On the Cubs Prospects

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

Lately I’ve heard a lot of incredibly stupid phone calls to Chicago sports radio, lamenting that all the hype over the Chicago Cubs’ prospects is just that – hype.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Callers bring up names of such vaunted former prospects as Brooks Kieschnik, Felix Pie and Corey Patterson.

“How’d those guys work out for you, Cubs fans?”

Here’s the thing.

Aside from Patterson, none of those players mentioned above were ever actually considered good prospects.

Sure, you had some Cubs fans who said guys like Kieschnik and Pie were going to be superstars that would lead the long-suffering franchise to the Promised Land.

But national publications (whose job it is to objectively analyze prospects) never suspected Kieschnik or Pie of being great future ballplayers.

After the 1993 season, Kieschnik was rated Baseball America’s #44 prospect. Nice, sure. But not the kind of ranking reserved for a future perennial All-Star.  Or, for that matter, a once-in-a-while All-Star.

After the 2002 season, Pie debuted on Baseball America’s prospect lists at #72. Seventy-two! Four years later he was still only on the prospect lists, having moved up marginally to #49 on the list.

To compare players who weren’t even in the Top 40 of Baseball America’s prospect lists to the likes of Kris Bryant (#1), Addison Russell (#3) and Jorge Soler (#12) is insanity.

For comparison, here are the trio of #1, #3 and #12 prospects from some recent seasons.

2013: Jurickson Profar, Oscar Tavares, Tyler Skaggs

2012: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Gerrit Cole

2010: Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton, Alcides Escobar

Yes, these are prospects. Things can (and often do) happen.

The two most recent Cubs’ prospects who actually were highly rated were Patterson and Mark Prior.  And, truth be told, both started out as players who might have been consistent All-Stars.

Patterson (rated #2 by Baseball America) was off to a pretty decent 2003 season. He had a 1.8 WAR in nearly 90 games before he lost the rest of his season (and maybe career) to an ACL injury that summer.

Mark Prior (also rated #2 by Baseball America) posted a 7.4 WAR in 2003 – tops in the National League.  The next season, a baseline collision with Atlanta Braves’ second baseman Marcus Giles kick-started an injury-plagued ending to a promising career.

There are no guarantees. This is understood.  Injuries happen.

But don’t confuse things. The hopes pinned to Bryant, Russell and Soler by scouts at the national level is not the same as those pinned to Kieschnik and Pie.

Cynicism surrounding the Chicago Cubs, I get.

But any comparisons of the current crop of Cubs’ prospects to the likes of Brooks Kieschnik and Felix Pie is a bad one.

The last time national publications felt this good about the current collection of Cubs prospects hearkens back to that duo of Patterson and Prior coming up in 2002 and then blossoming in 2003 – a season in which the franchise came within five outs of their first pennant since 1945.

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