In yet another sign of the rapidly approaching season, single game tickets have gone on sale for the Iowa Cubs. Why is this significant? If you want to get a glimpse of what the Cubs will look like in 2012 and beyond, head to Iowa in 2011. For the Chicago Cubs 2011 is largely a transition year as older players finish off their contracts and younger players starting getting experience. Anyone who wants a sneak peak at the second wave of young talent about to hit Wrigley will find it in the minors, and a high concentration of that talent will be assigned to AAA Iowa.
If you haven’t visited a minor league park in awhile, this is a great season to start a new habit. The tickets are cheaper, the parking is closer, the crowds are smaller, buying concessions doesn’t require a second mortgage, and just about anyone can get an autograph. Visiting the ballpark in any minor league town is good idea, but visiting Iowa this season could be a great one. The list of players who should wind up in Iowa is impressive.
Minor league rosters have not been set yet, so all this is subject to change depending on how certain position battles for the major league team play out. Some of these players may not be in Iowa on opening day, but I expect them by the end of the season.
C – Wellington Castillo – Catcher of the future?
Max Ramirez – Good bat, but where does he play?
1B – Bryan LaHair (and anyone who the Cubs try to convert into a first baseman)
2B / SS – Darwin Barney – Probably won’t be in Iowa for long
Matt Camp – Could fill in for the Cubs in case of an injury
DJ LeMahieu – Might be the best pure hitter in the system
Ryan Flaherty – Has lefty power, just needs a position
3B – Marquez Smith – Very good on defense, but can he hit consistently?
Josh Vitters – Third baseman of the future.
OF – Brad Snyder – Could join the Cubs in case of an injury
Jim Adduci – Could surprise some people with what he can do
Fernando Perez (if he makes it through waivers) – If his bat returns to pre-injury form, he won’t be in Iowa long.
Brett Jackson – Marlon Byrd is keeping center field warm for him.
Michael Burgess – Has massive power… when he can make contact.
P – Casey Coleman – Could start for many major league teams.
Trey McNutt – Could be the Cubs’ ace for years to come.
Jay Jackson – Could be in the Cubs rotation any time now.
Chris Carpenter – Throws 100 MPH. Might be turned into a reliever.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx – Has flown up the minors since he started starting.
Kyle Smit – This reliever won’t be in Iowa long.
Esmailin Caridad – If his fastball isn’t affected by his injuries, he won’t be in Iowa long.
Rafael Dolis – Once he polishes his control, he could challenge for a major league job.
James Russell – Will be stretched into a starter, and may not be here long.
Marcus Mateo – Could be in and out of the Cubs bullpen.
And I could probably keep going.
Every name on this list has a shot to appear in Wrigley Field sometime in the next two seasons. Some of them (Matt Camp, Jim Adduci, and others) are unlikely to nail down long term jobs with the Chicago Cubs, while others (Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, and others) are adding extra polish while waiting for a job to open up.
If you live in the area or plan on passing through this summer, you really should think about stopping by the ballpark. Minor league games might be the best way to get a good, in person look at some of the guys the Cubs will rely on for years to come.