We’re less than 24 hours from the first pitch of the 2022 Iowa Cubs season. The team kicks off their year from Buffalo with a 12:05 CT start tomorrow afternoon. And for some reason, the rosters still have yet to be released. So without being able to push this preview back much longer, let’s get into things here, with the understanding that there might be a few roster tweaks between now and the official opening day.

Probable Roster

C – Tyler Payne, Erick Castillo
1B – Alfonso Rivas, Jared Young
2B – Esteban Quiroz, Trent Giambrone, Ildemaro Vargas
3B – Robel Garcia, Levi Jordan
SS – Dixon Machado
OF – Brennen Davis, Greg Deichmann, Narciso Crook, Donnie Dewees, Zach Davis
SP – Cory Abbott, Caleb Kilian, Matt Swarmer, Mark Leiter Jr, Stephen Gonsalves, Steven Brault
RP – Ben Leeper, Locke St. John, Eric Stout, Matt Dermody, James Bourque, Conner Menez, Aneuris Rosario, Erich Uelmen, Cayne Ueckert, Jonathan Holder, Robert Gsellmen

Biggest Storyline

For the first time in what seems like five years or so, the Iowa Cubs will be home to some actual prospects. As long as the Cubs have been competing for a World Series, the Triple-A level has had a heavy emphasis on MLB depth pieces in the form of MLB and MiLB veterans. While there are still several of those types of players present on this opening day roster (especially on the pitching staff), there are also plenty of guys that get you excited for the future in Chicago.

Brennen Davis is the headliner in that category, but other highly-regarded prospects will be playing tomorrow afternoon in Buffalo for the season opener. Alfonso Rivas and Jared Young will likely split time between first base and left field. Ben Leeper and Cayne Ueckert will form one of the best two-headed monsters in a minor league bullpen.

And while those are the guys that will begin the year in Iowa, there will be plenty of promotions throughout the year from Tennessee that will bring more prospect talent to Des Moines. In the rotation, we’re likely to see Ryan Jensen end the year in Triple-A and on the hitting side of things, we’ll surely get to see some action from Chase Strumpf, Christopher Morel, Nelson Velazquez, and Nelson Maldonado.

What To Watch

The answer here has to be Brennen Davis. If you’re strictly an Iowa Cubs fan, you won’t get to see much of the Cubs top prospect this season before he makes his way up to the Big Leagues. The five-tool outfielder got a cup of coffee in Triple-A to end the season a year ago so his adjustment period (if you can call hitting his way to a .933 OPS that) is likely over. Keep an eye on the strikeout numbers from the former second round draft pick, as pitchers will be crowding him up-and-in early and often. I’ve got a mid-June timeline on Davis getting called up to Chicago.

Most Likely To Be Promoted First

The easy route to go with the first player promoted is someone on the 40-man roster already and someone out of the bullpen, a position group that is always revolving. After putting together a truly dominant Spring Training, I think Ethan Roberts simply has to be the move here. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t spend much longer than a couple weeks in Iowa before he gets called up to Chicago and I think once he is there, he’s there to stay.

Update: we found out during the game today that Ethan Roberts has made the opening day roster in Chicago. Because of that, I’ll change my pick here to Alfonso Rivas — another guy who is incredibly close to breaking camp in the Majors.