Des Moines, IA - The Chicago Cubs and Iowa Cubs are pleased to announce the team's 2014 Opening Day roster. SS Javier Baez and RH Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs' 2013 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year respectively, headline a group of some of the organization's top prospects on this year's team. The roster also features 10 players on Chicago's 40-man roster, 13 players with major league experience, and 12 that have played with Iowa before.
Baez is one of the top-five prospects in baseball according to most publications after hitting .282 (146-for-517) with 37 home runs and 111 RBI combined between high-A Daytona and double-A Tennessee last year. He will be joined by fellow prospects Arismendy Alcantara and Christian Villanueva on the infield. Alcantara is also rated among the top 100 prospects in baseball according to several publications and represented the Cubs in the All-Star Futures Game in New York last year. Villanueva is rated as the Cubs' 13th-best prospect according to Baseball America and led the double-A Southern League in doubles, total bases, and extra-base hits last season. Logan Watkins returns for a second season in Iowa. He led the team in triples and walks last season even though he was called up to Chicago on August 4 and finished the season in the big leagues. Veterans Lars Anderson and Chris Valaika round out the infield. Both have big league experience. Anderson was up with the Boston Red Sox for 30 games from 2010-12 and Valaika has played 55 games with the Cincinnati Reds (2010-11) and Miami Marlins (2013).
Former top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters return to the patrol the outfield at Principal Park, looking to bounce back from injury-marred seasons last year. 26th-rated prospect Matt Szczur (pronounced Cesar) will see his first triple-A action coming off a career year at Tennessee last season. Veteran Chris Coghlan rounds out the outfield. He is in his first year in the Cubs' organization after eight seasons with the Marlins. He was the National League Rookie of the Year for Florida in 2009.
The Cubs will feature three left-handers in the starting rotation, including 2013 Pacific Coast League All-Star Chris Rusin who will get the start on Opening Day. It's his second straight Opening Day start for Iowa. The rest of the rotation follows with RH Carlos Pimentel, Hendricks, LH Eric Jokisch, and LH Tsuyoshi Wada. Pimentel signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent this off-season after seven seasons in the Texas Rangers' organization. He reached triple-A Round Rock at the end of last season and was the Dominican Winter League's Pitcher of the Year this off-season.
Hendricks combined to go 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA (37ER/166.1IP) in 27 starts between Tennessee and Iowa last year, finishing seventh in minor league baseball in ERA. Jokisch, a product of Northwestern University in Chicago, pitched a no-hitter last year for Tennessee, and led all Cubs' minor leaguers with 137 strikeouts in 160.2 innings. Wada recorded 107 wins in 201 games over nine seasons with Fukuoka in his native Japan before coming to the United States and signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. He has pitched the last two seasons at triple-A Norfolk.
The bullpen is full of familiar faces, with six of the eight pitchers having appeared for Iowa in past seasons. RH Blake Parker will appear for Iowa in seven straight seasons, going back to a two-game stint in 2008. He is the organization's all-time saves leader with 41. RH's Casey Coleman, Marcus Hatley, Marcos Mateo, and Yoanner Negrin along with LH Zach Rosscup also return. Coleman led Iowa with 41 appearances last season and is 22-16 with a 3.78 ERA (142ER/337.2IP) in 86 games (47 starts) in his Iowa career going back to 2010. Hatley has made 47 appearances with Iowa over the last two seasons. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Mateo in the Rule 5 Draft in December, but returned him to the Cubs during spring training. Negrin led Iowa with 118 strikeouts in 108 innings in 34 appearances (14 starts) last year. Rosscup spent most of last season at Tennessee, but joined Iowa for nine games before getting called up to Chicago. RH Neil Ramirez and LH Jonathan Sanchez round out the bullpen. Ramirez came to the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Matt Garza deal last July. Sanchez signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter for San Francisco in 2009 and won a World Series ring with the Giants in 2010.
Veteran Eli Whiteside and Luis Flores will share the catching duties. Whiteside caught Sanchez's no-hitter with San Francisco in '09 and was part of their World Series title teams in both 2010 and 2012. This will be his 14th season in professional baseball and he has played in 208 career big league games. Flores played 61 games with Iowa last year in his first year at triple-A.
The Cubs will open the season on Thursday, April 3 against the Memphis Redbirds at 6:35 PM. The gates at Principal Park will open at 5:05 and the first 1,000 fans will receive magnet schedules sponsored by Hicklin Garage Doors and Pittsburgh Paints. The game will be broadcast live on AM 940 and streamed at iowacubs.com. Deene Ehlis and Randy Wehofer return for their seventh season together on the broadcast. Tickets are on sale at Principal Park, online at iowacubs.com, or by phone at (515) 243-6111.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.