40 Man Roster

Cubs Adding Adbert and 2 More to the 40 Man – Clifton Left Off

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By Todd Johnson

Heading into today, the Cubs had six spots open on their 40 man roster. They could have used all six spots to protect six prospects from the Rule 5 Draft or they could have used less if they wanted. They could also release a couple guys and protect more than six.. But whatever they did, I was pretty sure the Cubs would protect their pitching assets. Namely, Adbert Alzolay and Oscar de la Cruz would be added so as not to fall into the enemy’s hands. In the end, the Cubs picked players they currently value who they think could help the team in the very near future. 

The Protected

Adbert Alzolay – He’s been pretty much a given since the end of the season and his standing in the organization has reached a level not seen for a Cub starting pitcher in a long time. He is far from a finished product as he still has work to do on his curve and changeup. He could make an appearance at some point this summer. Although, he hasn’t pitched over 120 innings in one season yet.

If Oscar de la Cruz ever gets healthy, he can move quickly. Then again, I have been saying that for two years. And in that timeframe, he’s barely pitched 95 innings. Still, his protection shows value. I wonder how long the Cubs are going to try to keep him as a starter if he continues to miss time.

David Bote –  He tore the cover off the ball from July of 2016 to June 2017 before a minor slump in July. Still, he rebounded to do well in the Arizona Fall League to hit .333 with a .395 OBP and 4 HRs in 19 games. It helps that he played all over the field in 2017 including 12 games in the outfield. When I first saw him play in 2014, he was playing SS. His versatility is a key.

The Unprotected

With only six spots, and some 50+ players eligible for Rule 5 selection, the Cubs cannot protect everyone. Then again if selected, the team making the choice has to keep the player on the 25 man roster or return them to the original team. The Cubs only have a few players eligible for rule five selection who could be at best bench players in the majors. To be honest, I did not see much of a gamble in whom the Cubs left off. The gamble will come by another team if they select a Cub.

Outfielder Bijan Rademacher, Charcer Burks, Chesny Young, and 3B Jason Vosler were the most notable position players left off. Trevor Clifton, Pedro Araujo, Jose Paulino, Erling Moreno, and Jake Stinnett are some of the better known pitchers.

A year ago, I said that Clifton and Young should be locks for the 40 man. In 2018, things still can change for both of them as they will make some adjustments for the upcoming season. Just because a player was not selected does not mean the Cubs are down on that prospect. Instead, it is more about 2018 than anything else. In a year from now, the Cubs will do this all over again. 

In addition, the Cubs also sent Jacob Hannemann down to AAA Iowa. The roster now stands at 36.

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The Weekly: A Big News Week Looms Ahead

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By Todd Johnson

40 Man Decisions

Monday should be a big newsday as every major league baseball team has to turn in their 40 man roster which will include prospects that will no longer be available for other teams to take  in the Rule 5 Draft. it should be interesting to see which players the Cubs protect.

With six spots on the 40 man available, I have a pretty good inkling that the Cubs’ list will be pitching heavy with Adbert Alzolay, Oscar de la Cruz, Pedro Araujo, outfielder Charcer Burks, and infielder David Bote most likely to be added. I also think that Trevor Clifton and Jake Stinnett could make the 40 man cut as well. It would be a huge gamble to leave one of the two off. Then again, the team that selects a player has to put them on the 25 man roster. It is easier to hide a pitcher in the pen than a position player on the bench. Don’t be surprised if the Cubs only select pitchers to go on the 40 man.

Braves Punishment

Major League Baseball will supposedly be handing down their punishment to the Atlanta Braves tomorrow. I expect it will be harsh and result in several prospects being named free agents, including SS Kevin Maitan. It would be wise of Maitan to wait until July 2 to resign with a new team as most teams have already spent most of their 2017 IFA pool. The 6’2” 190 pound 17-year-old would look good in Eugene this summer!

Arizona Fall League Ends

It was an up and down 6 weeks for most of the Cubs’ prospects. David Bote came on like gangbusters hitting .333 with a .395 OBP to go with 4 HRs (most in the first week). Catcher Ian Rice was pretty steady hitting .311 with a .415 OBP in just 13 games. Outfielder Charcer Burks hit .236 while Jason Vosler hit .210 with a .323 OBP and 2 HRs.

Pitcher Alec Mills had his moments as a starter but then equally struggled at times. Adbert Alzolay was used frequently and was excelling before he gave up 6 runs in 0.2 innings. However, Jake Stinnett and Pedro Araujo shined all fall with ERAs under 2 and K rates of 14+/9 IP.

The Cubs brass probably learned what they wanted to know about each prospect this fall. Tomorrow, we shall see who they value most from this bunch when some will be protected and some will not.

Prospect Lists

While Baseball America did kick off the prospect list season this week, it will be about another month before Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs do theirs. In the meantime, John Sickles will probably have his prospect list released by the end of this week or early next week.

Leveling Up

On Wednesday this week, the off-season prospect series debuts with a profile of outfielder DJ Wilson. The series is called “Leveling Up.” The emphasis of each article will be a 2017 review  and a 2018 to do list. On Friday, the position breakdown series returns as I analyze each position by ranking the top Cub prospects at that position.

Mailbag Part 2 Coming Up

The first mailbag post this week was somewhat successful. I have enough questions left over for two more posts. The second one will be out tomorrow, the other on the 27th.

Baseball Card of the Week

Cubs Insider

Baseball America Top 10 Reaction

BP Wrigleyville

Why Have the Cubs not Developed a Pitcher Yet?

 

Cubs Central Mailbag- Episode I: MiLB Offseason Questions

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By Todd Johnson

Some weeks in the off-season, I struggle with things to write about. This week, I had a little epiphany after reading Baseball America’s top 10 chat post. I decided, after several years, to finally do a Mailbag about questions people have about the Cubs minor league system. However, I cannot answer all the questions in one post. There will be a second set of questions to answer next week. Who knows, I might just make this a weekly thing in the off-season or, at the very least, a monthly thing overall. I will see what the response is.

Here we go…

Teddy Eley
What are your thoughts on Ian Rice? How has he developed defensively and does he have any chance at an MLB role?

I really like Ian Rice. Right now, there’s not really a place for him in Chicago and he’s getting pretty close. While his natural swing creates a lot of lift for the baseball, I am even more impressed with his plate discipline. He is not Mark Zagunis good, but he is close when it comes to getting on base. I don’t think he’s quite there defensively but he is not a detriment behind the plate anymore. Working with Mark Johnson at Tennessee improved his all-around defensive skills as he threw out 9 of 35 base stealers to go with just 8 passed balls this season. With Caratini ahead of him, and Willson at the major-league level, Rice’s power is what is going to get him to the majors. Some team is going to want to take that skill in a trade.

Eldrad
Ademan #1 prospect, BA? Really?

Yes, really. Then again, I don’t agree with it. While I do think he is one of the top five position player prospects in the system, I am leaning towards moving Nelson Velasquez above him on my prospect list within the next year. If Nelson had played fall season baseball last year, I might have him ahead of Ademan already. Still, Ademan does have a lot of potential as a middle of the diamond player with a bat that is still emerging.

Archie Tex
Who are the guys that most likely will be the 40-man roster spots 26-35?
This is a great question. It has been Theo and Jed’s Modus Operandi in the past in stocking that part of the roster with AAAA players. Most of them once had a crack at the majors but just could not get over the hump. I think the Cubs’ system is now deep enough that their own prospects will make up the majority of this range. There might be 2 to 3 AAAA relievers along with Eddy Butler, Alec Mills, Jene-Ho Tseng, Rob Zastryzny, and Duane Underwood along with some bench depth. But the position player depth will mainly be staffed by outfielders Mark Zagunis and Charcer Burks and catcher Victor Caratini (if he doesn’t make the 25 man roster). Somehow the Cubs need another shortstop as they might not want to rely on Carlos Penalver in case of injury to either Addison or Javy.

Eldrad
Bryan Hudson had a 3.6:1 GB:FB ratio last year, the best in the organization. Can a +3 ratio be sustained at higher levels?

I am really excited about watching Hudson pitch at Myrtle Beach in 2018! I think he’s going to break out a little bit; in fact, a lot. As for the ground ball rate, I think he’ll be able to maintain that this year and will probably slip a little bit once he gets to AA Tennessee. Hudson is starting to realize he can get the ground balls with a well placed fastball along with his plus curve.

I have several more questions in the queue already for next week from Cory Alan, Eldrad, and Rikk Carlson about Jeremiah Estrada, Wladimir Galindo, Jhon Romero, Buddy Bailey, and trading MLB talent for MLB talent. If you have a question, you can send it to me on Twitter @CubsCentral08 or you can email me at: CubsCentral2016@gmail.com.

The Weekly: September Callups and the Playoff Push

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By Todd Johnson

There are just three weeks left in the MiLB season. With the Iowa Cubs out of the running, the Cubs will have some callups once September arrives and rosters expand. I would not expect too many players considering the Cubs are in the midst of a pennant race. Here are five players I think the Cubs will add for the final month. All but one are on the 40 man roster and a space will have to be made to add that one player.

Mark Zagunis – I think he is the only position player who gets added since Caratini arrived to replace Willson.

Jack Leathersich – A lefty, he’s been lights out at Iowa but I doubt he would pitch in Chicago except in a blowout.

Eddie Butler – I like adding him as a long man or backup starter.

Rob Zastryzny – He was just up for a day and should be up all September now that he is healthy.

Dillon Maples – He is the only one who is not on the 40 man roster. Then again, he could be added long before September comes the way he is pitching.

Outside shot of being added – Catcher Taylor Davis – I don’t think Manager Joe Maddon wants to go into the playoffs with a couple of run down catchers. Hopefully Willson will be back in a month. In the meantime, Davis would provide a day off for both catchers or an inning or two of relief in blowouts down the stretch to keep them fresh as well.


A month ago, I published an article about the Arizona Fall League and 40 man roster implications. At first, I thought about revisiting that post in the wake of the trades, but Eloy Jimenez was the only player affected from the post. Instead, the only possible outcome would be that there might be one more 40 man roster spot available. In the article, I predicted who the Cubs might protect from the Rule V Draft by adding them to the 40 man roster. I also suggested some possible prospects who could play in the AFL. The Cubs may want to save a spot for Willson Contreras to rehab considering how  well that worked for someone else last year to come back for the World Series.


In other news this week, Baseball America produced a new top 100 prospect list that includes this year’s draft picks. There are still no Cubs. I don’t think there will be until the middle of next year.


Coming up at Cubs Central.
School starts for me this week. After two days of institute on Wednesday and Thursday, the students arrive on Friday.  I have a couple of posts already in the queue ready to go. One is an interview with Myrtle Beach Pelicans pitcher Duncan Robinson. The other is a post about investing in Cubs prospects. I will also examine possible names of some DSL players who should be headed north for Fall Instructs. That could be the week after. You never know how news flows.


Saying Goodbye
Yesterday morning, my wife and I had to put down one of our dogs. Phoebe was a terrier mix who was almost 13. She lived a good life of walks, treats, and belly rubs. In the past year, she had lost her sight and most of her hearing. We miss her already.


Around the Minors:
Iowa – 4-3: Jen-Ho Tseng continues to roll and reliever David Garner was promoted to AAA.

Tennessee – 3-3: 3.5 GB of a playoff spot – Yasiel Balaguert was named Southern League Hitter of the Week while Duane Underwood might be named Pitcher of the Week tomorrow.

Myrtle Beach – 1-5: It is rough all around in South Carolina. Reliever Pedro Araujo was promoted to AA Tennessee. I hope to see some infusion of talent from South Bend to give the Pelicans a shot at winning back-to-back-to-back titles.

South Bend – 4-2: I am seeing some growth and development from DJ Wilson, Kevonte Mitchell, and Bryan Hudson that is extremely promising. In addition, pitcher Tyler Peyton is on a great streak of pitching well the past three weeks. He has put himself into contention to make the monthly all-star team. Tomorrow’s post will be about how South Bend can help Myrtle Beach win the Mills Cup.

Eugene – 2-5: 1 Defensive woes derailed their week but they are still just one game away from a playoff spot. Brandon Hughes is starting to warm up again.

Mesa – 2-3: The kids are getting experience even if it doesn’t show up in wins. Delvin Zinn seems to be back in a groove hitting over .300 this month.

DSL 1 – 3-4 – OF Luis Hidalgo got the call to Mesa this week.
DSL 2 – 2-4 

Baseball Card of the Week

Players of the Week

My Other Stuff on the Web From This Week
Cubs Insider:
Austin Upshaw Profile
MiLB Pitcher of the Year Discussion
Duane Underwood

Arizona Fall League and Rule V Decisions Loom This Month

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By Todd Johnson

At some point over the next two weeks, the Cubs will select up to eight players to participate in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. The league is a collection of elite talent. Held in October and November, the Cubs use this opportunity to evaluate how some players do against top-flight competition. The Cubs also use the league after to determine if they want to add certain players to the 40 man roster to avoid losing them in the Rule V Draft. And they also get some top prospects, who have been injured, some extra games in.  

This year is quite the conundrum. I think the Cubs could add up to 8 prospects to the 40 man roster this winter. Here is List of Eligible Players for the rule five draft per The Cub Reporter:

Tyler Alamo, Adbert Alzolay, Luis Ayala, Yasiel Balaguert, Corey Black, David Bote, Cael Brockmeyer, Charcer Burks, Stephen Bruno, Roberto Caro, Trevor Clifton, Kevin Cornelius, Oscar de la Cruz, Enrique de los Rios, Andin Diaz, Andrew Ely, Luiz Escanio, Bryant Flete, Robert Garcia, David Garner, Yapson Gomez, Zach Hedges, Luis Hernandez, Jesse Hodges, Eloy Jiménez, John Michael Knighton, Erick Leal, Mark Malave, Dillon Maples, Brad Markey, Joe Martarano, Ryan McNeil, Jordan Minch, Erling Moreno, James Norwood, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Adonis Paula, Jose Paulino, Tyler Pearson, Henry Pedra, Stephen Perakslis, Jhonny Pereda, Chris Pieters, Bijan Rademacher, Moises Ramirez, Will Remillard, Juan Rengifo, David Rollins, Manuel Rondon, Carson Sands, Pedro Silverio, Jake Stinnett, Tommy Thorpe, Jen-Ho Tseng, Jason Vosler, Ryan Williams, Chesny Young, Jose Zapata.

Let’s start by looking at who the Cubs may send to Arizona.

I think two pitchers they want to get a closer look at are Dillon Maples and Adbert Alzolay. Although Alzolay is a starter, he could work in relief in Mesa. I also think 3B Jason Vosler and OF Charcer Burks are definitely going to Arizona. You could even throw in left-handed reliever Jordan Minch as that is a scarce position in the majors. The Cubs could also use a closer look at C Ian Rice and to get him more time behind the plate with elite pitchers. Closer Pedro Araujo Is another ascending reliever who the Cubs might want to take a look at. Currently he is dominating as the closer at Myrtle Beach. Outfielder Eddy Martinez could get a shot at Arizona if he could improve a little bit this summer. Currently, he is hitting .325 over his last 10 games.   

The big-name prospect that they could send this year is not Eloy. Instead it is pitcher Oscar de la Cruz who missed most of June with a strained shoulder muscle. I would like to see how his mid 90s heat does against more advanced hitters.

As a result, I think the Cubs will definitely select a minimum of five players to go on the 40 man roster this winter. I do think they could really add up to eight.

Definitely 40 man material  

Adbert Alzolay, Charcer Burks, Trevor Clifton, Oscar de la Cruz, Eloy Jimenez

I think these five are all on a major-league track. Adbert’s has been a surprise this year along with Burks. The other three have been some of the Cubs top prospects for the past three years. I would be stunned if Clifton, Jimenez, and de la Cruz are not on the 40 man.   

Most Likely Added

I really like Dillon Maples. His curveball is out of this world and he’s really taking big steps toward becoming a major-league reliever this year. I think it all boils down to confidence for him and he will probably be in Iowa in August. As for Jason Vosler, I think the Cubs need to see what they have in the left-handed third baseman before they make a decision. He had a great April and May before slumping in June, even though he hit five home runs for the month.   

Maybe – Maybe Not

Chesny Young has not had the greatest year. I don’t think the Cubs are going to protect him. If they don’t, I think somebody might snag him. Jen-Ho Tseng is a tricky one. He’s had a rebirth this year, but I don’t know if he will make it to Chicago if he does get put on the 40 man.   

Probably Not

Bijan Rademacher is a guy you root for. He is still relatively young and can play all three outfield positions. He just doesn’t have much power but he can hit for a high average.

Jake Stinnett, Erick Leal, Ryan Williams, Zach Hedges, Carson Sands – These are all nice guys but injuries have done four out of five of them in for this year. Sands might be one to talk about a year from now. He is currently rehabbing in Mesa after elbow splints.

Foresight

Joe Martarano – even though he missed a season playing football, he was just promoted to South Bend. I know a team is not going to take a chance and select him with the expectation of him playing on the major-league roster. A year from now, that might be a different discussion.   

Jordan Minch – he’s left-handed, he’s a reliever, and if exposed, he might get selected. But that’s a big if.

Do they stay on?

Right now Pierce Johnson, Dwayne Underwood, and Jacob Hannemann are all on the 40 man roster. Johnson and Underwood have had underwhelming seasons in 2016, while Hanneman has had a resurgence in his best month as a prospect since his promotion to AAA Iowa. I think the Cubs give them one more year. Underwood, after all, is only 22 years old. On the other hand, Johnson and Hannemann are 26.

The decisions for the Arizona Fall League usually occur in the middle of July. Whomever the Cubs select to attend always gives a glimpse into who they value and who they need to evaluate some more.

Hitters Are Beginning to Catch Up As It Gets Warmer

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By Todd Johnson

With two home runs on Tuesday night, Zack Short capped off a ten game span in which he’s hit .306 with 4 HRs, 12 RBIs, and an OBP of .419 mostly in the leadoff spot for South Bend. Short’s short burst helped propel South Bend into a three-way tie for first place on Wednesday morning.

It is getting to be that time of the baseball season where hitters are catching up to hitters. In early April, it is easier for the pitchers to get a jump on the hitters, especially in cold weather sectors like the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region that is the Midwest League. However, Cubs hitting prospects are hitting all over. While Ian Happ, Jeimer Candelario, and Victor Caratini busted out of the gate early in April, it has taken time for the rest of the Cubs top prospects to do some catching up.

South Bend
Wladimir Galindo – Hitting .421 over his last ten games, Galindo’s breakout coincided with him being able to go the other way. I thought he might be pull happy to start the year. Instead, he is showing himself to be a complete hitter and is now entrenched in the number four spot for the first place Cubs. The power has yet to come, but it will.

Yeiler Peguero – He is on a .364 clip in his last ten games and also drove in nine runs in that span. He even cranked a home run and a double off the top of the fence in one game. I knew he could hit and could be an exciting player just based on his performance last year at Eugene. I did not know he could be this dependable.

Myrtle Beach
Robert Garcia – I first heard of him in Rookie League in Mesa when he hit .341 in the summer of 2015. Last year in Eugene, he was a bit overshadowed by some other prospects and only hit .283. This year, the 23 year -old switch hitter skipped South Bend and is holding his own in the Carolina League. In his last 10 games, he’s going along at .387 clip.

Tennessee
Charcer Burks – I love to watch Charcer Burks play. He is gold glover on defense and he is beginning to figure out the offensive side of the ball. He got a couple looks with the big league club in spring training and it appears he gained some confidence in that process. In addition to being a key cog in Myrtle Beach’s championship run, Burks is having his best season as a Cub. He’s currently hitting .292 with an OBP of .418 for Tennessee. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Burks’ play has helped Tennessee get off to a great start.

Trey Martin – He was off to an outstanding start in Tennessee before a hamstring injury sidelined him. Like Burks, Martin is an excellent defender and is also beginning to figure himself out at the plate. In just 8 games, he was hitting .320 with 2 HRs and 6 RBIs. I can’t wait to see him get back to playing.

Keep an Eye On
Jake Hannemann – He has always been a great defender and athlete, it is his bat that has always been lacking. I think he may have found it. He stayed behind at Extended Spring Training and gradually began to destroy the pitching there. I have never been that high on him just based on his lack of offensive production. Occasionally, there would be an outburst here or there, just not any sustained production. I think that changes this year. Now that he is on the 40 man roster, I think expectations changed from the Cubs, and more importantly, from himself. Look for good things from him in Tennessee.

Spring Training News and Notes – Week 4: The Prospects Let Some HRs Rip

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By Todd Johnson

It is hard to believe this was the fourth week of Spring Training!

It was a busy week in the Cubs camp as the roster went from 80 players down to 60. All of them were pitchers moved down to the Minor League camp. Here are some random thoughts from the week.

The week got off to a good start with Albert Almora’s grand slam. Then it was up and down all week. Wade Davis was hit hard as was Pedro Strop. Eloy was hitting lasers off the wall in CF at 120 mph. David Rollins continued rolling along as did Rob Zastryzny. Both lefties are going to make it hard for the powers that be to select just one left-handed reliever. Brian Duensing, a veteran lefty the Cubs signed this offseason, was hit hard on Thursday and may be injured. The severity of the injury is not known at this time

The World Baseball Classic started this week. Javy Baez is on the Puerto Rico team and playing an exciting second base. Outfielder John Andreoli drove in the winning run for Team Italia on Thursday after coming back from four runs down in the ninth.

I was not a fan of the Brett Anderson signing.when it happened because of his injury history. His time in spring training has done nothing to change my mind. Unless he is working on something, he’s just getting shelled every outing. As a result, Mike Montgomery is now the hands down favorite for the fifth starter spot.

Kyle Schwarber made a nice leaping grab on Thursday. He came down on his left and looked good doing so. I am starting to warm up to his knee being in much better shape now than it was a month ago. Still, I don’t think it is well enough to catch even an inning, or well enough to risk even catching an inning.

On Friday, two big things happened. One Kyle Hendricks was outstanding in his third start of the spring. He went three innings, gave up one hit, and struck out 4. He looked in midseason form. I am leaning towards selecting him in the second round of my fantasy draft. I think even with the change in the strike zone, he will have a great season with his ability to move the ball all around the plate. 

Also, Ian Happ went off on the Mariners. Happ went four for five with four RBIs and was a triple shy of the cycle. I’m pretty sure he’s beginning to think that he belongs. The problem is where to play him. He could be ready to play in Chicago late this year. More than likely, he could also be available in a trade. But for now, I think for 2017, he stays a Cub. The Cubs must maintain their depth and Happ is an essential part of that depth.

On Saturday afternoon, the young Cubs put on a HR display with dingers by Kyle Schwarber, Eloy Jimenez, and Ian Happ. It will be hard to keep the last kids down in the minors for much longer. Check out Eloy’s no doubt HR courtesy of Cubs Insider. 

MiLB Action

Gioskar Amaya is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery last month per Arizona Phil. He joins Corey Black and Carson Sands on the injured list.

The Cubs signed 23-year old OF Brandon Cummins from the Southern Illinois Miners. He hit.340 in his final 19 games after going 1-for-17 in his first six contests according to the Miners website. In college, he played at Delta State with Cubs prospect Trent Giambrone.

Live Batting Practice has been taking place. Trevor Clifton, Preston Morrison, Dylan Cease, and other possible starting minor league pitchers got in some work on the mound this week. According to John Arguello, Cease and Clifton looked very good.

Joey Martarano announced after a horrific the injury that he would be returning to baseball full-time. He made the announcement on Instagram and happen to use a certain baseball card made by a certain baseball blog site.

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Draft Profile Update:

Big left-handed pitcher David Peterson from the University of Oregon went 7.1 innings on Friday night and struck out 14. I think he’s going to work his way into first round consideration. He has 31 Ks in his last 15 IP. He is improving rapidly after a rough start to his season. His ERA has gone from 11+ down to 3.20 in 4 starts.

Upcoming Posts
Prospects Who Have Helped Their Cause This Spring
Draft Profile – Alex Scherff