The Chicago Cubs have announced the players who will comprise the 2012 Opening Day roster for the Peoria Chiefs, barring any injuries in the final Spring Training game on Sunday. Headlining for the Chiefs this year are the Cubs #14 prospect Zeke DeVoss, #16 prospect Marco Hernandez, #17 prospect Reggie Golden, #22 prospect Jose Rosario, #25 prospect Ben Wells, #28 prospect Taiwan Easterling and the #31 prospect Pin-Chieh Chen. Overall there are five players on the Opening Day roster who saw at least one game of action for the Chiefs last season which is a decrease from the 12 2010 Chiefs who were on the 2011 Opening Day roster. The returnees are pitchers P.J. Francescon, Luis Liria, and Bryce Shafer along with outfielder Taiwan Easterling, and infielder Kenny Socorro who is a player/coach.
The roster includes eight infielders with Marco Hernandez, Zeke DeVoss, Kenny Socorro and Wes Darvill up the middle and Brad Zapenas and Paul Hoilman on the corners.
Darvill is a 21-year-old native of Richmond, British Columbia who was drafted by the Cubs in the 5th round of the 2009 draft out of Brookswood Secondary School. The Canadian native hit .256 with 14 doubles and 12 RBI last season in 66 games for Boise. He scored 29 runs and stole seven bases while playing mostly shortstop.
DeVoss had a great first professional season for Boise last year hitting .311 with nine extra-base hits, 14 steals, 14 RBI and 28 runs scored in 38 games. The 21-year-old tied a franchise record with five steals in his July 18 debut. Drafted in the 3rd round last June out of the University of Miami, DeVoss played 31 games at second base and seven in the outfield. He ranked fourth in all of Division I baseball in 2011 with 57 walks and also stole 32 bases for the Hurricanes.
Hernandez, 19, had a breakout 2011 campaign batting .333 with two homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 39 runs scored, 42 RBI and nine stolen bases in 51 games for the Mesa Cubs. He finished third in the Arizona League in hits and fourth in RBI while also leading the league in fielding percentage. Hernandez played second, short and third last year and was signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2009.
Hoilman broke Boise's single-season home run record last year with 17 blasts in 71 games. The 23-year-old first baseman batted .252 with 13 doubles, 44 RBI, 46 runs scored and 49 walks. He led the Northwest League in home runs by five, total bases and extra-base hits, finished fifth in RBI and second in slugging percentage. Drafted out of East Tennessee State in the 19th round of the 2011 draft, Hoilman hit 73 NCAA home runs with a .369 batting average, 83 doubles, 247 RBI and 161 walks.
Socorro, 22, hit .200 in 23 games in Boise last year and .289 in 10 games with the Chiefs at the end of the season. He also played one game with Mesa and overall drove in 11 runs with five doubles and 10 runs scored. A native of Miami, FL, Socorro was drafted in the 44th round out of Marshall University last June. Socorro will be a player-coach and is on the active roster as the season begins.
Zapenas, 22, hit .238 in 45 games for Boise last season with one homer, 10 doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. He scored 18 runs and stole nine bases as well in his first professional season. A native of New Hampshire, Zapenas was drafted by the Cubs out of Boston College in the 42nd round last June.
The 2012 outfield includes one player who had a brief 2011 stint in Peoria in Taiwan Easterling, and three newcomers in Pin-Chieh Chen, Reggie Golden and Eduardo Gonzalez.
Chen was a Northwest League Post-Season All-Star with the Boise Hawks last season hitting .301 with 14 doubles, four triples, two homers, 30 RBI, 34 runs scored and 20 stolen bases in 60 games. He finished eighth in the NWL in batting average and fifth in stolen bases. The 20-year-old was signed by the Cubs out of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan in 2009 and has experience at both second base and centerfield.
Easterling joined the Chiefs on July 17, 2011 and hit .277 in 40 games with two home runs, six doubles, 16 RBI, nine steals and 18 runs scored. He also hit .500 in seven games for Mesa and played in three games for Advanced-A Daytona including two Florida State League playoff games. The former Florida State standout at wide receiver is 23 years old and was drafted in the 27th round last June.
Golden, 20, hit .242 with seven homers, 10 doubles, five triples, 39 RBI and 36 runs scored last season in 64 games for Boise. He finished the 2011 season with four home runs and 11 RBI in his final six games and then homered again in the NWL Playoffs. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft out of Wetumpka High School in Alabama, Golden hit .333 with one double and one RBI in four games for Mesa in 2010.
Gonzalez, 20, hit .336 with two doubles, two triples, 13 RBI, 18 runs scored and five stolen bases last season in 34 games with the Mesa Cubs. Prior to that he played two seasons in the Dominican Summer League batting .240 and .258. A native of Barinas, Venezuela, Gonzalez signed with the Cubs in June of 2009.
The opening day roster contains two catchers: Taylor Davis and Rafael Lopez.
Davis, 22, hit .308 in 11 games last season with the Mesa (AZL) Cubs. He had one double, three triples, 10 RBI and 10 runs scored with a .391 on-base percentage. At Morehead State University in 2011 he hit .414 with 46 RBI and a conference-best 13 home runs. A native of Jupiter, Florida, Davis was signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on July 11, 2011 while he was playing for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League.
Lopez starred at Florida State University last year and continued his strong play with Boise hitting .316 with six homers, eight doubles and 37 RBI in 54 games. He finished fifth in the NWL in batting average, threw out 35 percent of would-be base-stealers and was named to the NWL Post-Season All-Star Team. Drafted in the 16th round last June, the 24-year-old hit .325 for the Seminoles in 2011 and threw out more than 58 percent of base-stealers.
The 2012 Opening Day roster consists of 14 pitchers: Kyler Burke, Willengton Cruz, P.J. Francescon, , Michaen Jensen, Luis Liria, Jeff Lorick, Andrew McKirihan, Austin Reed, Jose Rosario, Bryce Shafer, Yao-Lin Wang, Scott Weismann and Ben Wells.
Burke returns to the Chiefs after a two-year absence, this time as a starting pitcher. The 23-year-old posted one of the best offensive seasons in Chiefs history in 2009 with a .303 average, 15 homers, 89 RBI, 43 doubles, 93 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. He was converted to the mound last season and went 2-1 with a save and a 2.86 ERA in 16 relief outings for Boise. Originally drafted in the supplemental first round in 2006 by the San Diego Padres, Burke was acquired by the Cubs on June 20, 2007 in exchange for Michael Barrett.
Cruz made 13 starts last season for Boise going 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA. The lefty struck out 50 and walked 31 in 53 1/3 innings of work. A native of Romana, Dominican Republic, the 21-year-old signed with the Cubs in July 2008.
Francescon pitched at three different levels last season including 17 appearances for the Chiefs. In Peoria he was both a reliever and a starter going 1-4 with a 3.89 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. He finished the season by pitching in the Florida State League playoffs for Daytona. A 23-year-old native of Nashville, TN, Francescon was drafted in the 40th round last June out of Trevecca Nazarene.
Jensen, 21, made his pro debut in last August and pitched twice with Mesa and twice with Boise. In four outings he allowed two hits and two walks while striking out five in 4 2/3 shutout innings. The Salinas, California native was drafted in the 26th round last June out of Hartnell Junior College where he was a 2011 Pre-Season JC All-American.
Liria makes his third appearance on a Chiefs roster after a brief stint at the end of 2010 and a six-week stint last season. The 22-year-old was 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 10 games and five starts for the Chiefs last season while also picking up two saves. He began the 2011 campaign with Boise going 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in five games before a July 15 promotion to Peoria. The Dominican Republic native signed with the Cubs on September 14, 2007.
Lorick, 24, spent the entire 2011 season with the Advanced-A Daytona Cubs going 8-6 with a 5.38 ERA in 30 games and 18 starts. He struck out 75 batters and walked 44 in 113 2/3 innings of work. After being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Derrek Lee trade, Lorick pitched four times for the Chiefs going 0-0 with a 4.82 ERA.
McKirahan spent the 2011 season with Mesa and Boise going 0-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 15 relief outings with 23 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. The lefty was 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 24 outings at the University of Texas in 2011 and pitched in the College World Series last June. McKirahan, 22, was drafted by the Cubs in the 21st round in 2011.
Rosario spent the entire 2011 season with the Boise Hawks going 6-3 with two saves and a 3.53 ERA in 15 games and seven starts. He struck out 50 and walked 18 over 63 2/3 innings and finished ninth in the NWL in win percentage. A 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Rosario signed with the Cubs on April 29, 2008.
Shafer returns to the Chiefs and is on the Opening Day roster for the second season in a row. Last year he was 0-3 with one save and a 2.79 ERA in 17 outings before being sent to Boise in June. With the Hawks he became the closer and saved 12 games in 23 outings while going 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA. A 23-year-old native of Wabash, IL, Shafer was drafted in the 49th round of the 2010 draft out of Valparaiso University.
Wang was in the Boise starting rotation for all of 2011 going 4-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 starts. His 77 strikeouts tied for second in the Northwest League and he was also sixth in ERA. Wang made his pro debut in 2010 going 1-3 in 12 games and five starts split between Boise and Mesa. The Tai-Tung, Taiwan native is 21-years-old and signed with the Cubs in June 2009.
Weismann, 22, will be making his professional debut with the Chiefs. Last season he was 3-5 with eight saves and a 4.89 ERA in 24 games for the Clemson Tigers. He holds Clemson's career record for lowest ERA in NCAA Tournament play and beat Oklahoma as a starter in the 2010 College World Series. A native of Boxborough, Massachusetts, Weismann was 9-2 for the Tigers in 2010 and 3-1 with a save in 2009. He was drafted by the Cubs in the 46th round of the 2011 draft.
Wells, 19, went 4-4 with a 4.66 ERA in 16 games and 15 starts last season for the Boise Hawks. He tied for the Northwest League lead in games started and struck out 53 batters in 77 1/3 innings of work. A native of Alexander, Arkansas, Wells was drafted in the 7th round of the 2010 draft out of Bryant High School.
Overall the 25-man roster includes two 19-year-olds, five 20-year-olds, five21-year-olds, six22-year-olds, five 23-year-olds and two 24-year-olds. Wells is the youngest having turned 19 in September while Lopez is the oldest having turned 24 on October 2. The roster features 19 Americans, four Dominican Republic natives, two Taiwanese players, one Venezuelan and one Canadian.
The Chiefs will be managed by Casey Kopitzke who led Peoria to a 71-66 in 2010 and a 60-79 record in 2011. Under Kopitzke's leadership the Chiefs the Chiefs came within two games of making the playoffs in the 2010 and he is closing in on the Managerial record for most home wins at Peoria Chiefs Stadium. Overall this will be Kopitzke's fourth year as a manager in the Cubs system and he is joined by hitting coach Barbaro Garbey and pitching coach Ron Villone. The Chiefs athletic trainer is Shane Nelson while Blaine Kinsley returns as the strength and conditioning coach and Socorro will be a player/coach.
The Chiefs players and their coaches will arrive in Peoria Monday night April 2 and will practice at Peoria Chiefs Stadium Tuesday April 3. The Chiefs will practice again on Wednesday with the regular season starting Thursday, April 5 in Beloit. After a three-game series and an off day for Easter Sunday, the 30th Anniversary season opens at home on Monday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. against the Quad Cities River Bandits. As the Chiefs turn back the clocks to 1983 and wear Peoria Suns jerseys, fans can get Club Box Tickets for $3.50 and Hy-Vee Hills Lawn Seats for $2.50, the prices at the first home game in April 1983. All fans will also receive a 2012 Peoria Chiefs Magnet Schedule. The 1983 prices will stay intact for the entire first homestand with 6:30 p.m. games on Tuesday, April 10 and Wednesday, April 11. The April 11 game will be the first Wednesday night home game with $1 hot dogs, $1 fountain sodas and $1 ice cream sandwiches. For ticket information please call the Peoria Chiefs Stadium Box Office at 1-866-MYTICKET or visit www.peoriachiefs.com.