The talent that the Cubs have and the talent that they have coming cannot coexist in Chicago as they stand right now. So, in order to turn the Northsiders into a contending team, Theo needs to deal some of the above-mentioned pieces, hopefully in exchange for pitching. The Cubs farm system has been criticized for being very hitter heavy, despite having two pitching prospects who cracked the top 100 this year, C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson. The reason being because beyond those two and the wildcard that is Arodys Vizcaino, the Cubs are pretty thin on impact arms. Everyone know pitching wins championships, and for a team that is on the verge of dealing its ace, Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs need some help.
This trade deadline will be critical for the Cubs in their search for good arms that can accompany Travis Wood atop the rotation. Whether Theo can swap Samardzija for a starter with ace potential, and/or package some of the organization’s top prospects for a quality arm or two will have a huge impact on how quickly he can turn this club into a winner.
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