Tennessee Smokies (AA), Iowa Cubs (AAA) rosters and thoughts on Ryan Sweeney

Tennessee Smokies (AA), Iowa Cubs (AAA) rosters and thoughts on Ryan Sweeney
Ryan Sweeney adds OF flexibility for the Cubs

Here's a final look at the Cubs Minor League roster.  If you cross-reference these rosters with our prospect lists and previews, you will find quite a few players missing.  Some, like Albert Almora and Junior Lake, are injured.  Jose Paniagua is having all sorts of visa issues, likely stemming from his past fraud issues.  And the Cubs are waiting for Robert Whitenack to clear waivers.  Then there's guys like Rony Torreyes, about whom we are still unsure.

Minor League Rosters

So anyway, here are the current Opening Day rosters of the Cubs minor league affiliates.  Of course, they will look much different by mid-season. Here are the links...

We talked about Kane County and Daytona in depth already. Here's the skinny on the AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, both of whom you can catch on MiLB.TV this year.  If not, you could see few of these guys in Wrigley sometime this season.

Tennessee Smokies

Top Prospects

  • Arismendy Alcantara, SS
  • Christian Villanueva, 3B
  • Alberto Cabrera, RHP
  • Tony Zych, RHP
  • Trey McNutt, RHP

We start off with a couple of breakout candidates.  Arismendy Alcantara impressed toward the end of spring training and seems to be getting better and better.  If only he can stay healthy this year, he may put himself on the doorstep to Wrigley by season's end.  Alcantara is one of those quick-twitched athletes who plays the game with speed and energy.  That speed includes quick hands and wrists, which allow him to have surprising power despite his slight build.  Christian Villanueva didn't set the world on fire with his bat, but played great defense this spring and showed some unexpected power.  The Cubs are pretty sure he'll hit, so can't get too worried about his low average this spring.  He should be solid across the board, though he may add a little power at the expense of some speed.  I'll take that trade.  The next 3 guys are power RHPs with Alberto Cabrera heading the pack because of his minor league success and promotion to the big leagues last summer.  He is also out in front because he has 3 pitches and will be tried as a starter. Tony Zych and Trey McNutt should make a nice power tandem at the back of the bullpen.  Zych had more success last season but McNutt is looking to come back after two straight years of nagging injuries and command issues.  Right now I'd give the edge to Zych in terms of command and McNutt the edge in raw stuff, but both pitchers have the ability to be late inning relievers and perhaps make it to Wrigley this season.

Others to Watch

  • Dallas Beeler, RHP
  • Eric Jokisch, LHP
  • Kyle Hendricks, RHP
  • Zac Rosscup, LHP
  • Marcus Hatley, RHP
  • Johermyn Chavez, OF
  • Rafael Lopez, C
  • Jae-Hoon Ha, OF

Dallas Beeler should get better results than he did last year.  He's a guy with good control and 3 solid pitches, including a potentially plus two-seam fastball that hitters drive into the ground when he keeps it low in the zone.  Eric Jokisch is cut along the lines of Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley, both of whom have had a taste in the majors.  I expect Jokisch to get a shot as well if he continues to successfully keep hitters off balance with good location and a plus change.  Kyle Hendricks is the RH version of the Cubs mix-and-match finesse types.  He's had great success outwitting lower level hitters and gets a big test at AA.  Pitch location is his game and he has some of the best control/command in the system.  Marcus Hatley is a big, athletic type with a simple delivery and a fastball which explodes from his hand.  He shows a plus breaking ball at times but he is going to need better commmand.  Like Rafael Dolis in AAA, he gets hit a bit harder than a guy with his stuff should.  Zac Rosscup has a low 90s fastball but it appeared to me that hitters had a hard time picking it up.  He can get some swings and misses but he needs better control to get more hitters to swing in the first place. The Cubs showed a lot of faith in Rafael Lopez's catch and throw abilities this spring and he has a possible future as an MLB backup catcher.  Jae-Hoon Ha's defense and improved approach give him a chance to be a role playing outfielder in the big leagues.  He may not hit enough to start, but could provide plus defense at all 3 OF spots as a 5th outfielder.  Ha is still young, though, and he'll get a chance to repeat a level and see if he can make strides with his bat.

Iowa Cubs

Triple A isn't just about prospects.  It's also a place to stash veterans who can provide some emergency depth. The Cubs have added a couple of veterans to provide depth in OF Ryan Sweeney and Guillermo Moscoso.  Sweeney's main asset is that he can play all 3 OF positions with competence.  He gives the Cubs insurance in the event that they trade David DeJesus and/or there is an injury to one of the outfielders.  He has once a top prospect and has several years of MLB experience but hasn't lived up to his expectations as a hitter.  His approach is solid but he hasn't developed the LH power that scouts hoped would come from his big, athletic 6'4", 225 lbs. frame.  Sweeney, however, can handle CF on a part time basis and can provide an adequate replacement for DeJesus, should the Cubs decided to trade the veteran. The I-Cubs also have a similar big, athletic LH hitting outfielder in Bryan Bogusevic to compete for the chance to be that "6th outfielder".  Moscoso is a fringe MLB starter with a solid fastball (low 90s) and a plus change which, when he mixes in well, creates a lot of swings and misses.

Top Prospects

  • Brett Jackson
  • Logan Watkins

Brett Jackson is the prime candidate to get called up early this year if he shows he can make consistent contact.  All the other tools are there but we'll have to wait and see if Jackson's swing adjustments translate to an improved hit tool.  If it does, he's going to provide an athletic, energetic player who can help you win in a variety of ways.  Logan Watkins is similar in terms of athleticism, speed and energy.  Also like Jackson, he has a patient approach at the plate, so he's a good candidate to contribute with a solid OBP.  He hit with some extra base pop last year and he'll have to keep doing that if he wants to challenge incumbent Darwin Barney for the 2B job in next year or so.

Others to Watch

  • Josh Vitters
  • Rafael Dolis
  • Chris Rusin
  • Brooks Raley
  • Nick Struck
  • Barrett Loux

It's not to late for Josh Vitters but there seems little doubt his star has fallen a bit again after a good AAA season.  Vitters can make contact but undermines his natural ability by expanding his strike zone.  He's not a wild swinger, but it's just enough to make the more skilled opposing pitchers effective in limiting the amount of hard contact he makes.  He has a pretty swing and great hand eye coordination but doesn't have the same kind of plate coverage as guys like Starlin Castro or a young Alfonso Soriano.  He may get passed up by Junior Lake, who should join this team in May, if not earlier.  We know all about Rafael Dolis.  He can throw a 97 mph two seamer, which theoretically should be downright nasty and unhittable.  But it's not.  Dolis had trouble commanding it and when he did throw strikes, he left it up too high in the zone.  You can't give up on that kind of arm, though.  The Cubs have tinkered with Dolis' delivery, which hopefully makes it a bit tougher for hitters to pick up on the ball.  We also know Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley.  They are classic finesse lefties with enough fastball to create differential with their plus change-ups.  Rusin had more success than Raley this spring and along with veteran pick-up Guillermo Moscoso, should be among the first starters to get the call in the event of a trade, injury, or ineffectiveness by one of the bottom two starters.  Moscoso was brought in to be that go-between much like Ryan Sweeney in the OF. If the Cubs suffer an injury before they are ready to call up prospects, Moscoso is the guy.  Two of those prospects who hope to be ready soon are Nick Struck and Barrett Loux.  They are similar pitchers in that they rely on 4 pitches and aggressively locating an average fastball to succeed.  Both pitchers show an above average breaking pitch at times but it's difficult to call them true out pitches.  As such they profile more as back of the rotation guys.



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  • Going to have a good time following all the top prospects in the
    minors and your site helps alot. Keep us up-to-date to the best
    of your ability.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks E for the kind words and all the support. I certainly will follow the minor leagues very closely and keep everyone updated with new developments.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks the updates and reviews are great, would it be possible to give a relative strength review and or rating for each level of the farm team. It would help to track how the rebuild is going to see how things are progressing at each level from year to year. For example, did boise peak last year or will they be just as strong this year? will daytona be the strongest level this season or the smokies? Has the triple aaa team improved at all? etc. I think I can see wave one but would like to know for sure how the prospects are moving through the system and how far along the overall farm system is.(and how far from the bigs that makes the prospects). I suppose just sorting your top prospect list by farm team and doing a count would provide one measure, but somehow I think you might be able to provide a better overview, plus we could then compare year to year. . thanks

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Thanks Eddie and that's an interesting idea. Tomorrow will be the first minor league recap and I'll try to talk about that a little then. But I may have to devote a whole article on it. Let me think about that.

    I will say that the Boise team may not be quite as good but they have restocked very well and the pitching may be much stronger this year with guys like Blackburn, Underwood, Torres McNeil, Lang and perhaps others like Paniagua.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Speaking of Paniagua, have you heard anything on when we can actually expect him back in the country? (He needs to never, ever leave when he makes it back.)

  • From Sweeney's tweets, it seems as though he thinks he's going to get called up sooner rather than later.

  • This is the year to find out which players are part of the Cubs

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    Seems to suggest a DDJ trade is close. Wait and see, I guess.

  • Interesting. Wonder if he was promised a call-up, but that would almost certainly mean a trade. Also could mean he gets 40 man roster spot once the Cubs activate Barney and can try to remove Gonzalez off the roster again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Mike put it exactly right. Wait and see.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I wonder if he was promised a call-up too. After all, Sweeney was a FA, and wasn't claimed by anyone for a ML contract. Once that happens, if I am him I am looking for whatever organization I feel I have the best shot at a call-up. Something Theo/Jed told him must have made him think that club was the Cubs.

    It's a little surprising, because I think there are other teams with thinner OF situations that could use LH bat......Philly, for example. Or the Pirates.

    I think Sweeney also falls in the category of player that under the new CBA rules can ask for and receive a release if he is not on our roster by June 1

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Good stuff Zonk.

  • Watching Darvish nearly toss a perfect game has me thinking that at 26yo, he would have fit very nicely in between Shark & E-Jax for our rotation for the next few years....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That one is always going to hurt a bit, but it's easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that we should have beat the Rangers offer. Given the performance of other Japanese pitchers in the majors, that was one heck of a gamble the Rangers took.

    Hopefully Shark/Appel or Gray/Garza/Jackson makes us forget about Darvish.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Dont blame the Cubs, they offered Darvis a contract that was considered second only to Texas, just like they did with Cespedes.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't want to take anything away from Darvish because he had great stuff and command that day -- certainly looked like an ace, but that Houston may have one hitter that's average or better and that's Altuve.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Over/Under on number of no-hitters thrown against the Astros this year?

  • John, I was thinking about the Wrigley renovation stuff and the negative vibes we got because of the political Comercial Rickett's father was planning to use bashing Obama. Do you thing that politics could be playing a part in Paniagua's visa issues. Yeah, I know, I see one behind every tree. Can't help myself.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I don't know Bilbo. I suppose it's possible. I think it has more to do with his past fraud issues. He's going to be examined pretty thoroughly.

  • Hi John,

    Love your work! Let me ask you about 2 facts and 1 hypotheses:

    1. Cubs sign Ryan Sweeney, even though he had offers from other teams.

    2. Ryan Ludwick tear cartilage in shoulder, out indefinitely.

    Hypothesis: Soriano trade to Reds?
    Theo already traded with them once. Reds need RH power.

    What you think?

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    That is a very interesting thought, how did he get along with Baker here?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Soriano's first year with the Cubs was Piniella's first year, so he didn't play under Baker.

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    Thanks Mark.

    It's interesting to try and connect these dots. it's plausible but the word is Reds will try to fill the hole internally. Then again, that's what teams always say so they don't lose leverage in a deal.

    I think the Reds should at least look into Soriano. It's not easy to replace that kind of production and as long as Dusty Baker is around, it's a win-now team.

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    What do the Red have (especially pitching) in return for Soriano that we might covet?

    And they have Billy Hamilton down in AAA in the process of being converted into a CF. If he continues hitting and stealing bases like he did in A & AA last season - their OF issues will be short-term.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think Corcino is an interesting prospect, and a good starting point for a trade. Maybe Corcino and Lotzkar as the key parts of a deal?

    Hamilton is a speed guy - they need the power to replace Ludwick's pop, and Soriano would be a good fit.

  • Thanks Diggs

  • Thanks for the update on Iowa, live in Des Moines and go to most home games... Love to see what is potentially coming up thru the system.

  • Dusty needs an OF? Anyone got Neifi's number?

  • Whitenack claimed by Tribe.

  • I guess that is fair. We took Rondon from them.

  • DeJesus and Schierholtz out tonight. Sappelt and Hairston in.

  • I would have considered leaving Schierholtz in the game and taking Soriano out. Soriano is batting 5 of 41 against their starting pitcher and he does not like playing in the cold weather with his old knees. Plus Schierholtz got on base 4 times in the first game.

  • John when Vizcaino starts pitching where does he go? AA AAA?

  • In reply to John57:

    I'm not John, but I'm thinking AAA.

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