Bryce Windham – Picture by Todd Johnson

We are now less than two weeks away from the 2022 minor league season. Earlier this week, we put out our predictions for statistics for hitting, pitching, and relievers. Today, we’re going to kick off a three-part series where I make my 2022 preseason All-Star team. The only disclaimer I need to put in the article is that Brennen Davis is not going to be on it. To be eligible for this list, it’s expected that a prospect is going to play most of 2022 in the minors. Neither will be Ben Leeper and I’m debating about Nelson Velazquez and Ethan Roberts even as I write this.

This is probably the toughest hitting list I’ve put together the past eight or nine years. The Cubs have some crazy depth at outfield and shortstop and we’re still about a week to 10 days of learning who exactly is going to be at which affiliate. For a couple of positions, I couldn’t make a choice so I just declared a tie. I thought it was a good executive decision.

Let’s get started!

Honorable Mention – All of the following players were in consideration to make the squad. For whatever reason, choices were made to go with someone else. That doesn’t mean they can’t make a monthly All-Star team that I will do six times this summer. Some of the other players I considered for this years preseason All-Star team are Jared Young, Cole Roederer, Chase Strumpf, Alexander Canario, Kevin Made, Luis Vazquez, Christian Franklin, Darius Hill, Bradlee Beasley, and Yohendrick Pinango.

So, without further ado, here is this year‘s 2022 preseason All-Star squad.

C – Casey Opitz/Bryce Windham

This was the toughest position to call. Both Opitz and Windham have excellent qualities that make them an easy choice for this team. Opitz is an amazing defender and hype man for every pitcher. Windham is also a very good defender who has built a lot of relationships with the pitchers in the system and has a really good eye at the plate. Both are quality human beings and you really can’t go wrong with either selection. Opitz should be at South Bend to start the year while Windham will probably be in Tennessee.

1B – Felix Stevens

This position went through about five players this week. Needless to say, Stevens wound up getting the nod based on his potential for power and the fact that he is going to be playing with a group of players that will provide opportunities to hit in situations hitters love to hit in – aka with men on base. Those opportunities are going to turn Stevens in an organizational all-star.

2B – Ed Howard

I am pulling for Ed Howard to begin the year in South Bend where he’s going to be much improved from 2021. He already looks much calmer and more confident after he ended the year with a nice six weeks stretch at the plate in Myrtle Beach. He hit .280 with an OBP over .350 and a wRC+ over 120. A six week stretch is a pretty good sample size. That timeframe is probably more indicative of what Howard can do with a bat but it does not get talked about much. Most people, and unfairly, focus in on the year long numbers.

SS – Reggie Preciado

A switch-hitting shortstop that’s about 6-foot-4 is not something you see every day. Technically, you could basically switch positions on a daily basis with Triantos and Preciado, but I am intrigued by how much power Preciado is going to have and how much time he’s going to get at shortstop versus Triantos who will be playing alongside him at third in Myrtle Beach.

3B – James Triantos

As with many young players on Myrtle Beach, Triantos has some hype going about him heading into the 2022 season. He’s likely not going to play every day at third as he’ll probably see some time at short and maybe even second. I’m pumped to see that explosive bat speed cranked up every day for the first two months of the year. Hopefully I’ll get to see him in the second half for South Bend.

OF – Nelson Velazquez/Jordan Nwogu

This is my other tie because I couldn’t decide just exactly what the career path is going to be for Nelson Velasquez. I am leaning towards him starting the year at Iowa based off of the great job he did last August and September in Tennessee and then how he tore up the Arizona Fall League. As a result, he might not be long for Iowa depending upon how he produces. The issue is whether there’s going to be a spot for him in Chicago before the end of the year.

 As for Nwogu, he’s probably not gotten enough hype this winter. An incredible athlete, he really took to instruction in the second half of the year and was one of the best players in the system in August and September. Nwogu Should be at South Bend to start the year and with pitchers limited just to two throwovers in the Midwest league, this kid should be stealing a lot of bases in addition to cranking out homers.

OF – Owen Caissie

Caissie is really a scientist on hitting and I am just thrilled to see him start the year in 2022. More than likely, it’s going to be at Myrtle Beach as he faces some advanced pitching that he’s not used to seeing. I’m pretty pumped to see him adapt as the year goes on. He held his own this spring with the big league club in spring training.

OF  – Kevin Alcantara

Kevin Alcantara might be the guy that everybody’s underestimating. For a right-handed hitter, he has an extremely sweet swing that produces easy power and he can drive the ball the opposite way. I’m also interested to see how he does in the field and to see just exactly how strong his arm is.

OF – Pete Crow-Armstrong

After getting the opening day spring training start, it’s a little bit hard to hide Pete Crow-Armstrong anymore. An outstanding defender, I’ll be excited to see just what his bat can do this spring and how fast he moves if that bat is working well.

DH – Nelson Maldonado

Like Velazquez, I’m not sure about Nelson Maldonado’s locales for 2022. The designated hitter is just made to hit. He tore it up last year at Tennessee and I expect him to do the same in Iowa this summer. Like Velasquez, it’ll be interesting to see just exactly when he gets his shot at Chicago. Notice I didn’t say if.

When this year is said and done, most of these guys will make many of my monthly All-Star teams. There will be other guys who will also make a team for a month here or there and they could make my early predictions look foolish. In fact, I hope they do. I hope we see Delvin Zinn breakout with the bat at AA. I hope to see Ethan Hearn figure some things out. I want to see a Luis Vazquez destroy some baseballs. I just like to see guys do well.

I’ll be back Monday as I announce my preseason starting rotation. Heading into tonight I haven’t decided whether I’m going to roll with eight or six. Normally I go with six. If I have to go with six, there are going to be some tough choices made later today.