It’s here. The minor league season begins today!
This should be an interesting season. What the Cubs lack in impact prospects they more than make up for in intriguing prospects who might, if things go well, break out. Things will get even more interesting in June when we add Eugene and two (2!) Arizona teams to the Daily, but there will be plenty to talk about on the way there.
So, welcome back to minor league baseball. And welcome back to the Minor League Daily.
Triple A: Iowa Cubs
Iowa really opens the season up right with a day one doubleheader. Bad weather in the forecast for Sunday caused the Cubs to move that game to today. It is an unusual move, but a great one for baseball starved fans. Iowa has not announced either of their starting pitchers.
- Players to watch on Iowa’s roster include Alec Mills. He’s been in the system for a year, but this should be our first sustained stretch to see what he can do.
- On the infield, David Bote will look to continue his surprising power surge of 2017 in the Pacific Coast League.
Double A: Tennessee Smokies
Tennessee opens the season in Mississippi. They have not announced their initial starter.
- There is a lot to unpack on this roster, and it starts with Oscar De La Cruz, one of the best pitching prospets in the system. Trevor Clifton and Tom Hatch should also get plenty of attention.
- In the bullpen we get Chapter Two of the Jake Stinnett reliever resurgence, not to mention a good look at how Dakota Mekkes will handle tough Double A hitters.
- And Daury Torrez. And Michael Rucker. And Zach Hedges. And Scott Effross. And Duncan Robinson. Ok, fine, just play close attention to the entire pitching staff. Every single one of those guys is an interesting prospect.
- Ian Rice returns to catcher, and the big question for him is whether he can stay at that postion. Between Rice, Jason Vosler, and Yasiel Balaguert, the Tennessee infield should have no shortage of power. Zack Short can supply a number of homers himself.
- The outfield features two fantastic defenders in Charcer Burks and Trey Martin, and two guys with loud tools looking for a breakout season in Jeffrey Baez and Eddy Martinez.
High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Myrtle Beach opens at home against Frederick. Starting for the Pelicans will be 2017 draftee Keegan Thompson. There is a lot to like when it comes to Thompson; if you are only going to watch one farm system game on MiLB.tv today, make it this one.
- Joining Thompson in the rotation will be Alex Lange and Bryan Hudson. That trio might be as good as any group of pitching prospects anywhere in the organization right now.
- Wyatt Short is a leading name in the Cubs’ effort to draft true reliever prospects out of college. That effort could be a big factor in how the Cubs’ go about rebuilding the farm system.
- Shortstop Aramis Ademan is going to draw most of the early prospect attention, but don’t overlook the rest of this infield. Andruw Monasterio is a nice prospect in his own right, Wladimir Galindo has some of the best infield power in the system, and Austin Upshaw put up very nice numbers right out of the draft. This is going to be a fun group to watch.
- In the outfield, Kevonte Mitchell and D.J. Wilson have some of the best tools in the system. Wilson is well ahead of Mitchell, but don’t lose track of either. Daniel Spingola pretty much just hits wherever he goes, Chris Pieters I think is one of the more underrated guys in this system, and Connor Myers might be the best defensive outfielder you will see in the minors this year. If you haven’t watch Myers in center, you have no idea what you are missing.
Low A: South Bend Cubs
South Bend opens on the road in West Michigan. They have not announced their starting pitcher.
- If anyone can rival the Pelicans’ collection of starting pitching prospects, it is the South Bend Cubs. Jose Albertos is the best arm in the system, and he is joined Javier Assad, Cory Abbott, and Brendan Little. That’s an excellent group. Factoring in there somewhere will be more good pitching prospects: Bailey Clark, Jesus Camargo, and Erich Uelmen.
- Michael Cruz and Miguel Amaya make for the most prospecty pair of catchers to ever work the same level at the same time since Kyle Schwarber split time in Tennessee with Willson Contreras.
- The lineup doesn’t have quite the firepower of Myrtle Beach or Tennessee, but there are some names well worth remembering. Jhonny Bethencourt, Rafael Narea, and Yeiler Peguero are all part of a deep crop of young middle infield prospects for the Cubs. And Austin Filiere has shown signs of being a solid prospect himself, particularly at the plate.
- In the outfield, keep an eye on switch hitter Zach Davis. Davis is one of the best base stealers in the system and posted some decent numbers for Eugene last year.
- One story to watch in the early season is how the Cubs are going to handle their upper minors logjams. Jason Vosler, for instance, is heading back to Tennessee having player 155 games at that level and finishing last year with a wRC+ of 125. Why? At least partly because Iowa is already carrying six infielders. That sort of problem is present all over the upper minors, and particularly on the pitching side of things.
- I’m going to try to transition from Baseball Reference to FanGraphs for my player links this year. That means, at least for awhile, I won’t be linking all players. Baseball Reference had an auto-linking utility that did the work for me, but for FanGraphs I have to either do it by hand (to start the year) or write my own script (hope to have it working in a few weeks).
- The unrolling of the 2018 edition of the Top 40 is underway. If you need to get caught up, here is the first set of six players, and here is the second set. A couple more days of six each will take us to the Top 10, and those will be presented five at a time. After that, once the prospects are all ranked and discussed, we’ll take a look at what strengths there are in this depleted system and just how the Cubs might go about trying to rebuild it over the next couple of seasons.