Top prospects to watch: All eyes will be glued to Ian Happ as he attempts to make adjustments at the plate to increase his contact rate. Expect him to see time in both the infield and outfield for Iowa.
Beyond the attention paid to Ian Happ, the middle infield tandem of Zack Short and Trent Giambrone will draw plenty of interest as well. Short is a slick defender at shortstop with a big arm. At the plate, not only is he one of the most patient hitters in system, but nobody puts the ball in the air more often.
Giambrone takes more of an all field approach at the plate, and doesn't get as much loft in his swing as Short, but he puts his all into most swings which results in plenty of power production. Where Giambrone needs to improve is defensively. He is solid at second base but is stretched at other infield positions. Look for him to receive some playing time in the corner outfield spots when Happ moves on to the dirt.
Once Addison Russell is reinstated in Chicago, Mark Zagunis figures to return to Iowa, where he will receive everyday opportunities in the outfield corners.
Others: There isn't much beyond the three already mentioned. The team has several veterans (Christian Adames, Jim Adduci, Taylor Davis, Dixon Machado, Johnny Field) with plenty of MLB experience that can be called upon should the need arise, but expect Happ to be the first call up, unless the help is required at catcher or shorstop. Davis would be recalled in the event a catcher is required, and the Cubs would likely add Adames to the 40-man roster if a shortstop is needed.
SS Zack Short
3B Christian Adames (S)
CF Ian Happ (S)
2B Trent Giambrone
1B Jim Adduci (L)
RF Johnny Field
C Taylor Davis
LF Donnie Dewees (L)
Bench: UT Phillip Evans, SS Dixon Machado, C Francisco Arcia (L), OF Jacob Hannemann (L), OF Zach Borenstein (L), C Erick Castillo, OF Wynton Bernard
Top prospects to watch: If the Cubs are to receive a boost this season from a prospect that has yet to make his Major League debut it will likely come from one of Adbert Alzolay or Dakota Mekkes.
He'll begin the season building up his pitch counts in Mesa, but Alzolay will be the main attraction once he joins the starting rotation in early May. His mid-90s fastball and breaking ball combo are MLB quality already, but he still needs to prove the strides he showed with his changeup in his limited 2018 appearances can be maintained. His innings will be closely monitored this season, so even though the Cubs have high hopes for him as a starter, it is more likely his first consistent MLB exposure comes as a power reliever as the Cubs make a postseason push in the 2nd half of the season.
Mekkes is a big righty with an unorthodox delivery who dominated AAA hitters with his fastball last season, just as he did hitters at every previous level. Long a favorite of mine, I see no reason for that trend of dominance to end as he marches toward a future role in Chicago.
James Norwood fits the mold of a more traditional power reliever. He already made his MLB debut last season, and should see another opportunity at some point in 2019.
Matt Swarmer earned the organization's Pitcher of the Year award last season as he broke out in a big way while splitting his time between the High-A and AA levels. He is a legitimate starting pitcher candidate thanks to his size, control and three average or better offerings.
His stuff won't wow anyone, but Duncan Robinson works the edges of the zone as well as any of the Cubs pitching prospects. He might not make it as a full time starter at the next level, but he definitely has upside as in swing role. A pair of former top starting pitcher prospects, Duane Underwood, Jr. and Trevor Clifton are currently slated for piggyback roles in Iowa as the organization begins their transition into relievers.
Others: Dillon Maples, Allen Webster, Alec Mills and Kyle Ryan have all reached their late-20s without establishing themselves as full-time MLB players, but that doesn't mean they can't contribute in Chicago in a big way this season, especially given the current uncertainty in the Cubs bullpen. Maples and Webster in particular have more than enough in terms of stuff to succeed at the highest level. They simply need to harness more consistent command and control.
This is going to be make-or-break time for Jen-Ho Tseng. After a disastrous 2018 season and nondescript spring training his 40-man roster spot appears tenuous and he'll need to show early improvement to keep his job in the Iowa rotation once Alzolay returns.
With Brandon Morrow, Tony Barnette and Xavier Cedeno beginning the season on the IL, there was an opening for Randy Rosario (L) in Chicago. Once those arms begin getting healthy expect Rosario to be optioned back to Iowa.
Adbert Alzolay (currently in EXST)
Potential Piggybacks: Duane Underwood, Jr, Trevor Clifton, Colin Rea
Kyle Ryan (L)
Tim Collins (L)
Alberto Baldonado (L)
Brian Duensing (L)
Danny Hultzen (L)
The Cubs have not finalized the Iowa roster at the time of this publication, so the final bench and bullpen spots are still up for debate. I expect to see at least a couple of players released, and several left behind in EXST as well.