Throughout the off-season, we have been checking in on former and future Iowa Cubs that have been staying active on the field in winter leagues in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Today's Winter League Report focuses on recent I-Cubs and those that remain in the Cubs' system for 2017.
Perhaps the biggest story out of winter ball this year was RHP Corey Black. Black, traded to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano in 2013, was all but dismissed by Cubs fans as he appeared to be far from making an impact in Chicago. The 25-year-old followed a rollercoaster 2016 with a fierce winter league campaign with Santurce. A career starter, Black was moved to the bullpen in 2016 and seems to be finally settling into his new closing role. Compiling a 4.25 ERA (25ER/53.0IP) between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Black rebounded with a 0.43 ERA (1ER/21.0IP) with 12 saves in 20 games in the winter league. Black remains in the Cubs' organization and is expected to return to Iowa to begin 2017.
Outfield prospect Jacob Hannemann struggled to find his swing for Santurce. Coming off a 2016 that was marred with injury, Hannemann looked to make up for lost playing time this winter, but failed to adjust as he hit .120 (9-for-75) in 22 games. MLB.com has the speedy outfielder pegged as the Cubs' No. 19 prospect entering the season. If he can stay healthy, he is likely to get his first chance at Triple-A with Iowa some time in 2017.
RHP Miguel Mejia is no stranger to the winter leagues, having played solely in the winter months from 2012-15 - save for a one-game stint in Japan in 2015. He compiled an excellent off-season this year, holding opponents to a .167 average and allowing one earned run over his last 10.0 innings with Caguas. Overall, the righty went 1-2 with a 1.64 ERA (4ER/22.0IP). Mejia re-signed with the Cubs this off-season and will likely return to Iowa.
LHP Giovanni Soto returned to the starting rotation with Carolina after pitching out of the bullpen for his last four seasons of professional ball. He dominated the Puerto Rican Winter League with a 2.05 ERA (11ER/48.1IP) through nine starts. Soto claimed six quality starts and shutout his opponents through 7.0 innings twice. The lefty was designated for assignment by the Cubs in October, claimed off waivers by the A's later in the month and claimed again by the White Sox in November.
LHP Gerardo Concepcion pitched to a 5.79 ERA (9ER/14.0IP) for Magallanes and averaged 12.21 strikeouts per nine innings this winter. He had an exceptional start to 2016, compiling a 24.1 scoreless inning streak, dating back to 2015, between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa and was promoted to his major league debut because of his dominance. Following a three-game stint with Chicago in late-June, Concepcion returned to Iowa and racked up a 10.58 ERA (29ER/24.2IP) through the remainder of the season. The lefty elected free agency in the fall and re-signed a minor league contract with the Cubs shortly after.
INF Bryant Flete has touched every level in the Cubs' farm system, save for Triple-A, since signing as a free agent in 2012. The 23-year-old suited up for Zulia this off-season and hit .246 (29-for-42) with two homers and 12 RBI.
RHP Greyfer Eregua was a reliable arm in Magallanes' bullpen, throwing to a 3-0 record and 1.76 ERA (3ER/15.1IP) with four walks and 16 strikeouts. He held his opponents to a .212 average during his winter league stint. The 23-year-old will enter his fifth professional season in 2017 and has ascended as high as Advanced-A in the Cubs' system.
RHP Armando Rivero carried his dominance from Iowa in 2016 through his limited stint with Aragua. He gave up a single run over 9.0 innings - a solo homer. Rivero, an Iowa mainstay from 2014-16, was selected by Atlanta in the Rule-5 draft this off-season.
OF Juan Perez appeared in his fifth winter league campaign in his native Dominican Republic. Perez was successful for Aguilas, hitting .291 (50-for-172) with 13 doubles and 24 RBI. He even managed a .300 clip (33-for-110) against righties after hitting .240 (64-for-267) against right-handers in 2016 with Iowa. Perez signed a minor league contract with Detroit in December.
RHP Carlos Pimentel split his time with Escogido between the bullpen and the starting rotation, amassing a 2.63 ERA (7ER/24.0IP) overall. In 7.2 relief innings, Pimentel allowed just two earned runs (2.35 ERA). The righty had just two regular season relief appearances over the last two seasons and had tallied 69 over his 10-year minor league career. Pimentel is a free agent this off-season.
INF Christian Villanueva missed the entirety of 2016 after breaking his leg during spring training. The infielder was healthy enough to play for Obregon this off-season and hit .278 (15-for-54) with three home runs and nine RBI through 15 games. Villanueva was non-tendered by the Cubs following the 2016 season and as a free agent, signed with the Padres in December.