Cubs: Breaking down the first round of roster cuts as Opening Day nears

Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports /

The first official roster cuts were announced on Friday as the Cubs shifted and maneuvered players to their respective affiliates. In all, 22 players felt the heat and, now, know of their fate. Of the 22 who received the news, 16 were assigned to minor league camp at the alternate site, while the remaining six were equally split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

Among the top prospects included was outfielder Brennen Davis (No.2 overall), who the club reassigned to the alternate site. In contrast, catcher Miguel Amaya (No.3 overall) will begin the new season in Tennessee — a step up from High-A in 2019.

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The list included right-hander Kohl Franklin, third baseman Christopher Morel and second baseman Chase Strumpf – all top 10 guys. Franklin was optioned to Iowa while Morel was optioned to Tennessee and Strumpf to the alternate site, presumably High-A. Top-15 prospect RHP Cory Abbott was also optioned to Iowa, as well as RHP Tyson Miller. Both have nice upside and could well play into the Cubs’ plans in 2021.

Cubs: Breaking down the implications

Most of the guys on the list will be reassigned to the alternate site as they are not on the 40-man roster. Some of those names are more well-known than others.

One name, in particular, Brendon Little, is intriguing. He moved through the system quickly in 2019, finishing at High-A. Little finished with a 3.58 ERA between three levels. He carried a strong 24.4 percent strikeout rate over the year.

First baseman Alfonso Rivas, who the Cubs acquired from the Oakland Athletics for infielder Tony Kemp, posted a .292/.387/.423 line over 122 games between High-A and Triple-A. Rivas is only 24 years old and subsequently is Rule-5 eligible this year. The Cubs likely will be monitoring his progress and deciding. He mashed the baseball in Oakland’s system and could be a boon to the Cubs.

Two of the best, and somewhat unexpected moves, were the reassignment of Davis and Strumpf. Davis feels nearly ready, at least on a conversational basis, to make the jump. Strumpf is almost there himself. Indeed two names to watch over the year. Andy Weber should also be included, as the infielder put together a strong 2019 campaign to the tune of a 113 wRC+.

The essential factors lie with the six names mentioned above. Amaya, for example, will get his first taste at Double-A. He annihilated baseballs this past winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League and seems likely to leap forward.

Abbott and Miller will likely be included with Brailyn Marquez as the next man up in 2021. There will probably be some exposure to the big league level for all three this season.

Abbott will experience his first taste of Triple-A after he posted a 3.01 ERA in Tennessee last season. Miller and Marquez both struggled in their tiny sample sizes at the big league level, however likely one or both could be up by mid-summer.

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Despite housing only a couple of players on the top-100 prospect list, per the system rankings at Baseball America (subscription required), the Cubs fall almost dead center at 17th overall. Frustrations abounded with the Yu Darvish trade, yet the Cubs are still very much packed with depth through their lower levels. Fans should keep tabs on each name as we move into the new year. There should be a few pleasant surprises.