On a roster primarily built to provide depth at the major league level in case on injuries, outfield Brett Jackson and second baseman Logan Watkins are two position players to watch this year at Iowa.
Jackson may start 2013 in Iowa but he may not stay long. Its no secret the only thing preventing the 2009 first-round pick from the big league roster is his strikeouts, he led the Pacific Coast League last year with 158. He spent the off-season working on his swing but had only 17 at-bats this spring as he missed two weeks with right shoulder tendinitis. Jackson hit .256 at Iowa in 2012 leading the PCL with 12 triples, before a call up on August 5 for his MLB debut. He played in 44 games going 21-120 with 4 HR and 9 RBI for Chicago.
Selected in the 21st round in 2008, Logan Watkins has spent an entire season at all five Cub minor league stops during his career. The Wichita native led the FSL with 12 triples for Daytona in 2011 and scored a league-leading 93 runs for AA Tennessee last year while hitting .281 with a .383 OBP. He played in the Arizona Fall League in 2012 and participated in the Cubs inaugural Rookie Development Program in January.
Here's a look at the rest of the Iowa Cubs roster:
The Iowa pitching staff is an interesting collection of arms including nine that saw time in the majors last year. Chris Rusin, a fourth round pick in 2009, was outstanding in six spring training games for Chicago with a .218 BAA and a WHIP of 0.90. The lefty started 25 games for Iowa in 2012 throwing 140.1 innings, going 8-9 with a 4.55 ERA. He went 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts for Chicago making his MLB debut on Aug. 21 in Milwaukee. Brooks Raley started 14 games for Iowa last season (4-8 3.62 ERA) after beginning the year at AA Tennessee. The left-hander made his MLB debut on Aug. 7 at San Diego and went 1-2 in five starts with a 8.14 ERA. The staff includes the Cubs 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Nick Struck, a 39th round pick in 2009. The 23-year-old went 14-10 in 26 starts with a 3.18 ERA in 155.2 innings. One pitcher to keep an eye on is right-hander Barret Loux, acquired as part of the Geovany Soto trade with the Rangers. The #6 overall pick in 2010 draft was named 2012 Texas League Pitcher of the Year going 14-1 with a 3.47 ERA.
Jaye Chapman, Casey Coleman, Blake Parker, and Rafael Dolis all saw action at Wrigley Field last year. Chapman was acquired at the July trading deadline from Atlanta and made his MLB debut on Sept. 4, appearing in 14 games in relief. Coleman has spent the three previous season between Iowa and Chicago, pitching in 48 big league games, 17 last year. Parker started last year in Iowa and was called to Chicago in May; pitching in seven games before two stints on the 60-day list ended his season. Dollis made 34 relief appearance for Chicago last year, all in relief, going 2-4 with a 6.39 ERA in three different trips to Wrigley.
Drew Carpenter (Blue Jays, 6 games), Zach Putnam (Rockies, 2 games), and Cory Wade (Yankees, 39 games) all pitched in the majors last year and were signed as free agents by the Cubs front office and invited to spring training as non-roster invitees. Jensen Lewis, signed to a minor league contract in December, made 52 appearances for AAA Reno in 2012.
Yoanner Negrin and Esmailin Caridad both return to Iowa. After signing with the Cubs in July out of the Mexican League, Negrin started three games for Iowa throwing 15 innings with a 3.60 ERA. Caridad appeared in 44 games last season for Iowa compiling a 3.03 ERA win 65 innings. He fanned 65 and allowed 52 hits.
A pair of catchers have been assigned to Iowa for the 2013 opener—J.C. Boscan and Luis Flores. Boscan, 33, starts his 17th professional season spending the last five seasons in the Braves organization. He played in 11 MLB games for the Braves, appearing in 77 games last year in AAA hitting .189. Flores was a 7th round pick of Cubs in 2008 has moved his way up the Cubs system as a backup catcher, playing a career-high 67 games in 2009. He hit .167 in 26 games at AA Tennessee last season.
Third baseman Josh Vitters starts his second year at Iowa after making his MLB debut in 2012. He played in 36 games in Chicago hitting just .121 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. He had a good season at Iowa, batting .304 with 17 HR and 68 RBI. The Cubs signed two veteran minor leaguers—Edwin Maysonet (SS) and Brad Nelson (1B). Maysonet, 31, played in 30 games for the Brewers hitting .250 in 2012. Nelson, 30, who made his MLB debut in 2008 with the Brewers, spent the last two season with AAA Round Rock (Rangers) hitting 24 homers each season. Wes Darvill, who played in 116 games for Class-A Peoria last year, will start the season at Iowa, while Alberto Gonzalez starts the year in Chicago with Darwin Barney on the DL.
Joining Jackson in the outfield are Cubs' farmhand Ty Wright and free agent acquisitions Brian Bogusevic, Darnell McDonald and Tim Torres. Bogusevic played in 146 games for the Houston Astros last year hitting .203 with seven homers and 15 stolen bases. He was drafted as a pitcher, making the switch to the outfield in 2009. McDonald, 34, was a top prospect in the Orioles organization after being drafted in first round in 1997. He played for the Yankees and Red Sox last season and was signed by Cubs in January. Torres, 29, was drafted by Astros in 23rd round in 2006 and has spent seven years in minors, hitting .226 in 101 games for AA Tulsa last season. Wright was a 2007 7th round pick of the Cubs and was named a Southern League All-Star in 2010 hitting .298 with 10 homers. His season was cut short last year at Iowa due to a shin injury but he still hit .287 with 5 HR and 33 RBI. The Cubs signed Ryan Sweeney to a minor league contract on April 2 and he is expected to join Iowa's roster. Sweeney is a seven-year MLB veteran playing 63 games with the Red Sox last year (.260 0 HR 16 RBI), before being cut this spring by Boston.
After spending the past three seasons as the Cubs' catching coordinator, Marty Pevey will be Iowa's new manager for the 2013 season. He joined the Cubs' organization in 2009 as the manager for the Peoria Chiefs, earning co-manager of the year honors. Pevey started his coaching career with the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 1996, which included big league experience as the Toronto's bullpen coach as well as first and third base coach. He played 13 big league games with the Expos in 1989 after being drafted by the Twins in the 19th round of 1982. Mike Mason returns to AAA Iowa for his sixth season as the team's pitching coach. Before joining the Cubs he coached for the Phillies and Royals. He spent eight season in the majors pitching in 140 games for the Rangers, Cubs and Twins. After managing Daytona and Tennessee the past two seasons, Brian Harper will begin his first season as the hitting coach for Iowa. He managed with both the Giants and Angels minor league system and played 16 seasons in the majors with the Angels, Pirates, Cardinals, Tigers, A's, Twins and Brewers. He hit .295 with 63 HR and 428 RBI.
The Iowa Cubs open the 2013 season on Thursday, April 4, at Albuquerque and the home opener at Principal Park will be at 7:05 p.m., Friday, April 12 against the Isotopes.