The Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies released their preliminary 28-man roster on Thursday afternoon, making them the third affiliate to do so (previously: Myrtle Beach, South Bend, Iowa). The Smokies season begins at home on Tuesday night against the Montgomery Biscuits.
The appropriate headline is probably who is not there, given that the top two prospects in the system, Brennen Davis and Brailyn Marquez, both figure to begin their seasons in Tennessee. Brennen actually said as much to the Away Games podcast crew, and Ray Butler reported it this morning:
#Cubs outfield prospect Brennen Davis is expected to debut for Double-A Tennessee shortly after the minor league season begins.
He has been recovering since being HBP in the face during a ST game on April 22nd. Not expected to be a long-term injury.
— Prospects 365 ⚾️ (@Prospects365) April 30, 2021
Marquez, on the other hand, joins a list of higher profile pitching prospects that will apparently begin their season in Arizona (Marquez, Kohl Franklin, Michael McAvene, Hunter Bigge, Jack Patterson, Riley Thompson, and Chris Clarke, among others). No reason to have concern on any of them, necessarily, as the ramp-up process for pitchers this year is going to be extra cautious and/or deliberate.
But the Opening Day Smokies are not without prospects! Our number three prospect, Miguel Amaya, will be in Tennessee, as is the left side of Christopher Morel and Andy Weber. Relievers Manny Rodriguez and recent acquisition Dauris Valdez highlight a pitching staff that is otherwise loaded with Honorable Mentions from my prospect list.
- Zach Davis, LF, SH
- Andy Weber, SS, LH
- Miguel Amaya, C, RH
- Jared Young, RF/1B, LH
- Jake Slaughter, 1B, RH
- Christopher Morel, 3B, RH
- Tyler Payne, C/DH, RH
- Connor Myers, CF, RH
- Levi Jordan, 2B, RH
The surprise name here might be Jake Slaughter, who walks into a first base job (which I suspect he’ll share with Young, Payne, even Amaya). Slaughter will have a chance to prove he can remain at the level until, I think, Alfonso Rivas returns from an injury. Nelson Maldonado also could eventually be in play for a spot here.
What I love about this team is the defensive potential of the Weber and Morel on the left side of the infield. Weber is super steady, while Morel is a highlight-maker, so you’d think the pitchers will be happy. I should note that Morel was reportedly playing a decent amount of outfield during Spring Training, so he’ll likely also get an occasional look in center.
But, for now, I feel like all eyes are on Miguel Amaya, and how ready (or not) that bat might be for more advanced pitching. I think it’s fair to say the Cubs would really like to get a handle on that internally as they move onto whatever the next stage for this franchise is. Amaya posted an above-average line as a young catcher at High-A in 2019, the last year there was minor league baseball.
- Matt Swarmer, RH
- Erich Uelmen, RH
- Luis Lugo, LH
- Cam Sanders, RH
- Javier Assad, RH
Swarmer finds himself back in Double-A, a level where he made 15 starts at during his 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year season. Swarmer struggled at Iowa in 2019, but then again, every pitcher struggled in the Pacific Coast League in 2019. Still, this represents a good opportunity for Swarmer to get a continued look in a minor league rotation, with the inevitable relief conversion looming.
The same could be said for Erich Uelmen, who was a successful reliever in the Arizona Fall League when we last saw him, but does have the stamina to start. Uelmen struggled uncharacteristically with control his last time in Tennessee, the Cubs would love to see those issues resolved. Cam Sanders is jumping High-A for this assignment, which is rather noteworthy, but he was the most consistent starter on that 2019 South Bend championship team.
Luis Lugo is a swingman, and one that should bounce back into the bullpen when Marquez, Riley Thompson or Jack Patterson are ready for their season debut.
- Manny Rodriguez, RH
- Juan Gamez, RH
- Ethan Roberts, RH
- Bryan Hudson, LH
- Dauris Valdez, RH
- Bailey Clark, RH
- Ryan Lawlor, LH
- Scott Effross, RH
- Wyatt Short, LH
Another group with excellent velocity (who ever thought we’d say that about a Cubs affiliate?). You have the aforementioned Valdez and Rodriguez, both who have triple digits in their past. Cole Roederer hinted the other day that Bryan Hudson has been up to 98 mph, which I don’t have to tell you would be a massive game-changer for the 6-foot-8 southpaw we last saw throwing 91 mph bowling balls. Juan Gamez and Bailey Clark can both get it up there, as well.
I’ll be keeping an eye on Scott Effross, who became a sidearmer since last pitching in the Cubs organization. And then you have lefties Ryan Lawlor and Wyatt Short, who were two of the absolute most consistent relief prospects during the 2019 season. This is a strong, strong group.
(Note: The preliminary roster also lists Dakota Mekkes and Ben Holmes, who are also on Triple-A Iowa’s roster. I’m sure this has been sorted out behind the scenes, and we’ll loon soon enough, but I do expect those guys in Iowa.)
- Erick Castillo, C
- Christian Donahue, UT
- Vance Vizcaino, OF