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Stacked farm system offers Chicago Cubs hope

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm •  Published: July 29, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — It's tempting for Chicago Cubs fans to pay as much attention to Triple-A Iowa as the struggling big league club.

Iowa's lineup is a daily reminder that Chicago's future might be as bright as any team in baseball.

The recent promotion of Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who is ranked 54th on's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, has given the I-Cubs a lineup that's the envy of baseball. With Soler slotted fifth behind middle infielder Javier Baez (ranked No. 6 by and third baseman Kris Bryant (No. 4), Iowa has a heart of the order that's as promising as any Triple-A team in recent memory.

The Double-A Tennessee Smokies are stacked as well, with Addison Russell (No. 7) and Albert Almora (No. 41) providing hope that Chicago's streak of consecutive losing seasons could be over by 2015.

"We were ranked the top system in baseball," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "That is nice to the extent it reflects a lot of hard work by scouts and player development people as well as the players themselves. It really doesn't mean anything. We are in last place, so almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us."

The Cubs have largely resisted the urge to rush their top prospects to the big leagues, with the exception of the recent call up of Arismendy Alcantara.

Bryant's performance as a first-year pro has undoubtedly tested that patience.

Bryant, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, has hit 33 home runs in just 380 at-bats, with 30 doubles, 87 RBI and an OPS of 1.112 between Tennessee and Iowa entering Tuesday's game at New Orleans.

Though Bryant, 22, likely still won't see Chicago until 2015 at the earliest, that's fine by him for now.

"If I'm focusing on that, then I'm not really playing as hard as I can here," he said. "Something I told myself going into the year is to not focus on getting called up or promoted to a different level. Just go up there and take it day by day."

Chicago's measured approach has helped Baez mature into an elite middle infield prospect. Iowa manager Marty Pevey said he's seen Baez's intensity and concentration levels exponentially grow since April.

Baez is set to play mostly at second base for the rest of the year, with Chicago's Starlin Castro seemingly blocking his path. But Pevey believes Baez has the tools to be a shortstop in the majors.

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