I like when the sites we use to track minor league players update rankings frequently or as frequent as possible to give fans the most up to date thoughts on farm systems. Things change so fast in just a couple months, so it’s nice not go off rankings from the summer when we talk about prospects in the offseason as fans try to evaluate the future of a team and how some guys can factor into the following year at the major league level.
Not only did MLB Pipeline provide some re-rankings of teams’ minor league systems, Cubs fans got a bit of good news with the new rankings. The Cubs now have a top-10 farm system at the end of 2022, after being named one of the five most improved minor league systems this past year.
Sam Dykstra wrote on MLB.com about the five minor league systems that improved the most throughout the 2022 season and the Cubs ended up fourth on the list, bringing them up to the 10th ranked system overall.
Preseason rank: 18
It’s difficult to think of now, but Pete Crow-Armstrong began the season with only six Minor League games on his résumé due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Fully healthy in 2022, he blossomed into a promising hitter who is capable of being an elite defender in center field, thus making him MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 overall prospect. He’s one of three Top 100 prospects for the Cubs now, all of which are outfielders, alongside Brennen Davis (No. 48) and breakout performer Kevin Alcantara (No. 86), who like Crow-Armstrong, was acquired in a ’21 trade. The selection of College World Series star Cade Horton at No. 7 in the 2022 Draft was a big swing that could pay off if the former Sooners right-hander’s plus fastball and 65-grade slider translate well to the pros. Somehow, we’ve gotten this far without mentioning 36-homer man Matt Mervis, who went from obscurity to being potentially the Cubs’ Opening Day first baseman — essentially the poster boy for the system’s improvements since the spring.
The Colorado Rockies had the biggest improvement according to these rankings, going from 24th all the way up to ninth, followed by the Cincinnati Reds now ranked with the fourth-best farm system and the Cleveland Guardians third after entering the season at 12th. The Washington Nationals were the fifth most improved farm system, going from 23rd to 15th. It took trading Juan Soto for that Nationals’ improvement, so, you know, gotta take the positives there I guess.
It’s interesting that the top-three rated prospects for the Cubs right now are three outfielders because we’ve heard so much about the pitching development during the past couple seasons. That’s still true, as Cubs fans have already seen glimpses of that at the big-league level with Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, Brandon Hughes and this past September Hayden Wesneski made his MLB debut and he looked awesome in 33 innings. But see, that’s the thing, the Cubs do have more young pitchers on the rise that may make it to the big leagues in 2023.
Anyway, obviously the big name in the minors for the Cubs is Pete Crow-Armstrong. What a stud. I think Jed Hoyer is penciling his name into center field to start 2024. As for Brennen Davis, 2023 will hopefully be what 2022 was supposed to be for him. The injury bug has hit him, so we’re all hoping he can finally get a healthy year because he made so many strides as a hitter in such a short period of time after getting drafted in 2018 out of high school. And man, Kevin Alcantara might end up being the best of the three. Still a lot to prove at 20-years-old, but he had a solid first year in A-Ball and has star written all over him.
Meanwhile, Matt Mervis may not be as highly ranked as some Cubs fans feel like he should be, but the left-handed hitter is considered one of the top-10 first base prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
Slowly, but surely, the Cubs have once again amassed a solid group of prospects. While the star power may not be there as of yet, the quality of depth in the system is present and a few more breakout seasons in 2023, should elevate the farm system even higher by the end of next year.
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