For the Iowa Cubs, Opening Day in Albuquerque is about a month away. The I-Cubs open their season on April 4 against the Isotopes and open the home portion of their schedule on April 12, also against the Isotopes.
Coming off a rough 2012 season, the I-Cubs will have some familiar faces like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters returning. 2013 is probably too early to see the likes of highly-regarded prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler in Des Moines but, fans will have the opportunity to see some highly regarded prospects this season at Principal Park. The I-Cubs roster won’t be known until the Chicago Cubs roster is finalized but here is a look at the position players who could be starting the season in Des Moines.
With the signing of Dioner Navarro in Chicago, Steve Clevenger will likely be handling the majority of the catching duties to begin 2013. Clevenger appeared in 69 games for the Cubs last season but looks like the odd man out with Welington Castillo and Navarro ahead of him. Joining Clevenger behind the plate looks to be J.C. Boscan. Boscan hit 53 home runs over the last three seasons in the Braves organization.
At first base, the competition looks to be between Pacific Coast League veteran Brad Nelson and Cubs farmhand Justin Bour. Nelson comes over from the Rangers organization where he hit .274 with 24 HR and 81 RBI last season. Bour finished 2012 with 110 RBI, second in the Southern League, while hitting .283 with 17 HR for the AA Tennessee Smokies. Second base also looks to come down to two players. Logan Watkins continues to make his way up the Cubs organization. Watkins hit .281 with a .383 OBP for the Smokies last season. Alberto Gonzalez comes over from the Rangers organization as a non-roster invitee to spring training. From all indications, Junior Lake will be the starting shortstop. Lake is listed as having the best infield arm in the Cubs organization by Baseball America and finished 2012 hitting .279 with 10 HR and 50 RBI at Tennessee. Josh Vitters is slated to start the season in Des Moines. But, Ian Stewart’s continued struggles staying healthy in Chicago could change that. Vitters swung the bat well at Iowa last year hitting .304 with 17 HR and 68 RBI but struggled in Chicago after a late season call-up. Also look for veteran Edwin Maysonet to get playing time, especially if Vitters begins the year in Chicago.
Barring injury or trade, the Cubs brass have said Brett Jackson will start the season in Iowa. Jackson struggled to make contact last season, striking out 158 times in 407 at bats with the I-Cubs before a late season call-up. Jackson spent the off-season retooling his swing and begins 2013 as the fifth rated Cubs prospect by Baseball America. Potentially joining Jackson in the outfield is Chiacgo-area native, Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic appeared in 146 games for the Astros in 2012, hitting .203. Dave Sappelt, who spent the majority of 2012 in Des Moines, could return after hitting .266 in 133 games for the I-Cubs last season. Well traveled veteran Darnell McDonald joins the mix in the outfield after spending last season in the Red Sox and Yankees organizations. Bogusevic, Sappelt, and McDonald are in a battle for the final outfield spot in Chicago. Former Mariner farmhand Johermyn Chavez could also open the season with the I-Cubs.
Next week will be a look at who could be on the mound for the I-Cubs.