Tickets are on sale for the Cubs’ minor league affiliate the Peoria Chiefs. Anyone living within a reasonable drive should seriously consider heading down to their ballpark this season. Not only do you get the cheaper tickets, easier parking, and general entertainment of any minor league game, Peoria is likely to be the home to some very significant talent this season. Among the highlights who could start for Peoria are a potential ace, a potential starting catcher, and an entire outfield worth of potential starting talent.
It can be tough to project talent from the low minors all the way to the majors, and it can be just as tough to project who will be on the Opening Day roster for any minor league club at this point in the spring. As minor league rosters come into clearer focus over the next few weeks we will try to have all the updates for your here.
The biggest headline for Peoria might just be their outfield. As of now, I am fairly confident that Reggie Golden and Matt Szczur, fresh out of the 2010 draft, will take two of the starting jobs. The third could very well go to the Cubs recent signing from Cuba, Ruby Silva. Silva, and perhaps Szczur, could start in Daytona instead if Silva is even ready to go on Opening Day. It is also possible that Silva could be moved to the infield.
Golden and Szczur are two of the Cubs top choices from the 2010 draft. A college football star, I expect Szczur to move up the system very quickly. Take a look at what Brett Jackson did last year for some idea how fast Szczur could go. He should be in Double A by 2012 and could be in Wrigley in 2013. Ultimately, Szczur will probably force Jackson out of center field, and might take the leadoff job away from him as well.
Reggie Golden should develop more power than Szczur and I think he will spend most of his time in one of the corner outfield slots. Since he was drafted out of high school, expect Golden to progress more slowly (more like Josh Vitters has). While it isn’t impossible that Golden could finish the year in Daytona, he is equally likely to remain all season in Peoria. I would not expect Golden in Wrigley before 2014.
I have very little data on Ruby Silva. As of now, I think he will spend a full season in A ball between Peoria and Daytona in large part to get acclimated to the culture. After that, we’ll see.
Two more college picks who should advance quickly are also likely to start in Peoria: catcher Micah Gibbs and pitcher Hayden Simpson. Simpson could go straight to Daytona. Both are likely to move up the system fairly quickly. Gibbs is a very good defensive catcher who will probably advance as fast as his bat will let him. Simpson is the Cubs 2010 first round pick who has a good fastball to go with three other plus pitches he can throw for strikes. With a good 2011 campaign, Simpson could write his name beside Cashner and McNutt at the top of the Cubs rotaiton for years to come. We could see Simpson in Wrigley as soon as September, and almost certainly sometime during the 2012 season. Gibbs should be in the catching conversation by 2013, if hit bat holds up.
And these are just the headliners. Other promising names who could show up in Daytona include SS Elliot Soto, 2B Pierre LePage, RHP Ben Wells, Aaron Kurcz and Robinson Lopez, LHP Cameron Greathouse, and 3B Dustin Geiger.
If you live in the area, there is no reason not to head to Peoria for a game or three. If you catch a day when Simpson is starting, Gibbs is catching, and Szczur and Golden are in the outfield, you could be watching four future starters for Chicago. That’s a good day at the ballpark.