Annually around this time, the short-season leagues – Low-A, Rookie Ball, Dominican Summer League – get underway, and the full weight of the farm system is going strong.
Stocked with international signings, former high school draft picks, and recent college draft picks, the short-season leagues are often a player’s first exposure to professional baseball. It is thus among the first separators of talent, signaling both the beginning and end of that professional career.
A new batch of talent in the Chicago Cubs’ farm system kicks off its time this year, and the Eugene Emeralds – the Cubs’ short-season Low-A affiliate – open their season on Friday. Today, they announced their roster, and it’s loaded with big names:
Here it is, our final roster ahead of Friday's Opening Day! Come see these young guns out at PK Park this weekend! pic.twitter.com/GkKwcxutU3
— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) June 15, 2016
Among the big names are pitchers Dylan Cease and Bryan Hudson, each of whom was a significant draft signing out of high school. Cease has come back from Tommy John surgery after the 2014 draft, and Hudson was only just drafted in 2015. Each has huge upside, and I can’t wait to see what they do this year.
Positionally, Wladimir Gallindo has a huge bat (IFA signing in the same class as Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres, though a bit younger). D.J. Wilson was the Cubs’ 4th rounder last year, and received a seven-figure bonus.
I could go on. This is an exciting group, and should make for a fun year.
The most notable missing name, of course, is Oscar De La Cruz, the huge righty who looked poised for a breakout season until he was slowed in Spring Training by an elbow injury, according to Arizona Phil. Once he’s healthy, it’s conceivable that he could come to Eugene, where he pitched last year. It’s also possible he could go straight to South Bend. At this point, though, I am less concerned with where he pitches than I am with him simply getting on the mound somewhere. The Cubs are relatively lacking in arms with front-of-the-rotation potential, but De La Cruz has it.