We know the Cubs farm system is deep. We know the bulk of the talent is in the low levels of the minors and that 2012 will be an exciting year on the minor league front for that reason. Not so long ago, we also knew that the Cubs farm system was heavy with major league regular style players and thin on star power. The times, they are a’changin’.
Baseball America has, at long last, come out with their Top 100 Prospects list. Eight separate experts from Baseball America’s industry-leading staff compiled their own rankings into a single list, and the results are very encouraging for Cub fans. We were all but assured that three names would make the list. When the curtain rose, however, there were four Cubs on the stage.
Brett Jackson, as expected, is the first Cub on the list. The outfielder checks in at #32 on the list, his highest finish yet. Not surprisingly, BA projects he will make it to the majors in 2012. Early June 2012 is my projection.
Anthony Rizzo is next, coming in at #47. Rizzo will also make it to the majors this season, likely at about the same time as Jackson. The Cubs think they have their first baseman of the future in Rizzo. I think they may be right.
The third Cub on the list, at a surprisingly high #61, is 2011 first round pick Javier Baez. Officially he is a shortstop, but it is generally expected that he will move over to third base. Despite being taken out of high school just last summer, BA projects that Baez will arrive in the majors in 2014. I can imagine a late season call-up in 2014, but not much beyond that. Regardless of whether he arrives in 2014 or 2015, he is a prospect to get excited about.
And finally, we get to Matt Szczur. I have had Szczur ranked higher than most all winter, and I am happy to see I am not alone in my high estimation of the Cubs’ center fielder of the future. Szczur clocks in all the way up at #64 on the list; that is higher than even I expected. His ETA is listed as 2013. That’s aggressive, but not impossible. If he has a good year in 2012, a second half call up in 2013 is certainly on the table.
With four prospects in the top 64, the Cubs once again have some high-level talent in their system. While Jackson and Rizzo are all but certain to reach the majors, their place on this list could easily be taken by any of a number of Cub prospects lurking in the low minors.
If the Cubs do in fact manage to land Jorge Soler, they will have a fifth name on the Top 100 prospects. Depending on who you ask, Soler would fall anywhere from #20 to #40 on the list. I suspect he would rank just behind Brett Jackson and be given an ETA of 2014.
If you live near a minor league city and want to see some of these guys in action, then head for Iowa to watch Jackson and Rizzo. Baez will likely open the season in Peoria, but could advance to Daytona by year’s end. Szczur will start in Daytona, but could finish up in Tennessee. If Soler signs, he will likely stay in Arizona for awhile, and then head to Peoria. He could finish as high as Daytona.