Iowa Cubs Announce 2015 Opening Day Roster
The Chicago Cubs and Iowa Cubs are pleased to announce the team's 2015 Opening Day roster. The group is highlighted by 2014 Baseball America and USA Today Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant, consensus top-five prospect Addison Russell, and the Cubs 2014 top prospect Javy Baez. All three will play on Iowa's infield to create one of the most anticipated lineups in the minor leagues.
The roster features eight players on the Cubs' 40-man roster, 13 players with major league experience and 14 players who have suited up for Iowa before.
Bryant enters 2015 as the number one overall prospect in the minor leagues according to Baseball America, ESPN.com, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. His 43 home runs led all of minor league baseball, as did his 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, .661 slugging percentage and 1.098 OPS. He won the Double-A Southern League's home run derby, was named Cubs Minor League Player of the Year and started at third base in the MLB Sirius XM Futures Game in Minneapolis, Minn. Bryant is coming off a stellar major league Spring Training which saw him lead the bigs with nine home runs.
Russell, Baseball America's number three overall prospect, joins Iowa after a stellar 2014 season which saw him switch organizations mid-year. The 21-year-old shortstop began the season hitting .297 in 18 games between Advanced-A Stockton and Double-A Midland in the Oakland Athletics' organization. He was then traded to the Cubs in a deal that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's on July 4, and went on to hit .294 with 12 home runs in 50 games for Double-A Tennessee.
Baez was named one of the top-five prospects in baseball according to most publications prior to 2014 after hitting .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBI combined in 130 games between Advanced-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee in 2013. Last season, he hit 23 home runs and 24 doubles to go along with 80 RBI in 104 games with Iowa before getting the call to Chicago on August 5. Baez played in 52 games with the Cubs, amassing nine home runs and 20 RBI in 213 at-bats.
Joining that trio on the I-Cub infield will be returning veterans Chris Valaika, Jonathan Mota and Mike Baxter. Valaika has 99 major league games under his belt, including 33 with Cincinnati, 22 with Miami and 44 last season with Chicago. Mota has appeared in 142 games for Iowa between 2011 and 2014. Baxter joins the Cubs organization after making three straight MLB Opening Day rosters. He opened the year with the Mets in 2012 and 2013, and made the opening day squad with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
The Iowa outfield features returning starter Junior Lake, veteran Adron Chambers, and Triple-A newcomers John Andreoli and Rubi Silva. Lake has split each of the last two seasons between Iowa and Chicago. Chambers is a Triple-A veteran who appeared in 10 postseason games en route to winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009. Andreoli will make his Triple-A debut after playing 120 games with Tennessee over the past two seasons. The 25-year-old brings speed to the Principal Park base paths, with 126 stolen bases on his resume in 319 career games. Silva is making his Triple-A entrance as well after batting .246 with six home runs and 38 RBI in 81 games with Tennessee in 2014.
The Cubs will feature four returning starting pitchers from the 2013 and 2014 rotations. Right-hander Donn Roach is the lone newcomer to the Iowa rotation, and will make the Opening Day start in Memphis for the I-Cubs. Roach made the jump from Double-A, where he finished 2013, to the big leagues when he made the San Diego Padres' Opening Day roster last season. The Las Vegas native went 1-0 with a 4.75 ERA in 16 games in the majors, then made 13 more starts at Triple-A El Paso to finish the year. Left-hander Eric Jokisch returns for a second go-around with Iowa as the rotation's lone southpaw. He went 9-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 26 starts for Iowa in 2014. He also made four appearances with Chicago, where he allowed three earned runs in 14.1 innings with 10 strikeouts. Right-hander Carlos Pimentel also returns for a second tour of duty. The Dominican Republic native was the swiss-army knife of the pitching staff last season, going 4-9 with a 5.35 ERA in 29 games, including 15 starts in a full season with Iowa. Right-hander Yoanner Negrin returns to the I-Cubs as well. He was also a utility pitcher on last year's staff, making 25 appearances, including three starts with a 5.43 ERA in 50.0 innings. Right-hander Barret Loux makes his return to the mound after missing the 2014 season with both shoulder and Tommy John surgeries. The former first-round pick by Arizona was acquired from the Rangers in a 2012 trade and went 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 19 games for Iowa in 2013.
The bullpen is full of familiar faces and pressure-tested arms, with four of the nine pitchers having appeared for Iowa in past years. Right-hander Blake Parker will appear in an Iowa uniform for the eighth consecutive year, and enters 2015 as the club's all-time saves leader with 66. He tied Iowa's single-season saves record in 2014 by converting 25 saves for the Cubs. Right-handers Armando Rivero and Brian Schlitter and left-hander Zac Rosscup also return. Rivero reached Triple-A last year in just his second professional season, going 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA in 23 games for the I-Cubs. Schlitter spent most of last season in Chicago where he made 61 appearances with a 4.15 ERA in 56.1 innings. He also pitched in seven games for Chicago in 2011. Rosscup has pitched in 38 games for the I-Cubs over the last two years with a 1.67 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. He also has 28 games of big league experience in the same span.
Newcomers to the pen include left-handers Joseph Ortiz and Drake Britton, and right-handers Gonzalez Germen and Blake Cooper. Ortiz was claimed off waivers from the Rangers in October. The 24-year-old has 32 games of major league experience, all coming in 2013 with Texas. Britton was claimed off waivers from Boston in February. The Texas native has a 2.93 ERA in 25 big league games between 2013 and 2014. Germen was claimed off waivers from Texas in January, and has 54 games of major league experience with the New York Mets from 2013 to 2014. Cooper, who was acquired from Arizona in exchange for outfielder Brett Jackson last August, comes to Iowa from Double-A Tennessee where he was 0-1 with a 0.87 ERA in eight games for the Smokies.
Overall, the 2015 Iowa Cubs bullpen is one which has been tested in the later innings. In total, the group touts 264 combined minor league saves: Parker (91), Schlitter (81), Ortiz (31), Cooper, (17), Rivero (13), Germen (10), Rosscup (8) and Britton (5). Additionally, six of the eight have logged time on a major league roster.
Catchers on the 2015 roster include returning starter Rafael Lopez and newcomer Taylor Davis. Lopez appeared in 61 games for Iowa in 2014, and was a September call-up to Chicago at the end of the year. Davis joins the Cubs after batting .299 in 59 games with Tennessee over the past two years.
The Iowa Cubs open the 2015 season on Thursday, April 9 at AutoZone Park against the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A Affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT. The I-Cubs open the home slate at Principal Park on Friday, April 17 with a four-game series against the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the newly rebranded Triple-A Affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. CT. Gates will open at 5:38 p.m. and the first 1,000 fans will receive magnet schedules sponsored by KCCI and Pittsburgh Paints.
All games will be broadcast live on AM 940, 104.5 FM and will be streamed online at www.iowacubs.com. Deene Ehlis and Randy Wehofer return for their eighth season together on the broadcast. Tickets are on sale at Principal Park, online at iowacubs.com, or by phone at (515) 243-6111.