The preliminary Opening Day roster for the South Bend Cubs was released Monday, highlighted by five top Chicago Cubs pitching prospects.
Those players include two top-10 Cubs prospects (as ranked by Baseball America), RHP Jose Albertos (No. 3) and LHP Brendon Little (No. 7), as well as RHP Cory Abbott (No. 16), RHP Javier Assad (No. 23) and RHP Erich Uelman (No. 27). One top-30 position player is on the roster, catcher Miguel Amaya (No. 22).
The 19-year-old Albertos, a 2015 signee from Mexico, has a higher ceiling than any other Cubs pitching prospect, according to Baseball America. His best pitches are a changeup and a fastball, and he has a slider that needs work to reach its potential. Working on that slider and staying healthy are the keys to success for Albertos this year, BA says. In 10 starts during the regular season last year (two at rookie-level and eight in short-season A), he went 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43 innings.
Little is the highest-ranked left-handed pitcher in the Cubs farm system. A first-round draft pick (No. 27 overall) last year, the 21-year-old is projected by Baseball America as a mid-rotation starter. His three pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) show great potential, but his results as a pro have been mixed so far. He made six starts for the short-season Eugene Emeralds late last season, going 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA, 12 strikeouts and nine walks in 16 innings. Obviously he is expected to do much better than that this season.
Abbott was a second-round draft pick last year. Baseball America notes that the 22-year-old adopted the slider grip of Noah Syndergaard after studying video of the Mets ace. He made five starts for the Emeralds last season, posting a 3.86 ERA with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 14 innings.
Assad, a 2015 signee from Mexico, made 13 starts at Eugene last season. He went 5-6 with a 4.23 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 21 walks in 66 innings. He has a low-90s fastball that can reach 96 mph, but Baseball America doesn’t consider him a power pitcher, and projects him to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Uelman looked promising in his seven relief appearances for the Emeralds last season, posting a 2.04 ERA (four earned runs) with 23 strikeouts and nine walks in 17.2 innings. That stint with Eugene was the 2017 fourth-round draft pick’s pro debut, which he hopes to build upon this year.
Amaya, a Panama native who turned 20 last month, is considered by Baseball America as the best catching prospect in the Cubs farm system’s lower levels. His defense is definitely better than his offense right now, however, as he batted only .228 in 58 games in the short-season Northwest League last year. BA believes he has offensive upside, showing more raw power than expected (14 doubles, three homers).
Another catcher on the South Bend roster, 22-year-old Puerto Rico native Michael Cruz, batted .282 with 8 HR and 28 RBI in 35 games with Eugene last year, but hit only .186 with 1 HR and 8 RBI in 25 games with South Bend.
Outfielder Zach Davis is a player to watch on the basepaths, as he stole 23 bases in 56 games in the Northwest League last year. He batted .275 with 2 HR and 12 RBI for Eugene, and also played four games with South Bend.
You can see the complete South Bend Cubs roster here.
The South Bend Cubs are being managed by Jimmy Gonzalez again this year. He was the 2016 Midwest League Manager of the Year. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.
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