By Todd Johnson
The Cubs’ rookie league team in Mesa begins play today. It’s roster is a mix of young players, most of whom are 18 or 19 years old and are in need game experience. This year’s team has a decidedly Latin flavor. That will change once the draft picks have been signed and passed their physicals.
Last year, the Mesa Cubs made the playoffs in the Arizona Rookie League before falling to the Mariners in the opening series. The strength of this year’s team should be their pitching. There are a few draft picks, but most of the starting staff are standouts from last year’s DSL teams.
Here is the opening day roster. In rookie league, each team can have 35 players on the roster with only 25 activated for each game.
Pitchers: Jose Albertos, Faustino Carrera, Jed Carter, Alfredo Colorado, Fauris Guerrero, Luis Hernandez, Chi-Feng Lee, Jose Leidenz, Jose MacDonna, Brailyn Marquez, Carlos Ocampo, Pablo Ochoa, Eugenio Palma, Yunior Perez, Eury Ramos, Stephen Ridings, Nathan Sweeney
Catchers: Carlos Diaz, Richard Nunez, and Kevin Zamudio
Infield: Fidel Mejia, Rafael Mejia, Yonathan Perlaza, and Delvin Zinn
Outfield: Yovanny Cuevas, Jose Gutierrez, Ruben Reyes, and Jonathan Sierra
Here are some names that will probably be the key players over the next two months.
Jose Albertos – The 18-year-old top prospect stayed behind to work on the grip on his curve. Once he has that down, he will be off to bigger and better things.
Faustino Carrera – He put up very good numbers in the Dominican last year. He had a 1.06 ERA in 13 starts for the summer. He is not that big but has good control of his pitches. He likely will be a reliever.
Brailyn Marquez – I think this kid could be a breakout pitcher in the next couple of years. In EXST this spring, he struggled in 11.1 IP. He has excellent size and I look forward to watching him develop. He had a 1.48 ERA in 12 starts last summer in the DSL.
Stephen Ridings – The 2016 8th round pick is a wildcard at 6’8”. He can throw in the upper 90s but has trouble repeating his delivery and, as a result, trouble controlling his pitches. He did not pitch last year after being drafted.
Nathan Sweeney – I did not think he would sign last year after being drafted out of high school, but he said college was not for him. So, he is now a Cub and I wonder if he’s going to be a starter or a reliever. He’s just 19, so they have some time.
Kevin Zamudio – He should do well in his second go around in Mesa. He hit .237 last year and he plays a little at first, a little catcher, and a little DH. He is only 19 and is part of the Cubs new Mexican free agency foray from 2015.
Delvin Zinn – He might be my favorite pick from last year’s draft. He is an exceptional athlete who I think is going to be a breakout player before too long. He had some trouble with injuries this spring and that’s why he is in Mesa rather than in Eugene. He might not be in Mesa very long.
Jonathan Sierra – Everytime I mention him, I talk about how he is physically a Darryl Strawberry clone. At just 18, he will be in the outfield every day this summer garnering game experience. He showed some improvement this spring after hitting .264 last summer in the DSL.
Yovanny Cuevas – He was one of the delights of EXST. This spring, he improved dramatically and earned a trip stateside for the year.
Draft Picks Who Should Be in Mesa All Season
Nelson Velazquez – I hope the Cubs can sign this kid is he seems to be a physical specimen and could be a five tool player within a couple of years. I think the Cubs may have gotten a steal in the fifth round.
Luis Vazquez – If the Cubs can get this toolsy SS signed, he would be stationed here. It will be interesting to see how he does in such an atmosphere. He looks long and lean for a SS with the potential for power as he fills out.