Two of the Cubs' top prospects, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, top Daytona's 2013 roster as the Cubs season gets underway at 7:05 p.m., EST, Thursday, April 4, at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Daytona against Brevard County, the Milwaukee Brewers affiliate.
Both Baez and Soler grabbed the headlines at spring training as they played several games with the big league club. Baez appeared in 17 games hitting .298 with 4 HR and 10 RBI. He also hit two homers against Japan, including a walk-off in an exhibition game that didn't count in the stats. Soler also played 17 games in the outfield hitting .222 with one homer and 3 RBI.
Baez was the Cubs # 1 pick, (9th overall) in 2011 (played in just five games after the draft) and began 2012 at extended spring training but was promoted to Peoria on May 28. Baez hit .33 at Peoria smacking 12 HR with 33 RBI in 213 at-bats. He was promoted to Daytona in August but struggled, hitting only .188 in 80 at-bats. He was selected to play in the Arizona Fall league but hurt his thumb and only got to play in 14 games hitting .211 with 4 HR and 16 RBI. Baez was part of the Cubs Convention in February and participated in the Cubs first-ever Rookie Development Program in January.
The Cubs signed the Soler to a nine-year deal last summer, accumulating 134 at-bats between the Arizona Rookie League and the Midwest League. At Peoria, the Cuban hit .338 with three homers and 41 total bases in 20 games. He also stole 12 bases on the year. It will be interesting to see how Soler handles his first full season of pro baseball in America.
The Daytona roster is full of familiar faces to Jackie Robinson Stadium including returning all-stars John Andreoli, an outfielder, and pitcher Austin Kirk. Drafted in the 19th round out of Connecticut in 2011, Andreoli spent last season at Daytona hitting .289 in 412 at-bats with an OBP of .402. The speedster swiped 55 bases but was caught 20 times. He was named a Cubs organizational all-star by MiLB in 2012. Kirk was a third-round pick in 2009 out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma, and gained fame in 2011 throwing a no-hitter for Peoria on July 4 against Clinton. The 2012 FSL all-star made 21 starts for Daytona last year with a 7-3 record and 3.13 ERA in 129 innings. He was promoted to AA Tennessee pitching in five games for the Smokies including four starts.
The following is a breakdown of the rest of the roster:
PitchersYeiper Castillo -Signed as a free agent in December, Castillo has spent the past six seasons in the Red Sox organization and was used primarily as a starter and has never pitched higher than A-ball. He's thrown 481.1 innings with a respectable 3.61 career ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Zach Cates -Acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade, Cates started 17 games last season in three different stops, including seven games in Daytona. He was 0-6 with the FSL club with a 10.5 ERA. Frank Del Valle -Signed out of Cuba during the summer of 2011, the left-hander made 15 starts with Daytona last season with a 5-5 record and a 3.26 ERA. He threw 99 innings with a .194 BAA. Eduardo Figueroa -Signed as a free agent in 2007, this is Figueroa's seventh season in the minors and will be his third straight year in Daytona. He pitched in 37 games last year with a 2.90 ERA and a BAA of .218.
P.J. Francescon -Drafted in 2011 with the 40th pick, the right-hander made 26 Class A starts last year, including the final 17 with Daytona. He went 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA at Peoria and threw 84 innings in the FSL with a BAA of .257.
Luis Liria -Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, the right-hander starts his sixth season in the minors. He appeared in 39 games last season for Peoria with a 1.61 WHIP and a 3.92 ERA in 59.1 innings.
Sheldon McDonald -A native of Canada drafted in the 33rd round in 2011, the left-hander made 33 relief appearances for Peoria striking out 57 in 62 innings. He finished the year with a 1.89 ERA and had a BAA of .205.
Starlin Peralta -Selected by Arizona in the Rule 5 draft this past year, Peratla was returned to the Cubs as he failed to make the D-backs opening day roster. He started 17 games for Peoria in 2012 going 5-8 with a 3.44 ERA. The 22-year-old averaged 7.8 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Austin Reed -A 12th round pick in 2010, the right-hander moved to the bullpen last season appearing in 38 games for Peoria going 5-8 with a 3.65 ERA. He had 49 Ks in 61 innings with a BAA of. 283.
Ryan Searle -Signed as a free agent in 2007, the right-hander spent part of this spring pitching for Australia in the World Baseball Classic, making one start while lasting three innings and allowing four runs. Searle pitched at AAA Iowa and AA Tennessee last season, along with 32 games for Daytona.
Yao-Lin Wang -Signed as a free agent out of Taiwan in 2009, the right-hander has been used as a starter and out of the bullpen during his three seasons in Cubs organization. He had 12 saves last year in Peoria and will most likely be used to close games in the FSL.
Ben Wells -Drafted out of high school in the 7th round in 2010, the Arkansas native made eight starts for Peoria but an injury in early June sent him back to Mesa. The 20-year-old pitched in three games after returning for the Chiefs and ended the season with 39 punchouts in 45 innings.
Taylor Davis -Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Morehead State in 2011, the 23-year-old caught 52 games last year for Daytona, hitting .223 with 2HR and 26 RBI. He started 2012 in Peoria hitting .338 in 18 games.
Micah Gibbs -A third round pick in 2010, the LSU product spent the entire year at Dayton in 2012 hitting .200 with 4 HR and 16 RBI.
Chad Noble -The 25-year-old from Northwestern was a 37th round pick in 2010 and this will be his third stint at Daytona, catching 48 games in 2011 and 49 last year, splitting time with AA Tennessee.
Benjamin Carhart, 3B-Last year at this time, the Florida native was playing third base at Stetson University. Now his handling the hot corner in his first full pro season in Daytona. The 35th round pick hit .353 in 35 games in the Arizona Rookie League with a . 419 OBP. He hit one homer and knocked in 21, with 16 multi-hit games and a 12-game hitting streak.
Zeke DeVoss, 2B-The former Miami Hurricane returns to his home state after spending last year at Peoria, where he hit leadoff with a OBP of .382. The third-round pick in 2011 stole 35 bases. He was a Midwest League All-Star and led the league in walks (88) and was third in runs (88).
Dustin Geiger, 1B-Another Florida product returns to the Sunshine State for his fourth minor league season. A 24th round pick from Merritt Island High School, Geiger blasted 17 homers last season despite breaking his hamate bone. He had 53 RBI, including eight in one game.
Stephen Bruno, IF/OF-The Northwest League's batting champ last year hitting at a .361 clip, the seventh round pick last year begins his first full-season at Daytona. The University of Virginia product had a 22-game hitting streak in Boise.
Tim Saunders, IF-Taken in the 32nd round pick out of Marietta College last season, Saunders proved he can hit, batting .381 with stops in Arizona, Peoria and Daytona in 49 games. He had a OBP of .431 and jacked a home run for the big league club in spring training.
Taiwan Easterling, OF-The former Florida State wide receiver was selected in the 27th round by Cubs in 2011 and last year played in 70 games with Peoria hitting .243. Easterling has a good arm and stole 18 bases. He hit .307 his first year of pro ball.
The Daytona Cubs have a new manager and coaching staff for the 2013 season. Dave Keller, the Cubs' minor league hitting coordinator from 2004-10, will manage Daytona while former MLB players Mariano Duncan (hitting coach) and Storm Davis (pitching coach) round out the staff. Keller spent last year as the Cubs hitting coach for AAA Iowa and has managed in the Indians and White Sox organizations. Duncan spent the last two years as the Cubs AA hitting coach and Davis, new to the organization, was the pitching coach for Class A Hickory, a Rangers affiliate, the past two seasons.