That Big Space Between 2011 and Now

I was browsing through some old prospects lists. Remember when the Cubs were 71-91 and heading into the 2012 season -- about to post a 101-loss season? Remember when, after top prospect Javier Baez, our prospect list included these illustrious names?
2. Brett Jackson, CF

CAREER OUTLOOK: Although he may not hit for average, Jackson has the potential to develop into an above-average regular thanks to his power, speed and defensive package. He showed patience and should get on base at a decent clip despite low batting averages.
3. Matt Szczur, OF

CAREER OUTLOOK: Szczur is known for having a good work ethic so he has a solid chance at developing into at least an average regular. The big thing he needs to work on right now is his pitch recognition and selection.
15. Rafael Dolis, RHP: Dolis has a big, strong frame and is yet another pitcher with high-leverage potential in the bullpen. His repertoire includes a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a breaking ball that looks like both a slider and a curveball depending on the day. Like Carpenter, Dolis needs to work on his control.
Jackson has been out of baseball since spending half of 2015 in Triple-A. His career totals: 124 PA and just a .169/.299/.331 slash. Szczur has only recently made an impact on the Major League level, but his ceiling now looks like Useful Bench Guy or maybe, maybe Stud Fourth Outfielder. Rafael Dolis, now out of majors since 2013, briefly closed for the Cubs -- despite his gaudy 5.48 ERA and 5.39 FIP. Woof. He's now pitching with mixed results in Japan, a league that favors pitchers most seasons.

And this was a season in which Starlin Castro led the team in rWAR with 3 wins. Look at this lineup of post-Cubs players on the B-Ref page for that team:

So let us not take lightly the 2016 team's greatness. Despite injuries to key players, this team still looks like the best in the league. And not just for 2016; this team looks poised for a multi-year run. They have the oldest pitching staff in the league, but their position players are the 5th youngest in the majors (27.8 years old).

Will the Cubs win the World Series this year? Maybe not, but they will be poised to fight for it over the next five years. Which is a totally different universe from when Trey McNutt (never reached the majors) was our No. 5 top prospect and Ben Wells (never reached Double-A) was our No. 7. And the major league team was trotting out Randy Wells every fifth day and batting Darwin Barney in the two-hole.

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