These Cubs prospects have more promise than we’ve seen in years

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Over the last 15 or so months, we’ve watched a stream of longtime Cubs head for greener pastures, including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Yu Darvish and Craig Kimbrel – among others. The result? A dramatically improved farm system that offers more upside than anything we’ve seen since prior to Chicago’s 2016 World Series championship.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer inherited just one eventual member of the core when they took control over a decade ago in Baez, who Jim Hendry selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. From there, they traded for Rizzo – someone with longstanding ties to Hoyer specifically, and drafted Bryant in 2013, just two years prior to his winning NL Rookie of the Year honors.

We know the team’s longstanding issues when it comes to developing arms – but the one exception to that general trend is, of course, Kyle Hendricks, who the Cubs acquired in the Ryan Dempster trade back in 2012. At that point, he wasn’t viewed as anything particularly exciting, but that has obviously changed in the decade that followed.

All this to say there were some real head-turners in the system back then. Bryant and Baez were the main headliners – but you can’t overlook the likes of Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell, either.

All of those guys wound up playing critical roles for the team during its recent run of success – one not seen on the North Side for more than a century: three consecutive NLCS appearances, a pair of NL Central titles, an NL pennant and a World Series championship. Now, the focus has shifted to ‘what’s next’ – and the guys in the system now have a chance to leave a similar mark on the franchise before it’s all said and done.

There is a glaring distinction between the former prospects who blossomed into the core of a championship team and what we have on our hands heading into 2022 – and it’s important to acknowledge as much. Bryant, Baez, Russell and Schwarber were all former first-rounders. The group ramping up for this season, meanwhile, showcases a ton of high-ceiling, high-risk talents – so betting on them isn’t as sure of a thing.

That’s not to say there aren’t first-round guys in the mix. Chicago’s 2021 first-rounder, Jordan Wicks, comes from Kansas State with a ton of polish already, Pete Crow-Armstrong continues to turn heads and has received Mookie Betts comps with the glove – and the second-rounders in the mix have been getting talked about in big time ways, too.

Owen Caissie, who came over in the Darvish trade, looks like the real deal, the Cubs’ own second-rounder from a year ago, James Triantos, could wind up being the steal of that round looking back at last summer’s draft and Brennen Davis is, well, Brennen Davis.

Factor in some of the international signees in and you really start to see more of a big picture in regards to the depth the organization has assembled rather quickly: Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Alcantara, Reginald Preciado, Alexander Canario Miguel Amaya, Brailyn Marquez – all could be impact players at some point.

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The CBA talks are center stage right now – and rightfully so. But Cubs fans will have plenty of exciting young prospects to watch this season no matter what in what could prove to be a pivotal year for some of these guys’ development.