With the Peoria Chiefs and Daytona Cubs’ rosters revealed, we can now look at the Opening Day roster for the Cubs’ AA affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies.

The team isn’t quite as stacked as it was last year, but there are still plenty of interesting players and prospects among the 13 pitchers, 3 catchers, 8 infielders and 3 outfielders.

The roster is headlined by the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, Trey McNutt, who hopes to rebound from an injury-plagued 2011 season. The 22-year-old righty could make his way to AAA by mid-season if he’s healthy, and shows a return to form. McNutt isn’t the only interesting starting pitcher at AA, as he’ll be joined by Dae-Eun Rhee, Nick Struck and Dallas Beeler, all of whom could pitch in the bigs some day. The other pitchers on the roster – which includes a number of quality relief prospects – are Jeffry Antigua, Frank Batista, Dan Berlind, Alberto Cabrera, Marcus Hatley, Brooks Raley, Kevin Rhoderick, Ryan Searle, and Casey Weathers.

The three catchers are Juan Apodaca, Michael Brenly, and Luis Flores, whom I believe still has a little bit of time to serve on his suspension for a positive drug test last year.

On the infield, big first baseman Justin Bour and utility player Rebel Ridling will supply plenty of power, and Logan Watkins remains an interesting, high upside prospect. Matt Cerda is a jack of all trades, who boasts some of the most impressive plate discipline in the system. He could eventually see time in the bigs as a utility player. Other infielders include Matt Camp, Jonathan Mota, Nate Samson, and Elliot Soto.

In the outfield, the Smokies will have quality prospect Jae-Hoon Ha, as well as James Adduci and Michael Burgess.

In total, the roster doesn’t boast an overwhelming number of top prospects, particularly on the offensive side (but that’s kind of what you expect in a system that is described as “deep, but lacking in high-level impact talent”). Then again, guys like Matt Szczur and Ronald Torreyes could push for a spot in AA soon enough, so maybe the Smokies will end the year with a prospect-heavy roster.

  • Andrew

    Wasn’t Junior Lake expected to be in AA, does this mean he’ll be in Iowa?

    • Cubbie Blues

      I believe he is staying at Fitch Park to do a little rehab (if memory serves me right) with a strained back.

  • Sam

    Yeah, I would have thought he would have been back at AA because he has only spent half a season there (and struggled)

  • AB

    So is Cabrera in the bullpen now?? thats alittle bit disappointing.

    • Cedlandrum

      long term he has been considered a pen arm. But started to work on his control and pitches.

  • CubFan Paul

    Is Michael Burgess the kid that came over when Gorzelanny got dumped? Thought I’d never see him again

    • Sam

      He was always high upside low floor…big power

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        He showed some signs of coming around late last season. I wouldn’t write him off altogether, but he is a long shot to break out this season.

  • mrp

    I’m a little surprised to see Ridling open up in Tennessee given the numbers he put up last year there and his age (will be 26 in May). I wonder if they are wanting him to try and play the OF full time this year. Anyone have any insight?

  • Patrick

    Where is Whitenack going to be when he comes back from TJS? I played against him in college and now he’s on my favorite team, interesting to see how far he goes.

    • Cedlandrum

      It seems in years past with guys coming back from TJS they spent most of their time in AZ and Daytona. Probably easier to get loose there.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        He’ll make his return to a full season league in Daytona, most likely, but if things go well there he could jump back to Tennessee by the end of the season. More than likely he finishes the year in Daytona out of an abundance of caution.

  • Zach

    So is Brooks Raley a reliever now, he was a starter ever since the Cubs drafted him. I would like to see him as a starter, since he is a lefty and they spent a 6th round pick on him.

    • Cedlandrum

      He might still start. There are only 4 starters listed. Either Raley, Antigua or Searle will probably start with the other 2 in the pen.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Not exactly. Raley, along with Antigua and Searle, could still wind up in either the bullpen or the rotation. It isn’t impossible that they’ll start the year in one role and finish in another (like Jokisch and Carrillo did last year).

      Ultimately, be pitching in that role in which the Cubs think they have the best chance to help the major league team and that allows them to pitch at the level where the Cubs want them to pitch (usually only five guys can start per team), but given that a decent starter is generally considered to be more valuable than a good reliever I think the Cubs will keep them in consideration for the rotation as long as possible.

      In the case of Searle and Raley, I think their stuff works better in the rotation than the pen (and Searle looked good starting for the Australian national team this past winter). Antigua I think ultimately winds up in the bullpen.

  • Bruman

    Is Junior Lake going to start in Iowa? i don’t remember seeing his name in Tennessee or Daytona.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Right now, we think he’ll be starting on a rehab assignment in Arizona. After that he should head to Tennessee.

      I don’t think we know yet who will be playing shortstop in Iowa.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It sounds like he’s going to start on the DL, and then will head to Tennessee.

  • Brandon

    Went to get 1st look at the team last night in an exhibition against Walters State CC but was rained out after 5 outs. Welcome to TN.

    Looking forward to seeing how this team shapes up. Would be hard to believe that Rebel Ridling has not earned a starting gig here after the year he had last season.

    I’m interested to see if (and when) Lake returns if he has indeed turned it around…because last year it was clear that AA overwhelmed him (at times). But the press has been good so far in the off season. Looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes from my perch in the front row at Smokies park.

  • dreese

    I thought Casey Weathers was going to be a starter? What happened?