We Have Seen This Before: A Boise Hawks Preview

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*Note to self
Don’t expect to see all the players just drafted last weekend to be playing in Boise when their season begins this week. Sure, a few of them will EVENTUALLY be there this year. However, if it is a pitcher, don’t expect to see someone who already pitched 85-100 innings to show up and pitch more, at least as a starter. I think Schwarber, Zagunis, Chesny Young, Jason Vosler, Charles White, Joey Maratarno, and John Tomasovich could arrive in Idaho at some point, but first the Cubs will have to do some instructs on how to do things “The Cubs Way” before Boise. That being said, here is who is coming to Boise.

Waves of Pitching

Most of the pitchers drafted in 2013 (save Skulina and Zastryzny) will be making their short season debut at Boise. One, Josh Conway, who was drafted in 2012, will be making his Cubs debut after two injury filled years. The best known names include Ben Wells who already had some success at Daytona but has seen a drop in velocity and has been battling some minor injuries off and on all year. I don’t know how long he will stay at Boise, but he needs to pitch and regain some confidence. Another 2012 draftee, Ryan McNeil was outstanding in 2012 in the Arizona Rookie League, but an injury forced him to miss all of 2013. I think he might be a surprise for the Hawks this year.

At the beginning of this year, I thought Trey Masek was one pitcher who would be fast tracked to the majors. Injuries have brought him back to Boise. Last year in 10 games at Boise, he had 2.10 ERA and I don’t expect things to be much different for him this year. Lefty Tyler Ihrig, Scott Frazier and David Garner, three other 2013 draftees, will all try to bounce back from poor springs in reliever roles. 2013 draftee Trevor Clifton will be making his debut and we will see if he changed his delivery at all. He can throw in the mid to upper 90s and bypassed the University of Kentucky to sign with the Cubs last year. Trevor Graham, another 2013 draftee from Franklin Pierce University (a D-II school) will be making his Cubs debut.

Tony Campana is the gift that keeps giving and Erick Leal, a pitcher in that trade, should not disappoint in Boise. He did well in AZL action last summer. Francisco Carrillo and Greyfer Eregua come stateside from the Venezuelan Summer League. Both will probably be relievers, but we will wait and see. As to who will start and who will relieve at this point, it is still up in the air. At this point, I would imagine that Wells, Clifton, Graham, and Leal will get starts. Ryan McNeil should start, but it would not surprise me to see the Cubs take it slow with him and Conway to avoid another injury.

Position Players

Catchers – Justin Marra, who had a nice season in Arizona last year, advances to Boise along with Mark Malave, who at times, has played other positions. Both are nice players and have a bit more offense than some of the catchers the Cubs have had in the system the past few years. I would not be surprised, in fact, I expect Mark Zagunis to arrive fairly quickly (by July) and he should get most of the reps. Zagunis is also athletic enough to play elsewhere on the field.

Infielders – At this point in his career, Guiseppe Papaccio should feel like a yo-yo. I saw him play at Kane County several times after he was drafted last year. He played, 3B, SS, and 2B. He played all three well, but he needs to work on his hitting. I expect that is why he is at Boise. Two years ago, Tim Saunders was one of the bright spots in the Cub organization. Last year was a disappointment for him after hitting almost .300 the previous two years at Peoria and Dayton. I am hoping he can rebound and find the magic again. Danny Canela, who earlier played well at Kane County this spring, gets some time at first base in Boise and provides most of the power for the team…for now. Zak Blair and Jesse Hodges fill out the beginning infield along with Dominican import Varonex Cuevas.

Outfielders – At this point, Jeffrey Baez, Rashad Crawford, and Kevin Brown are pretty much the same player: Good speed, little power, but solid hitters. Oliver Zapata has some pop in his 5’9″ frame but he has been playing well above his age at Peoria and Kane County the past two years. Now the 20 year old gets his first crack at playing against players his own age.

The Draftees – When it comes to Kyle Schwarber, I see him here by the middle of July. I see him in left field, and maybe the occasional start at catcher. Second round pick Jake Stinnett might wind up at Boise in the bullpen, but he has a lot of mileage on the arm already. The same will likely hold true for the other pitchers drafted out of college. The high school signees will go directly to Mesa to play Rookie Ball and Instructs.

Overall – This team seems to be built on pitching and defense, just like Kane County. That seems to be the type of players the Cubs have selected and teams will be built upon, with the occasional power prospect. I look forward to seeing how Boise does, especially the pitching and the new draftees. It is hard not to pull for some of these players. For some it is their last chance in the system. For most, it is just the beginning.


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