This year, it’ll be more important than ever to follow the Iowa Cubs


On Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs continued to trim down their roster, sending a handful of guys to Triple-A as they gear up for Opening Day this week. While the core group of players sent down didn’t turn many heads among fans, there are some interesting things to note regarding the overall impact for the season.

The big league rotation has been set as Kyle Hendricks will get the Opening Day nod for the third straight year. He will be followed up by Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman for the first three games when the Cubs open at home versus the defending NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers. The rotation is somewhat of a mess, so it will be interesting to see what happens when games start to count for real.

Where the initial cuts come into play will primarily depend on how the rotation fares early on and how injuries will impact the state of the process. Thankfully there is a depth that the Cubs can call on if they find themselves in a bind.

Chicago Cubs: Triple-A Iowa will provide more this season than fans realize

Manuel Rodriguez is one name that many fans will know or have come around to learning of late. He made his major league debut last season, tossing 17 2/3 innings over 20 appearances. The right-hander is entering his age-25 season and will look to improve on a less-than-stellar 6.11 ERA from a year ago.

Before this, however, Rodriguez had dominated hitters and moved through Double-A and up to Triple-A last season. Rodriguez will serve as bullpen depth for the Cubs this year, which isn’t necessarily bad. Consequently, it would not be a surprise to see Rodriguez get a look in some high-leverage innings in Iowa before he re-joins the team in Chicago this year.

Among the additional names are two who stand out as potential spot starters in Mark Leiter Jr. and Adrian Sampson. Leiter has more than struggled throughout his career after a once-promising start with the Philadelphia Phillies. Leiter is now 31 years old, and while the book is not entirely closed, there has not been much positive progression.

Sampson is a bit of a safer option for the Cubs in the case of a spot start. Last season he made ten appearances with five starts. He posted a 2.80 ERA with a barely below 20 percent strikeout rate and a walk rate of 5.5 percent. Sampson’s 1.08 WHIP was a positive point, and he is viable enough to make a spot start or two when needed.

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This year may be a struggle for the starting rotation. Hendricks and Stroman will need to step up to lead the squad, while Steele and the back end of the rotation will need to carry their weight. But, if they can get 30 plus starts from the first three guys, it will go a long way in making those spot starts manageable and help the rotation out in a big way.