By Todd Johnson
During the week of March 27, Cubs Central will be rolling out its yearly previews of the Cubs’ affiliates. It’s taking a little longer this year because of the uncertainty of the pitching rosters along with a few high profile prospects. This winter, Theo, and Jed went out and signed a lot of pitchers to provide depth for the starting rotation and bullpen. After about one more week, the Cubs will trim the Spring Training roster from 80 down to about 40 before getting to 25 by opening day. Currently, there are over 220 players in the minor league camp.
The affiliate profiles will cover the possible rosters of Iowa, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, South Bend, and a special preview of a preview of Eugene. Each article will recap last season and cover key prospects to keep an eye on this season. Key starting pitching, relievers, and position players will be discussed as well as who might be promoted first from the affiliate along with who might be a sleeper prospect for the first half.
However, before those reviews will be written the next two weeks, there are several questions that need to be addressed. Here are the big unknown questions at this point:
Where will Jose Albertos go and when?
I would like to think that I know where he is going. I absolutely have no clue as to his intended destination. Ideally, he should be in Eugene. But if he is as advanced as everyone says he is, then why could he not be in South Bend? There have been many times this winter where I thought he could get the fast track that no real pitcher has done in the Theo era. Then again, he really needs to build up his arm strength over the course of years to make it as a pro. I’m looking forward to seeing where he is placed at the end of March. Right now, I think he will be in extended spring training with the intent of heading to Eugene in early June.
According to Jason McLeod, the Cubs are looking at placing Hatch at South Bend. With the rave reviews about his pitchability, I tend to lean towards him starting the year at Myrtle Beach. As a fan, I’m pretty geeked to see what he can do with four pitches from his three-quarter arm slot.
Does Eloy skip Myrtle Beach?
Based upon early returns of Eloi in the major league camp, I’m beginning to think that he might. I don’t think he needs to skip Myrtle Beach, I just think he’s ready for a challenge. While he is only just 20 years old, I don’t think he’s that far away from Chicago, or at least being ready for Chicago. One thing a farm system director has to take into account is whether or not the prospect is challenged. The last thing we want to see happen is to see Eloi get bored playing in the Carolina League.
The DSL Effect
In 2015, the Cubs signed several high-priced international free agents. Most of them made their debut last summer in the Dominican Summer League. Now, at 18 years of age, several are ready to make their stateside debut. I wonder if some of them will skip Mesa and Eugene and head straight to South Bend. Aramis Ademan and Miguel Amaya are two defensively advanced prospects, I don’t think either of them will start out the year at South Bend, but I think they could finish there while starting out at Eugene. In addition, there are a lot of quality young pitchers who could climb up the ladder to Eugene and push their way towards South Bend.
I don’t know where Isaac Paredes is going. Last year he did very well at Mesa and wound up playing for South Bend the last couple weeks of the year. I think a lot of that had to do more with the Cubs farm directors not wanting to take players away from Eugene to move to South Bend. As a result, Paredes got in some time in South Bend at 17 years of age. His biggest asset is his ability to hit the ball and he could force some issues this year with that ability. Unlike most international prospects, Paredes comes close to fully formed. There’s not much projection left physically but the kid still has room to improve at the plate, especially when it comes to power. As a result, I’m not quite sure where he fits to begin the year. I don’t think he goes all the way up to Myrtle Beach, and I’m not quite sure he falls all the way down to Eugene, either.
So, with three and a half weeks left to go before the opening day of the minor league season, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I think they’re all good problems to have. And I think that the Cubs are glad they have a plethora of young talent to try and figure out where to place them.