The Cubs’ farm system is represented in MLB.Com’s Top 100 Prospects List, unveiled Wednesday night. Three Cubs made the cut, including outfielder Brett Jackson (#33), first baseman Anthony Rizzo (#37), and shortstop / third baseman Javier Baez (#62). The good news for Cub fans is that the first two on that list should arrive in 2012.
The strength of the Cubs’ farm system is in the system-wide depth, so it is encouraging that the Cubs have two players in the Top 50. It will take time for the bulk of the Cubs’ talent to emerge out of the lower levels of the farm system and start to earn some national attention. We can expect the Cubs to have more than three in future editions of this list.
I don’t disagree with the Cubs chosen for this list, or with those who were left off. However, there are a couple of players who did not make the cut that probably deserve mention anyway.
Trey McNutt remains the top pitching prospect for the Chicago Cubs, and one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. I was surprised to see that former Cub Chris Archer made the Top 100 list while McNutt was left off. I suspect that was due to McNutt’s injury plagued 2011 season more than any other factor. McNutt was derailed twice last season by both blisters and a rib injury, and he never really looked like himself after his last stent on the disabled list. While his arm is fine and his stuff is still considered very good, the forced bench time took its toll on his command and his overall performance. If he can put together a healthy 2012, I would expect to see McNutt re-emerge as a Top 100 pitching prospect.
Even an injury free 2012 may not be enough for him to retain his status as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. Robert Whitenack was in the middle of one of the best performances in the minors when his season was cut short by elbow surgery. The good news is that Whitenack is said to be recovering very well from that surgery and should open the season on a roster, possibly with the Daytona Cubs. It will take some time for Whitenack to re-establish his stuff and relaunch himself on his campaign of dominance, but when he does so he should challenge McNutt for the crown as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect.
Some of the best talent in the Cubs system is still lurking in relative obscurity in the very low minors. As we progress through the 2012 season, we should be hearing more positive news about the Cubs farm system as those players are able to garner more recognition. The Cubs have a long way to go in order to build a truly elite farm system, but they definitely have their system moving in the right direction.