Mark Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

A look at the Chicago Cubs minors as spring training games begin

NorthSiders Report takes a look around the Cubs system as the organization prepares for the 2016 minor league season that begins April 7

Let the games begin

Cubs kicked-off their 2016 minor league season with 2-1 loss to the Brewers at Maryvale on Thursday afternoon. Daniel Vogelbach got the start at DH and hit 8th, going 1-for-3 with an RBI opposite field, two-out double in the 7th. In his first at-bat in the third he lined out to left and then grounded out to second in the fifth. Jacob Hannemann (0-1) pinch-ran after the double.......In the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs starters hit the bench and were replaced by a slew of minor leaguers including SS Gleyber Torres (0-1), CF Albert Almora (0-2), 3B Jeimer Candelario (0-2), and LF John Andreoli (0-1), Newcomers 1B Kris Negron (1-2, R, SB), C Tim Federowicz (0-2), and RF Juan Perez (0-1, BB) all saw their first action as Cubs.

Several Cubs’ minor leaguers were invited to spring training as non-roster players including pitchers Duane Underwood, Felix Pena, Ryan Williams, and Armando Rivero; catcher Taylor Davis; and outfielders Alberto Almora and John Andreoli. Cael Brockmeyer and Ian Rice are also in camp assisting with extra catching duties. Minor leaguers on the 40-man roster include pitchers Carl Edwards Jr., Dallas Beeler, Eric Jokisch, and Pierce Johnson; catcher Willson Contreras; and infielders Jeimer Candelario and Daniel Vogelbach.

Williams, the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, drew praise from former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe after watching him throw live batting practice on Sunday....Pierce Johnson will get the start in the Cubs second spring training game against the Angels and the home opener at Sloan Park on Friday. Johnson has battled injuries the past two seasons, slowing his development, and went 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 starts in AA last year.

Villanueva breaks leg

Third baseman Christian Villanueva became the first causality of Cubs training camp when the infielder broke his fibula during infield practice. Villanueva fielded a high hopper and came down wrong on his right leg. The Mexico native is out of options and was either going to make the Cubs 25-man roster or be placed on waivers. The Cubs can put Villanueva on the 60-day disabled list and will likely try to pass him through waivers after he recovers and rehabs.

Murton has surgery

Cubs outfielder Matt Murton, who signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, had emergency appendectomy surgery on Saturday and may not miss much action. Murton was back in camp on Monday and could return to full duty soon. After spending the last six seasons in Japan, Murton is in a battle for the fifth outfield spot.

Transactions

The Cubs have announced several moves this spring. Right-hander reliever Blake Cooper has retired. The 27-year-old was acquired from the D-Backs in August of 2014 for OF Brett Jackson. Cooper made 50 relief appearances last year for Iowa (7-5, 2.63 ERA, 5 SV, 68.1 IP, 28 BB, 63 K, 1.27 WHIP)...........Cubs have also released four low-level players—LHP Carlos Rodriguez, IF Carlos Jimenez, OF Kevin Brown, OF Kevin Encarnacion. Brown was the Cubs 22nd round pick in 2013 and spent last year between Iowa and Myrtle Beach, hitting .225/.288/.336 in 75 games for the Pelicans. Encarnacion, 24, was once considered a rising prospect but was involved in a car accident in the Dominican with other Cubs prospects, missed all of 2014, and hit .276/.345/.376 in 63 games at South Bend last year. Rodriguez, 20, spent four years with the Cubs while Jimenez, 22, played two years, hitting .236/.264/.330 in 30 games in Mesa in ’15.

 


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