MiLB.com has posted their Organizational All-Stars for the Cubs system, and it is an interesting read. Brett Jackson and Bryan LaHair earn a great deal of praise, as you would expect, and I was happy to see they acknowledged the great season that Rebel Ridling had in Tennessee. I think this list prioritized power hitters a little more than I would have; that is the only reason I can imagine for Michael Burgess making the list.
Once again, this list demonstrates that the Cubs farm system is a little thin on prospects with true star potential. The Cubs system is still one of the deepest in baseball, but much of that depth consists of players who project no higher than average major league starters.
That depth will be important for the Cubs over the next two years. The Cubs do not need to sign a free agent for every position at which they need to improve. Odds are they have some players nearly in the majors who could fill in at that position while the team waits on the higher ceiling talent deeper in the system to arrive, or while they wait on the right free agent to come along. Don’t be surprised if some of these everyday type players emerge as long term starters for the Cubs before it is all said and done.
For example, let’s take third base. Aramis Ramirez is not likely to be back. The Cubs could empty the farm system and try to trade for an established third baseman since there is very little on the free agent market, or they could fill the position from within. There are no fewer five young players in the Cubs system who could take a shot at third next season. If Blake DeWitt does not claim the job, D.J. LeMahieu would be happy to take those starts. If he stumbles, Ryan Flaherty would be next in line, along with Marquez Smith. And don’t rule out Josh Vitters either.
That kind of depth will give Theo Epstein a lot of options as he rebuilds this team. He could trade Geovany Soto and platoon Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger in his place. He could pass on Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Carlos Pena and see if Bryan LaHair can play well enough until Josh Vitters or Rebel Ridling arrive. Or he could shoot for the big name free agents and trade some of that depth away for other players.
One other thing to remember is that the Cubs had a number of players break out this during this minor league season. No one was talking about Marwin Gonzalez before the season, but we have to take him into account now. Junior Lake and Jae-Hoon Ha have elevated their stock, and Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez will certainly draw some notice on future Cub Top Prospects lists.
The Cubbies Crib All Farm All-Stars will be posted later this week.