Minor Leagues Notes: Opening Day rosters take shape

Jose Albertos (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jose Albertos (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

It appears the Cubs four full-season affiliates will enter the season at near-full health, just as the big club did. The organization has enough healthy depth that the they were able to release ten players and trade another last week, yet have not gone outside the organization to bring in additional help, save the signing of veteran utility man Chris Coghlan.

Iowa Cubs

The Cubs traded left handed starter Daniel Camarena back to the Yankees this past weekend, presumably for cash, after signing him away from them in the offseason as a six-year Minor League free agent. With six other healthy starters and a plethora of lefthanded relief options present there was just no room for Camarena to carve out a role. The team also has three veterans rehabbing from injuries beginning the season in extended spring training. None have suffered any reported setbacks thus far which means each could fortify the club’s depth even further at some point this season. As of now the Iowa rotation stacks up:

Jen-Ho Tseng

Alec Mills

Duane Underwood, Jr.

Luke Farrell

Rob Zastryzny

Swing: Michael Roth

EXST: Ryan Williams (rehab), Danny Hultzen (rehab), Allen Webster (rehab)

The bullpen did suffer a couple losses, Corey Black had an early setback in his rehab from 2017 TJS and will begin the season in EXST. David Garner was suspended the first 50 games of the year due to a second failed drug test. It was rather unlikely that Black would have earned a spot directly out of spring training anyway as he worked himself back so Garner is really the only unplanned loss. The bullpen currently consists of:

RHRP: Dillon Maples, Shae Simmons, Cory Mazzoni, Anthony Bass, Justin Hancock, Craig Brooks, Brad Markey, Daury Torrez

LHRP: Randy Rosario, Alberto Baldanado, Zastryzny/Roth

EXST: LHRP Kyle Ryan, RHRP Jose Rosario, RHRP Corey Black (rehab), RHRP David Garner (50-Suspension)

The position player groups are all healthy for when games kick off on Thursday. Coghlan will remain behind to work himself into shape after signing late. A potential lineup once he is ready:

CF Jacob Hannemann / Wynton Bernard

RF Mark Zagunis

LF Chris Coghlan (EXST) / Bijan Rademacher

2B David Bote

1B Efren Navarro / Taylor Davis

Chris Gimenez / Ali Solis

3B Ryan Court / Stephen Bruno

SS Mike Freeman / Chesny Young

Tennessee Smokies

The rotation is chocked full of prospects which should make the team a fun watch on a daily basis. Adbert Alzolay will begin the season in EXST. He didn’t get into games until later in spring training and hasn’t built up his stamina yet. No reason to be concerned at this point and I expect he’ll join the Smokies after a couple of weeks.

Oscar De La Cruz

Thomas Hatch

Trevor Clifton

Michael Rucker

Duncan Robinson

EXST: Adbert Alzolay

Tennessee will have to deal with a major disadvantage as the season opens. They will not have a left handed reliever and will need to rely solely on righties. Even the starting rotation contains nothing but righties.

RHRP: Dakota Mekkes, Jake Stinnett, James Norwood, Scott Effross, Zach Hedges, James Pugliese, Tommy Nance, Preston Morrison

LHRP: None

EXST: Ryan McNeil (rehab)

As with Iowa, the lineup enters the season at full strength. The team will face the same right handed heavy challenge on offense that they will with their pitching staff. Jason Vosler is the only left handed bat projected to be in the everyday lineup and the only potent one on the roster.

SS Zack Short / Carlos Penalver

LF Charcer Burks

RF Eddy Martinez / Jeffrey Baez

3B Jason Vosler / Jesse Hodges

C  Ian Rice / Erick Castillo

1B Yasiel Balaguert

2B Trent Giambrone / Gioskar Amaya

CF Trey Martin

Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Heading into spring training I imagined a three-way battle between 2017 draftees Alex Lange, Keegan Thompson and Cory Abbott for the chance to skip Low-A and jump straight into the Pelicans rotation after spending their post draft season in Eugene last year. The competition never really developed as Abbott spent all spring with South Bend while Lange and Thompson consistently participated with Myrtle Beach and it appears that both have wrapped up jobs with the squad.

Alex Lange

Bryan Hudson

Jose Paulino

Keegan Thompson

Erling Moreno

Swing: Tyson Miller, Ryan Kellogg, Kyle Miller, Matt Swarmer

EXST: Erick Leal (rehab), Manny Rondon (rehab)

The Pelicans will see their share of piggybacking as the season opens given the number of swing starters available. Even among the regular bullpen arms Tyler Peyton and Casey Bloomquist have starting experience. Thankfully, the Pelicans will have left handed options the Smokies will not enjoy.

RHRP: Chad Hockin, Jhon Romero, Tyler Peyton, Casey Bloomquist

LHRP: Wyatt Short, Jordan Minch

Aramis Ademan (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Aramis Ademan (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The big news is 19-year old Aramis Ademan has earned the shortstop job in Myrtle Beach despite just a 29 game stint in South Bend late last year. While his potential double-play partner, second baseman Carlos Sepulveda is rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, the team will rely on the defensive versatility of Austin Upshaw and Vimael Machin. Expect those two to move around quite frequently. I’ve listed Upshaw as a 1B below, but given the number of C/1B on the roster I expect he will spend majority of his time rotating between 2B/3B/LF.

CF D.J. Wilson

2B Vimael Machin / EXST: Carlos Sepulveda (rehab)

1B Austin Upshaw / Tyler Alamo

3B Wladimir Galindo

RF Chris Pieters

LF Kevonte Mitchell / Daniel Spingola

P.J. Higgins / Tyler Pearson / Jhonny Pereda

SS Aramis Ademan / Andruw Monasterio

South Bend Cubs

The reason it was so important for Lange and Thompson to earn jobs with Myrtle Beach is it appears even without that pair that South Bend could begin the season with as many as eight pitchers capable of starting games, so expect a ton of piggybacking, perhaps on a near daily basis.

Jose Albertos, Brendon Little, Cory Abbott, Javier AssadBailey Clark, Erich Uelmen, Jesus CamargoTyler Thomas

With so many starters and swing men available that leaves few slots for late inning relievers.

RHRP: Ben Hecht, Brian Glowicki, Rollie Lacy, Manny Rodriguez, Elvis Diaz

LHRP: Yapson Gomez

As for the lineup, outfielder Luis Ayala has been limited this spring due to a shoulder injury and is not ready to begin the season. The rest of the squad is ready to go. Unfortunately, the only one of the Cubs promising teenagers to make the team is Miguel Amaya. Outfielders Jonathan Sierra, Nelson Velazquez and infielder Christopher Morel all appear ticketed for Eugene once the short season league kicks off. Like Austin Upshaw in Myrtle Beach, fellow 2017 draftee Jared Young will be tasked with bouncing between positions and will likely spend majority of his time at 2B/3B/LF while 1B will end up as a rotation between Austin Filiere, Chris Carrier and the backup catchers.

CF Zach Davis / Chris Singleton

SS Yelier Peguero / Rafael Narea

1B Jared Young

3B Austin Filiere

RF Brandon Hughes

2B Jhonny Bethencourt / Christian Donahue

Miguel Amaya / Michael Cruz / Tyler Payne

LF Luis Ayala (rehab) / Chris Carrier


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  • Nice to see enough info coming out that the rosters are beginning to take shape. Nice work, Michael.

    I'm planning on taking in a few games at South Bend this year, and really would like to see Albertos in person. Any thoughts on how long he remains there? In other words, should I hurry?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I see now he only made 10 starts at Eugene last season and this is his first trip to South Bend. I was thinking he was a touch further along. I assume he'll be there all year, which is good for me.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Pretty sure he'll stay there all year unless South Bend is out of playoffs and Myrtle Beach in. Then I could see them calling him up late to take part in postseason. But they will also be tightly controlling his innings. He is only 19 and threw just 43 innings in 2017 after just 4 in 2016. I doubt they let him exceed 90-100, which means they may shut him down late in the year regardless. In other words i think you are safe as long as you go within the first 2/3 of the season.

  • Cool. A lot of this was as expected. Wasn’t sure they were going to stretch Zas out, looks like they are.

    Looking forward to following the pitching throughout the organization & the hitters moreso at the lower levels to see who might stand out.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    That is the one spot I'm not sure on. The 5th starter could be Roth. Roth, Zastryzny, Bass are all capable as swing men. Markey can go multiple innings as well. At some point I believe at least one of those rehabbing starters will get opportunity to take over that spot once healthy enough.

  • Cool! Thanks for the summary article Michael.

    I need to go and pull up the Frederick Key's schedule and start planning for some dates when the Pelicans are in town this Summer.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks Michael. It seems like Rob Z hasn't done anything since 2016. Was he injured last year or just not good enough? One more question--is Fernando Kelli going to Eugene or in EXST?
    I can't wait for the daily recaps of our minor league games. Then baseball is really back!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He was knicked up last year and didn't pitch a full year. He did make some small improvements with his control but he still hasn't developed a consistent put away pitch in my eye. He mixes four avg or fringe avg pitches.Which can work if you command them well, but Z hasn't been able to find that refinement yet.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I think Velazquez-Kelli-Sierra will be the starting OF in Eugene

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    With Vazquez at SS and Morel potentially at 3B, along with Alexander Guerra behind the plate it should be an interesting position player group to watch in Eugene, especially if they add a few college bats ready for that league with their high draft picks as well.

  • Regarding the infield alignments for the four clubs. The only constant is going to be Aramis Ademan at SS for Myrtle Beach. Ademan is really the only guy projected to be a MLB starter.

    The other 15 spots across the four teams will be rotations. Each has one solid prospect that should play everyday: Bote, Short, Upshaw, J. Young. But each of those guys project more as MLB utility players and thus will moved around the diamond. The teams will likely mix and match around them.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Which is why I would not be surprised if at #24 they take a college bat in lieu of a pitcher. I know its not a direct plug and play but they have been so pitcher focused early the last few drafts, I could see a more blended / "best available" approach this year.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Yeah, I'm expecting a bat-heavy top of the draft.

  • I am hoping that Wladimir get up to speed quickly in Myrtle after missing last year. If he shows progress, I could imagine that he gets a shot at Tennessee by August.

  • In reply to Gator:

    That would be quite a leap. He essentially has one month of experience in full season ball. I think asking him to make the jump to Myrtle Beach, then another to Tenn in one year is asking too much.

  • The Pelicans have a charity exhibition game at Charleston tonight. They are the Yankees low A team. Alex Lange gets the start and I'm ushering, so I'll try to give some commentary in the morning.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Awesome. It's radio broadcast only so anything you can add would be cool.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Lange gave up two in the first but settled down to work five. I assume everyone's tightly controlled at that stage of development. Seemed like he got stronger as the game progressed and could have gone longer. However, he was definitely allowing hard contact/loud outs. Don't recall much in the way of strikeout or walks. He worked quickly, especially by comparison with the guys who handled the back half of the game. Hard to compare when high A plays low A, and I know nothing about the Riverdogs players yet. Bottom line is that he definitely pitched like a starter, and if South Bend piggybacks then he's better off developing in MB. Will need to develop an out pitch to avoid getting shelled by better bats, unless he kept the curve in his pocket because it was an exhibition game.

  • Last month while watching BP in the backfields, Jared Young caught my eye. Noticed a consistently nice, easy, fluid swing. I'm looking forward to seeing him in South Bend this summer. Being he is 22, I'm wondering if he gets off to a decent start if he could make it to the Pelicans later this summer.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Young is from Canada so he likely wouldn't have gotten year round exposure/training like some players. He then only played one year of major college baseball before being drafted. Cubs may have identified a late bloomer. He got off to a really tough start with Eugene last year, hitting below .200 for quite some time, although he didn't look bad doing it. Definitely a lot of bad luck involved. By the end of the year things had completely turned around. Once the playoffs came around Young was scorching hot and ended up posting respectable numbers.

    I know AZ Phil has said Young has looked impressive this spring. Wouldn't shock me if he sees MB this year at some point.

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