Even as the Cubs mire in last place in the NL Central and fans (justifiably) grow angry, Theo Epstein has got to be proud of the collection of prospects he’s put together. As shown by the incredible week and a half that this farm system has had, the future for Chicago could be bright, almost blindingly so.
First Epstein bolstered their farm system by bringing in the fifth best prospect in all of baseball, Addison Russell, as well as Billy McKinley, Oakland’s second best prospect. It may have cost them in the short term, but the minor league and potential long range impact cannot be denied.
The acquisition of Russell may have spurred speculation that Chicago could look to trade their other top shortstop prospect, Javier Baez, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered the 21 year old slugger. himself does not seem to paying them any mind. Baez has homered twice in six games since the trade and had the defining blow for World in Sunday’s Future’s Game, a sixth running two run blast that gave World an (admittedly temporary) 2-1 lead.
Kris Bryant also represented the Cubs in the Futures game, manning the hot corner for team USA. He drew a walk but was otherwise unimpressive, going 0-3 with a couple strikeouts. Between Bryant, Baez, and Russell, though, the team has three of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball, according to Baseball America, and all of them are on the threshold of the majors.
Neither Jorge Soler or Albert Almora made Baseball America’s midseason top 50, but each of them made the pre-season cut, and each of them has been on fire of late. In 8 games since returning from a hamstring injury, Soler has hit five home runs and driven in 11 runs, contributing to a .462/.500/1.115! line. For his efforts, the Cuban outfielder was named one of two Pipeline Prospects of the week by MLB.com.
Almora, meanwhile, has hit .314/.333/.657 with three home runs and 10 RBIs since the Russell trade. He capped that off with a 7 at bat cycle in last night’s 13-8 victory over the Jupiter Hammerheads. The hot streak has almost salvaged the first round picks season, raising his OPS nearly 30 points, from .667 to .695.
While those guys have been beating up on minor leaguers, second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has made his mark at the major league level. Chicago promoted Alcantara, the 36th best prospect on BA’s list on July 9th and he has taken full advantage. In his second major league game, he collected four hits and fell a homer shy of the cycle and in the last game before the All Star break, he homered twice and drove in a run.
And finally Cubs fans got some excellent news today: C.J. Edwards announced on twitter that he will return to a professional mound on July 23rd. The 22 year old righthander was acquired by Chicago in last year’s Matt Garza and dominated upon arrival, pitching to a 1.96 ERA in six starts and earning rave reviews by scouts. But after four strong starts at Double-A this season, he was shut down with a shoulder injury. With Chicago’s system so sparse on pitching, Edwards development is critical.
This may not be a good year to be a Cubs fan, but – for the first time in ages – next year might, and the year after that, and the year after that…..