At last, the AA Tennessee Smokies have announced their initial roster for the 2017 minor league season:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) April 6, 2017
For the most part, the full season prospects you expected to see are there, because they weren’t on the AAA Iowa roster or the High-A Myrtle Beach roster. A notable exception on this roster is outfielder Jacob Hannemann, whom we didn’t see on the Iowa roster – it turns out he’s still in Arizona on the disabled list with a knee issue (MLB.com). Hannemann was added to the 40-man roster over the offseason, and still has significant potential as a fourth outfielder, at a minimum. Hopefully the knee issue is not serious.
Trevor Clifton, the Cubs’ organizational pitcher of the year in 2016, gets the bump to AA, as expected. He has matured so much physically over the last couple years, and the stuff continues to improve. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him break out even further this season, and start to be discussed as a post-2017 option for the big league rotation.
Duane Underwood Jr. returns to AA, where he’ll try to have a healthy, competitive season. It’s something of a make-or-break year for him.
Positionally, there are a handful of interesting of prospects to watch, including Jason Vosler, Charcer Burks, and Carlos Penalver, among others. Interesting to see Yasiel Balaguert (he of the team-leading OPS in Spring Training! Technically!) listed as an outfielder. Given that there is no first baseman listed on the roster, I’d expect that’s where he’ll see most of his time.