As we head into our second weekend of minor league baseball, this would be a good time to take a look around the Cubs system and identify the players to watch on each team. Already this season we have seen some great performances in the farm system. Rob Whitenack struck out twelve the other night in Florida, and Michael Burgess has been showing of plenty of plenty of power. And, of course, Rubi Silva had enough early success to pick up the seasons’ first Minor League Line of the Week honor this Wednesday.
But there are plenty of other stories to watch. For each of the minor league teams, here are some things to keep in mind.
I was surprised that more of the Cubs’ top level talent did not get assigned to Iowa to start this season. In fact, almost none of it did. It appears the Cubs are using Iowa as an extended bench for the Chicago team, stashing players who might be needed in the majors, just in case.
That isn’t to say that Iowa is lacking in talent. Chris Carpenter might have the brightest future of those guys currently on the roster, but names like Scott Moore, Marquez Smith, Max Ramirez and Scott Maine should be familiar to Cub fans. Don’t go to sleep on starting pitchers Austin Bibens-Dirkx or Robert Coello either. The bullpen is loaded with likely call ups. Almost every guy in the pen either has major league experience or is likely to break in some time this season.
The Cubs have more talent socked away in Tennessee than some teams have in their entire farm system. The Smokies are absolutely loaded. If you are a baseball fan living anywhere near the Knoxville area, or any other Southern League city, go see this team play. I count 15 guys on that roster that I am fairly confident will see some time in the majors. Some of them, like Jim Adduci, profile as role players off the bench, while others, like Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and Trey McNutt, profile as potential stars.
The pitching staff has at least four potential big league starters. Rafael Dolis, Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt and Brooks Raley join Chris Rusin in that rotation, while Kyle Smit, David Cales, and Hung-Wen Chen are probably the headliners in the pen. The offense is lead by Jackson, Vitters, Rebel Ridling at first, Ryan Flaherty wherever he can find at bats, and DJ LeMahieu. And then there is Marwain Gonzalez and Matthew Spencer and on and on and on. If you want to know who the Cubs could call up to play a position next season, look at the Tennessee roster first.
Some might be interested to know that the Tennessee Smokies faced their old teammate Chris Archer last night. Tennessee won 11-2.
Daytona has plenty of intriguing talent in its own right. Some of these guys, such as Logan Watkins and Michael Burgess, you’ve read about before if you have been following Cubbies Crib all winter. Matthew Cerda and Jae-Hoon Ha certainly deserve some attention, as do Junior Lake and Nelson Perez. Cerda and Ha might be the most likely major leaguers here, though if Burgess can cut back on the strikeouts and raise his average a bit, he could be in Chicago’s right field in a hurry.
The pitching staff has all kinds of interesting talent. Zach Rosscup was a forgotten man in one of the trades this winter (pop quiz: which trade?), and could prove a much more significant addition to the Cubs roster than anyone originally thought. Aaron Kurcz could rise through the system very quickly. Whitenack took a no-hitter deep into a game this season already, and his teammate Nick Struck already has one to his credit from last season. Dae-Eun Rhee could be on the edge of a breakout season.
Wellington Castillo is only on the Daytona roster until his hand heals enough he can catch in Iowa again. That is not any sort of a permanent demotion.
And then we have Peoria. Rubi Silva has quickly established that he can handle the minors, and along with Pierre LePage and Matt Szczur, could be pushing for a mid-season promotion. Smaily Borges and Greg Rohan have been hitting very well in the early going and bear further watching.
On the pitching side, Hayden Simpson leads a very talented group that includes Cameron Greathouse, one of the better lefties in the Cubs system, along with Austin Kirk and Robinson Lopez, among others. Graham Hicks also came over in a winter trade and pitched well in his first start.
Expect several new arrivals in the later part of the summer, as guys play their way off the short season squad in Boise, or are assigned directly to Peoria after the draft.
If you have any questions about any of the Cubs minor league teams or players, put them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer as many as I can. And remember to check back on Monday morning for the weekly recap of the Cubs farm system.
Topics: Alberto Cabrera, Brett Jackson, Cameron Greathouse, Chicago Cubs, Cubs Farm System, DJ LeMahieu, Hayden Simpson, Josh Vitters, Matthew Szczur, Michael Burgess, Minor Leagues, Rafael Dolis, Rebel Ridling, Robert Whitenack, Rubi Silva, Ryan Flaherty, Top Prospects