The Chicago Cubs' collection of top prospects is among the best in baseball, with four players who will rank in next week’s top 50 prospects update and a few more who would land in the top 100.
Leading the pack is shortstop Javier Baez, who is arguably the most exciting offensive prospect in the game. Last season, the now-21-year-old posted a .920 OPS with 37 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 537 plate appearances between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
Alongside Baez on the Cubs’ future infield is third baseman Kris Bryant, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2013, who possesses the type of obscene raw power needed to hit 35-plus home runs at the highest level.
The organization also houses a pair of potential All-Star outfielders in Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. Though they collectively lack a game of experience at the Double-A level, both players have the tools to move quickly through the minor leagues and should do so in the upcoming season.
With the Cubs offense potentially stacked for the years to come, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer now will likely focus on adding impactful arms to all levels of the system.
That being said, the organization has added several potential back-end starters since the beginning of the 2012 season, as they acquired right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Neil Ramirez via trades with the Texas Rangers, and also added Paul Blackburn and Pierce Johnson through the draft.
The only high-ceiling arm in the Cubs’ system is C.J. Edwards—acquired from Texas in the Matt Garza trade last summer—and he’s still considered a risky prospect and likely two years away from reaching the major leagues.
With a wave of prospects nearing the major leagues, the Cubs now desperately need their trio of core players to push forward in their respective developments.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo spent the entire season hitting in the heart of the order, but he produced a disappointing .233/.323/.419 batting line in 690 plate appearances. Similarly, shortstop Starlin Castro, an All-Star in 2012, also endured a significant offensive regression, as he batted only .245/.284/.347 in 705 plate appearances and finished the season with a minus-0.1 fWAR, via FanGraphs.
Though staff ace Jeff Samardzija posted a 4.34 ERA and allowed 25 home runs last season, the then-27-year-old’s 3.45 xFIP suggests he was better than that, and he also logged over 200 innings (213.2) for the first time in his career. However, as the source of so many trade rumors this offseason, there’s a chance Samardzija doesn’t open the 2014 season as a Cub.
Here’s a look at the Chicago Cubs’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.