Arizona Rookie League Team Preview: An Abundance of Inexperience

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cease 62Unlike the other teams in the system, the Cubs Arizona Rookie League roster usually is lacking in star power. It is truly a developmental team. Top tier position players tend to skip this step in the organization and others spend just a few days here. This year’s initial Arizona Cubs’s roster is filled with a bevy of players signed in International Free Agency. Very few players on the current roster came through the draft. That could change quickly as this year’s draftees are signed.

There are, however, several players you should keep an eye on. Some were profiled here a few weeks ago.

Here is a look at the roster
The Pitching
The first thing you notice when you look at the pitching roster is that there is only 1 left hander in the bunch. But as you look closer, there is some high end talent, although is it extremely young and some of it is injured. Two names pop out in Dylan Cease, last year’s sixth round pick who had TJS shortly after the draft, and Erling Moreno, who had TJS after four starts in the DSL. Both are being closely monitored by Cubs personnel as they recover from the surgery. I don’t think either pitcher will leave the team this season as the Cubs have a large investment in each arm. However, their stuff is electric! Cease throws in the upper 90s and Moreno has flashed low to mid 90s all spring in short stints.

willis 78 2015

It looks as though young Austyn Willis will get his shot to improve upon last season’s short debut in Arizona. Willis just turned 19 last Saturday and the Cubs are in no rush to have the 6’6” right hander get to the big leagues quickly. He only pitched 15 innings in 10 games in 2014. The 2014 draftee had his moments. Except for 1 inning, he was pretty solid. Giving up 4 runs in 1/3 inning made his ERA jump to 4.20 on the season. Without that 1/3 inning, he ERA would have been an excellent 1.84. The likely reason he is starting at Arizona is to strengthen his arm and provide depth in the organization. He could be one prospect who moves to Eugene quickly.

Scott Frazier is another of the big and tall pitchers the Cubs seem to like so much. Drafted in the 6th round out of Pepperdine in 2013, Frazier, a reliever, developed a case of the yips last year as he had trouble just throwing the ball to the catcher. The Cubs shut him down for the year and have rebuilt him mentally. Like Cease and Moreno, Frazier will be closely monitored. He was throwing in the upper 90s this spring and is close to returning to his draft mates. If he can get back mentally, his upper 90s heat becomes a weapon the Cubs lack out of the pen.

Marcello Carreno is another injured starting pitcher who came over from Detroit in the Jeff Baker trade. He has had a long road back. When the Cubs first acquired him in 2012, he was having a great season for the West Michigan White Caps in the Midwest League (9-8, 3.23 ERA with 119 Ks in 129 innings). He missed all of 2013 and he came back last year to make three starts in the AZL and likely will be monitored closely. He is still only 23. If healthy this year, he could move quickly up to low A or even high class A.

Pitching Staff – Dylan Cease, Erling Moreno, Jesus Camargo (R), Santiago Rodriguez (R), Enrique de los Rios (R), Austyn Willis, Scott Frazier, Mark Malave (R), Jose Zapata (R), Tanner Griggs (R), Luis Hernandez (R), Hector Perez (R). Ariel Ovando (L) Yomar Morel (R) Enrique De Los Rio (R), Marcello Carreno, Jesus Castillo (R)

The Hitting

Wladimir Galindo - Photo by Bill Mitchell
Wladimir Galindo – Photo by Bill Mitchell

This year’s team is largely made up of the 2011-2014 International Free Agent signings. Most well-known are Catcher Yohan Matos and 3B Wladimir Galindo from the 2013 class. These two bangers will provide a lot of power in what will only be their first year of pro ball in the states. 1B/3B Joey Martarano will also provide some power in the Cubs first extended look at him. During the offseason, Martarano plays LB for Boise State.

Outfielder Calvin Graves seems to be blocked by some big name prospects at Eugene in Jimenez and Mitchell. He will get a chance to improve his game at the AZL where he hit .313 in 15 games last year after being drafted in the 27th round last year.

It should be an interesting year at the plate as most of these players make their stateside debuts.

Position Players
C – Yohan Matos, Jhonny Pereda
1B – Miguel Rico, Roney Alcala
2B – Carlos Sepulveda, Danny Gutierrez
SS – Andruw Monasterio, Carlos Jimenez
3B – Wladimir Galindo, Joe Martarano
OF – Calvin Graves, Roberto Caro, Chris Pieters, Jenner Emeterio, Jose Paniagua, and Robert Garcia

Draftees:
Pitching
Pitchers that started this spring will be on limits as they loosen up their arms after throwing almost 100 innings. Normally, recent draftees piggy back outings with each other, each taking a turn starting. Being as many have already pitched a full season, most will be kept between 30-40 pitches at a maximum this year.

Bloomquist 78With the noticeable absence of left handers on the team, the four left handed draftees may be important in limited roles this summer. For my own curiosity. I would love to see what Casey Bloomquist, Kyle Miller, and MT Minacci can do as I don’t know that much about them. Even if Bloomiquist only goes 2-3 innings a start, that  will give us a pretty good estimation of his talent and worth. The same goes for Miller. Minacci is a wild card as the former teammate of Carson Sands dropped off the baseball radar when he was a Florida State recruit. The rest of the draftees have a pretty good track record at high profile college programs.

Bryan Hudson (L) – Don’t expect to see too much from him – maybe an inning here or there. Like Sands and Steele last year, the Cubs will handle him with kid gloves.

Kyle Twomey (L), Jake Kelzer (R), Ryan Kellogg (L), and Preston Morrison (R) will piggy back starts with each other. Usually the righties go with the righties and lefties go with the lefties. I expect most of these four to move quickly to Eugene based on their past efforts in college.

John Williamson (L) is most likely going to be used a reliever. A two way player in college, it will interesting to see how he transitions just to the pen

Hitting
You might expect to see the following younger position players in the rookie league:
Darryl Wilson – OF – The 4th round pick of the Cubs is loaded with speed
Vimael Machin – SS – Rumor has it that Machin may transition to catcher
PJ Higgins – 2B – the young middle infielder
Michael Foster – The OF out of Northeastern should get some playing time quickly
John Cresto – A 3B by trade, Cresto may have some pop in his young bat.
Blake Headley – 3B – A switch hitter, Headley may give up the right side as a pro
Angelo Amendolare – 2B – He could be a surprise prospect as a 2B
Daniel Spignola – OF – This year, the speedy outfielder out of Georgia Tech signed
Ian Rice, Tyler Payne, and Marcus Mastrobuoni – all three provide catching depth

This team’s roster will vary greatly in the first few weeks as  draftees come in and move up to Eugene or players go back to the Dominican or Venezuelan Summer Leagues.

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