South Bend is coming off their seventh year as a Cubs affiliate. Last year, they were managed by Michael Ryan and they hovered under .500 all year before finishing the year at 52-67. The 2021 iteration of South Bend saw Brennen Davis play for about a week and then Nelson Velazquez destroyed a lot of baseballs in June and July before heading to Tennessee. It also saw Delvin Zinn steal 40 bases while Yonathan Perlaza had a breakout year after transitioning to the outfield.

On the mound, both Ryan Jensen and Max Bain won Pitcher of the Month as members of South Bend’s rotation while the end of the year saw Pitcher of the Year DJ Herz make a few starts along with 2021 first round pick Jordan Wicks.

The 2022 Cubs are going to be quite different from their 2021 counterparts.

Probable Roster – These names are subject to change before Opening Day.

C – Pablo Aliendo, Jake Washer, Caleb Knight
1B – Matt Mervis, Jonathan Sierra
2B – Fabian Pertuz
SS – Ed Howard, Scott McKeon
3B – Luis Verdugo
OF – Alexander Canario, Owen Caissie, Yohendrick Pinango, Bradlee Beasley, Edmond Americaan
SP – Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Max Bain, Daniel Palencia, Kohl Franklin, Chris Clarke, Manny Espinoza
RP – Joe Nahas, Hunter Bigge, Didier Vargas, Eduarniel Nunez, Brad Deppermann, Dalton Stambaugh, Jose Albertos, Jeremiah Estrada, Bailey Reid, and more to come.

The Biggest Storyline

In the first half, it’s going to be about just how good these pitchers can be. The Cubs rotation is pretty stacked and it’s only going to improve as these pictures get stretched out and acclimated to playing in the Midwest. Just how good Wicks and Herz are going to be at this level is going to be one of the top 10 storylines to follow heading into the minor league season. Kohl Franklin is healthy.  How much he throws in terms of pitches and innings should be pretty limited that first month. Once it warms up, the Cubs will stretch him out some more.

In the second half of the year, we could see any number of the Cubs top prospects from James Triantos to Kevin Alcantara. With this much depth, it’s a question of where are you going to put them all. If somebody produces, they’re going to be bumping someone else out of the way and the Cubs really haven’t had to deal with that as an organization for quite a while. They better start learning now.

Who to Watch/Top Storylines

South Bend‘s roster this spring is just loaded with talent. We don’t have enough time to go into detail on each and every prospect. But I can tell you this, the starting pitching is going to be amazing! With Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Daniel Palencia, Chris Clarke, Max Bain, and Kohl Franklin, this is the best rotation in the system by far. Every night is going to be must-see television to watch these guys work on the mound. 

When it comes to position players, my attention span is going to be quite different.

I really like what I’ve seen of Alexander Canario in terms of his potential. At the same time, watching Yohendrick Pinango hit is a pretty cool event in terms of approach. Pinango is it a lot further ahead in that portion of hitting but he is nowhere near Canario in terms of power. Last year, Canario just destroyed some baseballs.

However, the two players I’m gonna be watching the most in April are Owen Caissie and Ed Howard. The two 20-year-olds were both given somewhat aggressive assignments but they also tell how much they have progressed over the winter in the eyes of Cubs management. For Caissie, getting to play in South Bend is going to be a lot nicer than hitting in Myrtle Beach. For Howard, he’s going to be closer to home and he looks to be a much different hitter this spring than he was last summer at Myrtle Beach where he seemed to be playing catch-up in a variety of ways all year long.

A few players were injured during spring training but they should be along in due time. Kevin Made should be able to play some shortstop and third base while Jordan Nwogu and Christian Franklin should be in the outfield at some point this spring. How that’s all gonna work out logistically is beyond my pay grade.

I am going to be rooting for Cole Roederer (when he arrives) to get the job done this spring as well. What he has gone through the past year since TJS cannot have been easy physically or mentally. He had to sit and watch his teammates and best friends play and move up through the system. I am hoping he does well this spring and stays within himself and tries not to push or do too much to make up for lost time. In other words, he needs to be in the moment. He just started playing in games at the end of spring training.

Most Likely to Be Promoted First
Odds are pitching injuries will happen in April, as they tend to do. If a starting pitcher is needed at Tennessee, any of the arms in this rotation could get the call. If it is a reliever that is needed, Eduarniel Nunez might be ready first. When it comes to position guys, Yohendrick Pinango is the most polished hitter on this team.

When it comes to my viewing habits starting on April 8, I will be watching South Bend nightly for a couple of weeks and then I’ll get to see them in person when they come over my way to the Quad Cities. I’m pretty excited to get to see them for a whole week of games in April as I usually don’t get to see a game until June because of my school commitments. But with South Bend now playing in the western division of the Midwest League, they will be heading this way quite early and quite often. Between Peoria, Beloit, Davenport, and Appleton Wisconsin, I’m going to be seeing a lot of South Bend Cubs this summer and it’s going to rule!