Tennessee Smokies 2014 preview

Not sure what will be more impressive at Smokies Park this summer, the power show from Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, or the pitching arms of CJ. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Ivan Pineyro and Corey Black.

How do you follow up Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks ?......How does Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, C.J. Edwards, and Pierce Johnson sound ?

While Johnson won't join the team for a few weeks (hamstring injury set throwing schedule back) the fans at Smokies Park are in store for another summer of exciting baseball. Northsiders Report featured 16 players on the roster during its prospects profiles this winter and links to those stories can be found by clicking on the player's name.

Tennessee's 2014 Roster

Here's a look at the roster with a brief bio on each player.

Pitchers

C.J. Edwards—Going to be tough for the South Carolina native to repeat his 2013 season as he went from a low-level fringe prospect in the Rangers system to Minor League Pitcher of the Year after being traded to the Cubs. However, he has the arm to do it. Able to command a mid-90s fastball and a sharp curve, the 22-year-old fanned 155 in 131.2 innings last season.

Corey Black—Acquired from the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano, the California native features a fastball in the mid-90s, and while some think he's more suited for the bullpen, the Cubs are giving him every chance to make it as a starter. The 5-foot-11, right-hander led the Florida State League in strikeouts, splitting the season between Tampa and Daytona.

Ivan Pineyro—Another arm acquired via trade in '13, the right-hander from the Dominican threw 80 innings in two levels of A-ball for the Nationals before joining Daytona in July. He went 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA with the D-Cubs and tossed seven shutout innings in the FSL championship finals for a Game 2 win. Pineyro's best pitch is his change-up and also throws a fastball and curve, commanding all three pitches.

Ryan Searle—An arm injury shelved most of the Australian's '13 season but he earned FSL Pitcher of the Week honors in April and then ended the season closing out a pair of playoff games. He logged 55 innings in the Australian Baseball League this winter and pitched for the National Team against the Dodgers in an exhibition in late March. In his seventh season with the Cubs, the right-hander could see action out of the bullpen and as a starter.

Dae-Eun Rhee—The South Korean tossed 59 innings last year for the Smokies in 11 starts sandwiched between an arm injury that required rehab appearances in Mesa and Boise. The 25-year-old is in his seventh season with the Cubs organization and will be used to spot start and out of the bullpen.

Lendy Castillo—A Rule 5 pick from the Phillies in 2012, the infielder turned pitcher spent '13 between Kane County and Daytona going 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA. The 24-year-old (turns 25 April 8) pitched for Chicago in 2012, appearing in 13 games with a 7.88 ERA.

Hunter Cervenka—The left-handed reliever appeared in 30 games for the Smokies last year with 33 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. Acquired from the Red Sox in the Marlon Byrd trade in 2012, Cervenka started last year in Daytona and is on the Cubs short-list for left-handed bullpen arms.

P.J. Francescon—The right-hander returns to the Smokies after splitting last season between Daytona and AA. He started 13 games for Daytona but was moved the bullpen with his promotion to Tennessee. He tossed 30 inning for the Smokies, with 16 BB, 21 K, and a BAA of .238.

Matthew Loosen—Loosen was lights out at Daytona in '13—nine starts, two complete games including a no-hitter. His two stints in Tennessee were a different story—13 starts, 6.14 ERA, 15 homers in 66 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander (turns 25 April 10) understand the importance of keeping the ball down and looks to get back in rhythm with pitching coach Storm Davis.

Jeffrey Lorick—Joined Daytona in May after rehabbing from an injury and appeared in 26 games out of the pen (3-0 3.32 ERA, 43.1 IP, 45 H, 23 BB, 35K, 3 SV). Lorick was acquired by the Cubs in the Derek Lee trade with the Braves in 2010.

Armando Rivero—The Cuban right-hander battled for a spot in Chicago's bullpen this spring and will start '14 back in AA. Armed with a fastball in the mid to upper 90s, Rivero pitched in three levels last year and finished up in the Arizona Fall League. Should get plenty of save opportunities and may not be in AA long.

Tony Zych—A 4th round pick in 2011, the right-handed reliever out of Louisville will pitch in Smokes Park for the third straight season, appearing in 47 games last year (5-5, 3.05 ERA, 56 IP, 40 K, 3 SV).

Catchers

Charlie Cutler—Acquired in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December, Cutler spent the previous two seasons in the Pirates organization at AA Altoona. He was originally drafted by the Cardinals and was a former Midwest League all-star for Quad Cities.

Rafael Lopez—The Southern League all-star returns to Smokies Park after hitting .247/.350/.392 in 95 games in '13. Lopez's experience will serve the Tennessee pitching staff well and he showed some power with eight homers, equaling his career total his first two seasons.

Infielders

Kris Bryant—The second overall pick in last year's June draft has lived up to the hype, dominating at Boise, Daytona and the Arizona Fall League, where he earned MVP honors. Bryant will anchor the hot corner and his progression in Tennessee may decide his future position. All things considered, (like spots on the 40-man roster) I don't think the Cubs promote Bryant this season, especially if he continues at third base.

Dustin Geiger—Coming off a breakout season at Daytona where he finished third in the FSL in RBI, Geiger made the switch from third to first base, fielding at a .994 clip. Geiger's performance the last two seasons hasn't gone unnoticed by the front office as Jason McLeod gave the Florida native high praise during the Cub convention.

Wes Darvill—After playing a solid second base at Daytona during the playoff run, Darvill gained more experience as a member of the taxi squad in the Arizona Fall League. The left-handed hitting middle infielder continues to show progress after being drafted as a 17-year-old out of Canada in 2009.

Jonathan Mota—This marks the fifth straight year the Venezuelan will spend time in Tennessee as the utility infielder begins his 10th season with the Cubs organization. He sported a OBP of .348 last year in 109 games and knocked in 40 runs while playing all four infield positions.

Jeudy Valdez—The 24-year-old spent the past eight seasons in the Padres organization and was signed as a free agent. Three years ago Valdez hit 15 homers with 92 RBI and stole 34 bases in the California League. He'll see plenty of time at short this summer in Tennessee.

Stephen Bruno—Despite only playing 19 games in Daytona before Tommy John surgery sidelined his season, the 23-year-old will start the year in AA. The University of Virginia product won the Northwest League batting title (.361) after being selected in the 7th round in the ‘12 draft. He batted .362/.436/.478 at Daytona before going on the DL.

Outfielders

Jorge Soler—A broken bone in his leg sidelined Soler's 2013 regular season but he did play 20 games in the Arizona Fall League, hitting safely in 18. A FSL all-star, even with a broken shin, I look for Soler to take some big strides this season at Smokies Park. His power will pay well in the Southern League, especially paired in the lineup with Bryant. Look for Soler to spend a majority of the season at AA and begin pounding on the door to the majors in 2015.

John Andreoli—The right-handed hitting outfielder led all Cub minor leaguers in batting average (.305) and stolen bases (40) last season as he split the year between Daytona and Tennessee. A 17th round pick in 2011, the University of Connecticut product returns to AA with his sights set on a promotion to Iowa.

Rubi Silva—One of the top outfield arms in the organization, the Cuban native had a power surge in '13 hitting 15 homers and was second in the league to teammate Christian Villanueva in total bases with 226. The 24-year-old needs to improve his plate discipline as he only walked 18 times in over 500 plate appearances.

Zeke DeVoss—The former second baseman made the switch to centerfield in 2013 in Daytona and continued to prove he can get on base, leading the FSL in walks and hit-by-pitch. He was third in the league with a .393 OBP despite hitting .246, finished second with 39 stolen bases, and third in runs scored with 71 while spending most of the season in the leadoff spot. He's another "under the radar" prospect you need to keep an eye on, especially if hits at AA.



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