South Bend opens the 2017 campaign at West Michigan with a group that’s looking to add another championship ring to their collection. With a large core from Eugene’s NWL title team moving up a level, the South Bend roster is littered with low level prospects. Here’s look at this year’s team
Dylan Cease—One of the Cubs top pitching prospects, the 21-year-old heads to the Midwest League for his first look at a full season. Cease had Tommy John surgery after being drafted in the sixth-round in 2014 and made his pro debut in ’15 in the Arizona Rookie League. Last year in Eugene, Cease logged 44.2 innings and went 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA with 66 K. Cease consistently throws in the high 90s and also spins a sharp breaking ball.
Darryl Wilson—A fourth-round pick in 2015 that received over a $1 million bonus, the 20-year-old hit .257/.320/.371 in 64 games with Eugene. He added 15 doubles and 21 stolen bases while playing a stellar centerfield. One of the fastest players in the organization, Wilson shows decent power from the left-side of the plate.
Named the top pitcher in the Northwest League last year, Manuel Rondon sees if he can log over 100 innings in his first year at a full-season affiliate. Rondon, 22, went 6-1 with a 1.10 ERA in 12 starts for Eugene and was acquired by the Cubs in a trade with Angels back in 2015. Part of the Cubs 2013 IFA class, Erling Moreno is healthy from Tommy John surgery and showed everyone last year, going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP in six starts for Eugene. Signed out of Columbia, the 20-year-old started last year in Mesa and earned a late July promotion to the NWL.
The Cubs fourth-round pick last June, Tyson Miller appeared in two games in the Arizona Rookie League and six more for Eugene in NWL, going 2-1 in 3.14 ERA in 28.2 innings. Duncan Robinson, the Cubs 9th round pick out of Dartmouth last June, has been named a starter after logging 20.1 innings after the draft between Eugene and Mesa. Two more arms that saw time in the rotation last year are Kyle Miller and Pedro Silverio. Miller, 23, was the Cubs 19th round pick out of South Atlantic in 2015. He appeared in 20 games last year in South Bend, nine as a starter, posting a 5-2 mark with a 2.57 ERA. Silverio, 22, was part of Eugene’s rotation (3-2, 4.50 ERA, 11 starts, 44 IP) and could work his way back into the rotation before season’s end.
Right-hander Jared Cheek (2015-21st round-Georgia) anchors the pen, recording 17 saves between South Bend and Eugene last year. A majority of the bullpen is comprised of 2016 draft picks including LH Wyatt Short (13th round-Mississippi), who didn’t allow an earned run in 15 appearances (7 saves) for Eugene and saved both playoff games he appeared in, including the clincher. Other 2016 draft picks in the bullpen include RH Chad Hockin (6th round-Cal-State Fullerton), RH Dakota Mekkes (10th round-Michigan State) LH Marc Huberman (18th round-USC), RH Michael Rucker (11th round-BYU), and RH Matt Swarmer (19th round-Kutztown). Swarmer spent his season in Mesa (18.2 IP, 23 K) after the draft while the rest of those arms all pitched for Eugene.
Alberto Mineo, Tyler Payne and Jhonny Pereda will start the year as the Cubs backstops. Mineo played in 40 games last year for South Bend, hitting .243/.298/.329, while spending part of his playing time at first. Payne was the Cubs 30th round pick in 2015 and shared catching duties last year at Eugene (.246/.335/.391, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 41 G). Pereda, 20, part of the Cubs 2013 IFA class, makes the jump from the Arizona Rookie League to the MWL after hitting .289/.376/.406 with two homers in 41 games last year for Mesa.
An Arizona Rookie League All-Star last year, shortstop Isaac Paredes is back in South Bend after ending last year with the Cubs, including the playoffs. Paredes, 18, hit .305/.359/.443 in 47 games with 14 doubles and 26 RBI in his first pro season after being signed out of Mexico as part of the 2015 IFA class. Slowed by a wrist injury in 2015, third baseman Wladimir Galindo came roaring back last year, leading Eugene is almost every offensive categories while slashing .243/.337/.462 with nine homers and 40 RBI. Part of the Cubs famed 2013 IFA class, the 20-year-old improved his defense at third.
Yeiler Peguero, Zack Short and Vimael Machin round out the infield. Peguero, 19, is one of the top defender's in the organization and hit .260/.326/.336 with Eugene last year in his first season stateside. He made 42 starts at second and 24 at short for the Ems. The Cubs 17th round pick last June out of Sacred Heart, Short, 21, helped Eugene to the title, batting . 236/.401/.323 in 39 games while moving into the starting shortstop role. Machin, the Cubs 10th round pick in 2015, played in 49 games and hit .267/.377/.311 between Iowa, South Bend and Eugene.
With Wilson getting the majority of playing time in center, Kevonte Mitchell, Chris Pieters and Luis Ayala will spend their time on the corners. Drafted out of high school in 2014, Mitchell, 21, showed some power with five homers and 12 doubles while slashing .243/.318/.378 in 62 games and threw a runner out at home in Eugene's game-clinching NWL title win. A former pitcher, Pieters, 22, played in 62 games for Eugene, hitting .246/.324/.337 with 20 stolen bases, splitting time between left field and first. Ayala makes the jump from the Arizona Rookie League to South Bend. Part of the 2013 IFA class, Ayala, 21, hit .283/.330/.369 with 19 stolen bases in 46 games for Mesa last year after two seasons in the Venezuelan Sumer League.
Named the Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2016, Jimmy Gonzalez is back with his third season with South Bend and fourth as manger spending 2014 with Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League. Brian Lawrence is the pitching coach for South Bend, having the same role for Eugene in 2016 and he’s quite familiar with many of the arms. Hitting coach Jeremy Farrell has been promoted from Mesa to South Bend and Jonathan Mota will serve as the assistant coach, his second in the organization, after an 11 year career in the Cubs minors.
Midwest League primer
The SB-Cubs play in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League with Bowling Green (Rays), Dayton (Reds), Fort Wayne (Padres), Great Lakes (Dodgers), Lake County (Indians), Lansing (Blue Jays), and West Michigan (Tigers). They travel to Western Division foes Peoria (Cardinals), Burlington (Angels), Wisconsin (Brewers) and Beloit (A’s); and host Kane County (D-Backs), Clinton (Mariners), Quad Cities (Astros) and Cedar Rapids (Twins).