I hope you all enjoy this exercise in speculation. With big league camp already in full swing and minor leaguers arriving in Mesa daily, there will be plenty of battles in Arizona for spots on the full-season rosters. Here’s my best guess and some analysis where they stack up as camp opens.
If you want more info on the minor leaguers just click on the name and check out the analysis on their player page, which includes their bio.
Breakdown—Unless there’s an injury this is pretty much the pitching staff the Cubs will break camp with at the end of spring training. Caleb Smith is a Rule 5 pick and if he doesn’t stay on Cubs 25-man roster they need to return him to the Yankees. New York may not want him back and the Cubs would be able to send him down to the minors.
Relievers—Jose Rosario, Felix Pena, Pierce Johnson, Jack Leathersich, Zac Rosscup, Conor Mullee, Daniel Moskos, Miguel Mejia, Jhondaniel Medina, Manny Parra, Gerardo Concepcion, Maikel Cleto, Corey Black, Andury Acevedo, Daniel Corcino, Stephen Perakslis, Dylan Floro, David Rollins, Jim Henderson, Williams Perez, Fernando Rodriguez,
Breakdown—In case you didn’t notice there’s more pitchers listed than spots on Iowa’s entire roster. The Cubs will have some tough decisions and are likely to cut several from this list. Some of these arms will start 2017 on the DL and some have opt out dates in their minor league deals. A few may even end up in Tennessee and that will keep a few arms at extended spring training instead of South Bend. Newly acquired Alec Mills and Eddie Butler will both get a chance to prove they can be future rotation pieces for Chicago.
Breakdown—The Southern League hasn’t been kind to the Cubs top pitching prospects the past few years as Pierce Johnson and Duane Underwood struggled. Right-handers Trevor Clifton and Jake Stinnett should start the year in AA and see if they can buck the trend. Zach Hedges is a pitcher to keep an eye on after a solid 2016 season that saw him get promoted to AA. The right-hander doesn’t have overpowering stuff but has a knack of getting weak contact and hitters out—think Kyle Hendricks.
Breakdown—The pitching staff at Myrtle Beach should be strong, no matter what six arms end up in the rotation. Kyle Miller is probably the sleeper of the bunch because of his slender frame but the right-hander throws a heavy ball and is a favorite in the organization. Left-handers Justin Steele and Carson Sands may need more time in South Bend before moving to High A but both need to have bounce back seasons in 2017. Ryan Kellogg was South Bend’s most durable arm in 2016 and the left-hander could have a big year in Myrtle Beach. Oscar De La Cruz will need to log over 100 innings to continue to improve his stock.
Relievers—Jared Cheek, Tanner Griggs, Mark Malave, Jed Carter, Andin Diaz, Chad Hockin, Marc Huberman, Michael Knighton, Dakota Mekkes, M.T. Minacci, Tyler Peitzmeier, Duncan Robinson, Alex Santana, Wyatt Short, Cole Brocker
Breakdown—All eyes will be on fireballer Dylan Cease, one of the top arms in the organization. Cease can light up the radar gun but consistently throwing his breaking ball for strikes and developing a third pitch will be the key to his success. My favorite of this bunch is Erling Moreno, the 20-year-old Columbian who dominated the AZL and NWL last year in his first full season since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Many of these names may be kept at extended spring training depending on how many arms the Cubs want to keep at the upper levels.