Cubs Prospects Q&A with Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks: "Cubs Could Field Baseball Porn"

Cubs Prospects Q&A with Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks: "Cubs Could Field Baseball Porn"

After the Cubs/A's megatrade materialized, I felt compelled to reach out to Jason Parks, the national prospect/player development writer for Baseball Prospectus.

Parks has been kind enough to visit with me often regarding Cubs prospects, and I wanted his take on how the addition of one of the games top prospects in Addison Russell changes the landscape for the Cubs system going forward. Parks forecasts Russell as the Cubs shortstop of the future, and that we could conceivably witness an NSFW lineup.

TL: A's GM Billy Beane supposedly told the Cubs front office that they were getting the next Barry Larkin in the blockbuster deal the two teams completed on the Fourth of July.

Tell us just what you see the Cubs are getting in Addison Russsell.

JP: They could be getting Barry Larkin-type impact if everything clicks with Russell, but it's certainly not a given that he will develop into a Hall of Fame-level player. In Russell, the Cubs are getting a highly-skilled player with very strong makeup and work ethic.

The actions are double-plus in the field, although the overall profile is probably closer to solid-average (or perhaps slightly above) than an elite defender at the position.

The bat would have impact potential at any spot on the diamond, with a plus potential hit tool and plus potential power, built on his great hands and ability to produce bat speed without sacrificing bat control. He can really hit, and he’s only going to improve with more repetition and experience. The total package is pretty sick: a dual-threat player that will stick at shortstop in the short-term and long-term, and profiles to hit in the middle of the major league lineup.

The cherry on top is the makeup, which should allow him to achieve his tool-based ceiling and perhaps even eclipse it, which would make him a franchise-altering talent and would remove the hyperbole from the aggressive Larkin comp.

TL: You have said before, and again of late, that the Cubs are hoarding young impact bats. Is this now the smartest way to go about building an organization, in light of recent young pitching injuries and the scarcity of power bats?

JP: You have to take advantage of what is available to you, so in that sense, hoarding young impact bats has been the smartest avenue for the Cubs. Pitching will always be at a premium and it will always be in demand, and there is no way around the fact that the Cubs have to go out and acquire major league-quality arms in order to field a competitive team.

But this is a rebuilding process, and stockpiling valuable (and tradable) commodities isn’t a bad means to their eventual end.

TL: Your new "BP Top 50" just came out, where do you have Cubs players ranked?

JP: We have Kris Bryant at #3, Baez at #5, Russell at #6 and Arismendy Alcantara at #18.

TL: In your opinion does the Russell addition to the stable now make the Cubs the premier system in all of baseball?

JP: I think it gives them the system with the most impact potential on the offensive side of the ball. The depth of the Cubs farm is getting better and more impressive, but they are still building and haven’t caught up to some organizations when it comes to depth. Depth is vital because it keeps a system strong after the top horses graduate from the ranks.

When the Cubs lose Bryant, Baez, Russell and Alcantara in the coming years, the system will still be quite strong, but I doubt they can remain in the discussion for top system after those promotions, unlike some other teams like the Twins, Pirates and Astros –just to name a few—that have a bounty of depth at every level, from both the amateur draft and international markets, that will keep their farm systems strong and sustainable.

The Cubs are well on their way to building an assembly line system, but its not all the way there yet, which is fine. These things don’t take place overnight.

TL: Is Russell over the leg (hamstring) issues?

JP: I believe so. He’s a tough, hard-working kid.

TL: You went on record stating that you see Russell as the Cubs shortstop of the future. Can you actually envision a scenario where Russell plays on the same diamond as both Starlin Castro and Javy Baez?

JP: Sure. I can see that. In fact, I’d love to see that. However, it does seem likely that one of Castro/Baez will be with another org long-term. But I would love to see the Cubs figure out such a first-world problem and put all the talent on one field. Can you imagine that? Damn.

Something like Baez at third, Russell at short, Castro at 2B, Rizzo at 1B, Alcantara in LF, Bryant in RF? That lineup is baseball pornography.

TL: How rare is this trio of Cubs top prospects in terms of farm systems you've observed?

JP: It's certainly rare, and should be acknowledged as such. But several orgs in recent memory could also boast impact talent featured high on prospect lists. A good example this season is the Twins, who have the top talent in the minors in Buxton, would likely have another top ten talent if Sano hadn't blown out, have several arms in the top 50, a few of which are capable of reaching the top tier.

While that's not exactly three out of the top six prospects in the game like the Cubs, the talent and depth is there to achieve a similar distinction, which is something that also needs to be acknowledged when comparing the great farm systems of recent vintage. The same can be said of the Pirates last season, the Red Sox last season, and the Royals and Rangers from a few years ago.

TL: The "Core Four" was supposedly Bryant, Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora. Who do you now have as the core foursome the Cubs will have for the long haul?

JP: The "Core Four" label attached to Bryant, Baez, Soler, Almora was clever at the time and relevant to their success in the prospect world, but premature because of the lack of a major league foundation.

If the Cubs are to have a Core Four in the coming years--talent that is to form the backbone of their major league success--that core will likely consist of Bryant, Russell, Alcantara and Almora, with Soler and Baez missing the cut because of profile and skill-set volatility, which isn't to suggest they won't be with the org; rather, just that their profiles come with more risk. Baez could be a generational talent and one of the best power hitters in the game. Will he get there? He might. But there is considerable risk.

TL: Who is a realistic possibility coming back to the Cubs from Oakland still as the player to be named later in this deal?

JP: Perhaps Raul Alcantara or another high risk/high reward arm.

TL: This very well could be the last major "sell-off trade" the Cubs make for the foreseeable future. Could this be the Cubs front office's best trade overall?

JP: We shall see. You can’t answer that question right now. Russell has the most impact potential but came at the expense of the Cubs best chip.

Only time will tell how this plays out, but I love the trade.

@TomLoxas

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Comments

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  • I am done with sell-off trades and SO ready for porn.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    Aren't we all Floyd?

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I sure hope Floyd was talking about baseball.

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