Its a little different in the Northwest League. The road trips are long (you’ll need a passport) and the roster changes almost daily. The Cubs are back in Eugene for their second year and recently extended their player development contract to stay in Oregon through the 2018 season.
The Eugene roster features two of the Cubs top young pitching prospects—RH Dylan Cease and LH Bryan Hudson. Cease, the Cubs 6th round pick in 2014, has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is back to throwing near 100 mph. Cease also posses a wicked curve ball but still struggles throwing strikes on an consistent basis. The 20-year-old will get the start on opening night.
Hudson, 19, was the Cubs was the third-round pick last June out of Alton High School in southern Illinois. The 6-foot-8 lefty throws in the low 90 and only has 6.2 pro innings under his belt as he heads to short-season.
The Emeralds pitching staff will be the strength of their roster.
Justin Steele, 20, started the year at South Bend but struggled (3-5, 6.17 ERA, 9 GS, 1.94 WHIP) and was sent to extended spring training in early June. The left-hander features a three-pitch mix and had his moments in South Bend but wasn’t consistent. Don’t be surprised if the Mississippi native is back in a South Bend uniform by the end of the summer.
Paulino, 21, returns to Eugene after making six starts and appearing in 12 games (4-6, 4.42 ERA) last year. Rondon, 21, was acquired last summer from the Angles and the lefty went 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in eight games, logging 31.1 innings in Arizona Rookie League.
Castillo, 20, was the second pitcher the Cubs received in the Tony Campana trade with the D-Backs back in 2013—Myrtle Beach’s Erick Leal was the other. Castillo spent the past two years in Mesa and appeared in 11 games last year (1-2, 4.58 ERA, 19.2 IP, 1.78 WHIP), all in relief.
Two arms that could work their way into the rotation are right-handers Pedro Silverio and Enrique De Los Rio. After two plus years in the DSL, Silverio, 21, made the jump stateside last summer and appeared in six games (three starts) in the AZL. De Los Rio, a native of Venezuela, was the one of the Cubs top starters for two years in the VSL and the 21-year-old threw 26 innings last season in the AZL.
C Alberto Mineo hit .202/.308/.303 in 32 games last year for Eugene and will be joined behind the plate by 2015 draft picks Marcus Mastrobuoni and Tyler Payne. Mastroubouni, 22, was the Cubs 25th round pick and hit .159/.269/.182/ in 16 games in Mesa. Payne, 23, was tabbed in the 30th round and batted .192/.333/.212 in 16 contests in the AZL. There’s a good chance 7th round pick Michael Cruz joins the team soon since a deal has been reported.
Gleyber Torres is considered the Cubs top prospect but the North Siders also inked fellow Venezuelan and Torres’ traveling partner during the showcase circuit, Wladimir Galindo. Hampered by an wrist injury last year, the 6-foot-3 third baseman shows good game power but needs to work on his defense and footwork at the hot corner.
19-year-old Andruw Monasterio and 18-year-old Yeiler Peguero will man the middle of the infield to start the year and could be joined shortly by 17th round pick Zack Short, who is expected to sign and join the Emeralds.
The slick-fielding Monasterio signed out of Venezuelan before the 2014 season and hit .292/.368/.343 in the VSL and batted .252/.346/.348 in 42 game last year in Mesa. Peguero signed for $250,000 during the 2014 July 2 period, the most the Cubs could offer after going over their international bonus pool the year before. In his first pro season he hit .284/.389/.369 in 64 games and was named the MVP of the DSL All-Star game. The Dominican native will skip the Arizona Rookie League and go straight to short-season after impressing at extended spring training.
1B/3B Matt Rose is back in Eugene after playing in 38 games in South Bend (.178/.252/.304) to start the season. The 21-year-old hit five homers in the MWL and you can expect him to get back on track and slug his way out of Eugene. Jose Paniagua, who started in year in South Bend, will see time at first.
Darryl Wilson, the Cubs 4th round pick last June that received $1.3 million, heads a crowded Emeralds outfield. The 19-year-old appeared in 22 games in his debut season in the AZL with a slash of .266/.322/.354 with five stolen bases. Robert Garcia hit .341/.409/.445 in 47 games last year in the AZL after playing two years in the Dominican Summer League.
Two year ago Chris Pieters was pitching in the DSL and after a position switch, the 21-year-old made his stateside debut (9G, 9-for-35) at the end of last season after posting a .311/.457/.428 slash line in 53 games in the DSL. Outfielders Ricardo Marcano, Kevonte Mitchell and Alex Bautista all return to Eugene as well as Michael Foster, the Cubs 16th round pick last June out of Northeastern.
Jesus Feliciano begins his third season as a coach in Chicago's organization and his first as a manager with Eugene after spending last season as South Bend's hitting coach. He enjoyed a 16-year playing career from 1998-2013, including action in 54 games with the Mets in 2010.
Joining the staff at Eugene will be pitching coach, Brian Lawrence, who enters his first season as Eugene's pitching coach after serving in the same role with South Bend in 2015. Lawrence made his coaching debut in 2012 in the Independent Frontier League and spent 2013 as the pitching coach of Single-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres system. The former right-hander went 50-63 with a 4.19 ERA during a six-year big league career with the Padres and Mets.
Ty Wright, who spent seven years as an outfielder in the Cubs minor league system, is the team's hitting coach after serving as a coach with Mesa last year. Gary Van Tol will serve as a coach after spending the last three seasons as Eugene's manager. Logan Severson begins his first season as the athletic trainer in Mesa after interning with Triple-A Iowa in 2012. Ryan Nordtvedt enters his fourth season in the organization and his second as Eugene's strength and conditioning coach.