Final Record: 67-76
The Iowa Cubs produced a lot of players for the major leagues this year. There was Albert Almora, Jeimer Candelario, Spencer Patton, Jake Buchanan, Felix Pena, and Rob Zastryzny. In addition, there are two prospects that are really having an impact on a daily basis in Chicago. Willson Contreras and Carl Edwards have become favorites of manager Joe Maddon. Contreras has played all over the field and Edwards is now a pitcher whom Maddon is not afraid to put in the game during high-stress situations.
While those prospects have done well in Chicago, things did not go so great at Iowa in 2016. They lost 4/5 of their starting pitching rotation after the first week of the season manager Marty Pevey seemed to be scrambling through the end of the year to have five warm bodies to begin on the mound every game. Late in the year, Brian Matusz and Josh Collmenter seemed to solidify the rotation. Hopefully, most of those will return in 2017 along with Ryan Williams who was on the DL most of the year. Collmenter was traded to the Braves last week.
The bullpen was really the star unit for the team this year. In addition to Patton and Edwards, Armando Rivero had his best season with a 2.13 ERA and Jose Rosario took over the closer role the last month of the season. Rosario began the year at Myrtle Beach and made it all the way from class A this season after missing 2015 with Tommy John surgery.
John Andreoli seemed to spur the offense in the second half from the leadoff spot, and Logan Watkins was able to play a full year after missing 2015 with an Achilles tendon injury. Dan Vogelbach was the main cog in the offense before his trade to Seattle. Jeimer Candelario seemed to take over in his stead. Mark Zagunis did well in his short stint before toe injury, and his replacement, Bijan Rademacher, was excellent in his only month at AAA.
Team Leaders – Offense
Team Leaders – Pitching
|ERA (min 50 IP)||Strikeouts||WHIP||Saves||Innings|
Even though he did not finish the season at Iowa, Vogelbach’s bat commanded the team. He had his best year as a Cub farmhand and will be missed. I am happy he gets to have a chance in Seattle where they have the Designated Hitter. He will do well there.
Armando Rivero had his best year with a 2.13 ERA in 76.1 IP while striking out an amazing 105! I still don’t know why he was not called up. I don’t think there is anything left for him to prove at this level.
Jose Rosario progressed through levels with mid-to-upper 90s heat a year after having Tommy John surgery. I think that he will return to Iowa to begin the year, but the 26-year-old could have a shot at Chicago in case of injury in 2017.
Looking Ahead to 2017:
It is expected that only a handful of players from the Smokies will be arriving next year. Chesny Young and Victor Caratini will help on the offensive side. Young hit .303 on the year and lost the batting crown on a technicality. He also played all four infield positions for the Smokies. Caratini hit above .290, his best season by far in the minors as a Cub.
As for pitching, Zach Hedges and Brad Markey should be joining the I-Cubs rotation. Hedges might have the upper hand on getting to Chicago first with his plus slider and improved fastball in the 93-94 mph range. I don’t think the fate or role of Jen-Ho Tseng has been decided either. He could start, or he could relieve. I think reliever might a role he is better suited for in the long run. James Farris also should have a good shot at making the opening day Iowa roster. Reliever Stephen Perakslis should also generate some help in the pen.
Sleeper Prospect for 2017
Bijan Rademacher can play all three outfield spots well. He has a plus arm and has shown that he can hit at each level, given enough time to adapt. In 2016, he hit .277 in just a little over 20 games. Expect more from him including some power. I think he’s ready to bloom.
Overall, I think Iowa will have a lot of players brought in from the outside just like 2016. Minor league free agents and some Rule V picks should help to fill out the roster. Some long term Cubs may find their careers ended and a few more will give it one last shot. I think if the pitching is stabilized, then Iowa should do much better when it comes to their own success. Conversely, if they produce 4-5 prospects for the majors again in 2017, that, too, is a huge success. Sure, winning at Iowa would be nice, but everybody knows that’s not why the players are at this level.