Addison Russell prepares for his first full-season at short at the bigs after taking over for Starlin Castro last summer. Acquired from the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija trade, Russell is one of the league’s top defenders and possess the tools to become a solid MLB hitter. Javier Baez is the back-up shortstop.
In Iowa, Munenori Kawasaki and Kris Negron will share duties to start the 2016 campaign and based on their play this spring, have proved they’re capable if needed. Logan Watkins (21st round-2008) returns from an Achilles injury and will see time at SS and 2B.
One the top defensive shortstops in the minors, Carlos Penalver (Venezuela-2010) has stayed under the top prospect radar. The 21-year-old isn’t helped by a BaBIP of around .245 the last two seasons, batting just .202 last year and .211 in ’14 at Kane County. One of my favorite players to watch on defense, he makes it look easy and is walking highlight reel.
Gleyber Torres (2013—Venezuela) is considered the Cubs’ top prospect after earning the same title last year in the Midwest League as an 18-year-old. Torres plays well above his age and while he’’ll need to become more consistent on defense, he’s already advanced at the plate and will show more power as he matures.
I’m interested to see who gets the starting nod in South Bend as several middle infielders could be in the mix including Vimael Machin (10th round-2015), Andrew Ely (32nd round-2014), Sutton Whiting (24th round-2015), and Ho-young Son (2014-South Korea). Ely made 31 starts at short last year in Eugene while Machin played 19 games between South Bend and Eugene. Whiting got a few starts at his college position and Son made 34 starts for the Emeralds, hitting .218/.291/.277.
Eighteen-year-old Andruw Monasterio (2013-Venezuela) hit .252/.346/.694 in 42 games for Mesa while Yeiler Peguero (2014-Dominican) had a solid season in the Dominican Summer League (.284/.389/.369), earning all-star game MVP honors.
During the International signing period that began June 2, the Cubs added a hand full of potential middle infielders to keep an eye in their first pro season. Dominican Aramis Ademan (17, L/R, 5-11, 160) and Venezuelan Yonathan Perlaza (17, S/R, 5-10, 195,) head the list that includes Luis Diaz ( 16, R/R 5-10, 175 ) and Christopher Morel (16, R/R, 6-0, 140,), both from the Dominican Republic, and Isaac Paredes (17, R/R, 6-0, 175) of Mexico.
South Bend Cubs
Four Winds Field will host a Night at the Ballpark on Wednesday, April 6, as fans will get a first-hand look at the 2016 South Bend Cubs. Gates open at 5:30 with the event starting at 6 p.m. Second-year manager Jimmy Gonzalez and his new squad will practice on the field from 6 to 7:30 p.m. with an autograph session immediately following. General admission tickets are only $5 and all proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County. In addition to watching the team practice on the field, the first 500 fans through the gates will receive a 2016 team poster.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
In the wake of Adam LaRoche's retirement from baseball, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, will invite alumnus LaRoche and his son Drake to the ballpark for #FamilyFirst Night and Field Day on Monday, August 15, when the team takes on the Winston-Salem Dash, the White Sox affiliate. The Pelicans understand the importance of a strong family relationship and are proud to add this promotion to their 2016 schedule.
Prior to the night's game, the team will host a #FamilyFirst Field Day from noon to 2 p.m. With summer winding down, the Pelicans are encouraging employees, fans, sponsors and more to attend the August 15 event for an afternoon of family fun including free inflatables, field access, clubhouse tours and more. Concession stands will be open and hot dogs will be on sale at the event for $1 with all proceeds benefiting Backpack Buddies, an organization dedicated to providing food for underprivileged children in Horry and Georgetown Counties. Every father who makes a donation to the Backpack Buddies Program will receive a free pair of tickets to the 7:05 p.m. game against Winston-Salem. All fathers and children are welcome onto the field prior to the game to play catch. Additionally, all fathers and children will have the opportunity to receive a photo of them walking away from the ballpark to signify LaRoche "walking away" from baseball. LaRoche spent the 2001 and part of the 2002 season with Myrtle Beach as an Atlanta Braves farmhand. He was known for having Drake with him nearly all the time throughout his 12-year major league career that saw him play for six teams. With Drake earning the nickname as the "26th man" during LaRoche's tenure with the Washington Nationals, the Pelicans will give one lucky fan a No. 26 jersey during their game against the Dash.
The Tennessee Smokies will host their annual Fan Fest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, at Smokies Stadium. The free event will give the option to receive guided tours of the renovated facility and be able to play catch on the field. Attendees will also get a chance to try free food samples and receive complimentary soft drinks and water. As well, the first 500 people through the gates will receive a free ticket to Opening Night on Thursday, April 7. Fandemonium 2016 will also feature a media backdrop at the entrance for photos with the Smokies' mascots, between inning games on the field with the team's Rally Crew, inflatables for kids and raffle tickets with prizes ranging from giveaways, autographs, tickets and more.
An Open House to get fans ready for the season will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, at Principal Park. Fans will be able to tour the stadium—from the clubhouse area to the skybox suites and most everything in between. Weather permitting, fans will be allowed on the outfield playing surface. The playground and inflatable games will also be available to kids.The Cub Club restaurant will also be open for business. The Iowa Cubs team store will have sale items and the first look at new merchandise for 2016 as well. Fans who attend will be treated to free hot dogs and soft drinks. Those who register to win a free skybox rental will also receive a pair of general admission tickets to a game in April.