It’s no secret that the Cubs have been putting in a ton of work on the farm system, almost as much as the new sportsbook at Wrigley, and those efforts are starting to yield results. Recent trends in pitching acquisition, whether through the draft or trades, have balanced out an organization that had gotten a little top-heavy in position players.
They now have much greater depth than we’ve seen in quite some time, and the expectation is that those prospects will start forming the core of a new competitive run sometime soon.
According to at least one measure, however, the Cubs still aren’t even in the top half of baseball. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN has the Cubs’ farm ranked No. 18 (subscription piece) with $215 million of future surplus value, or an aggregate total of “how much a team would pay to acquire the player’s six-plus years of control before free agency.” If that’s a little difficult to wrap your head around, just think of it like adding up the projections for how good all the prospects are expected to be at the big league level.
The big knock on the Cubs seems to be that they don’t have a number of elite-level players waiting in the wings. Brennen Davis has yet to return from a procedure to alleviate a nerve impingement in his back and Brailyn Márquez has been ruled out for the season following a shoulder cleanup, leading to questions about whether he’ll ever pitch for the Cubs again. As McDaniel put it, “the impact talent is still a year or two away.”
Far be it for me to contradict someone whose entire job is predicated on covering prospects, but I don’t believe using FanGraphs’ projections to put a dollar value on prospects paints a very accurate picture. And I know McDaniel does it that way for the sake of continuity and isn’t getting very subjective here, I just can’t believe there are 17 systems with more talent than what the Cubs have amassed.
Among that group are the Pirates (No. 4, $291M), Reds (No. 9, $273M), and Cardinals (No. 15, $232M). If you really want to feel sick, the Dodgers (No. 6, $285M) and Yankees (No. 8, $276M) are in the top 10.
The good thing is that it really doesn’t matter what these rankings say because projected value doesn’t determine actual production. Not only that, but other teams aren’t looking at FanGraphs when determining which prospect(s) they would target in a trade for one of their own, or for a young big leaguer. The Cubs will have to start buying at some point, which is where having that depth will really come in handy.