This might sound strange, but over the past couple weeks we are starting to see a shift in the make up of Iowa’s roster. It has slowly changed over from a collection of Quadruple-A players who were seen as depth for the major league club and it’s turning into more a collection of the Cubs’ own prospects. Sure, they’re still Dixon Machado and a couple of pitchers, but we’re starting to see the turnover begin. By the middle of June, I expect most of Iowa’s roster to be 90% prospects.
And with that turnover, we’re finally starting to see Iowa win some games.
To begin the year, all the hype surrounding this team was about Brennen Davis and him possibly being ready to make it to Chicago at some point. Unfortunately, he got off to a really slow start and then had a nice couple weeks stretch there in April but then he started to falter a little bit in large part due to some sort of back ailment. Now. he’s on the injured list. Strangely enough, that may be the best thing that happened to him as it gives him a chance to re-energize and refocus and forget about the hype. It’ll just be about getting healthy and back in the swing of things.
Even without Davis’ fire power, there’s still been plenty of offense in Iowa. Jared Young has nine home runs while Dixon Machado, Robel Garcia and Ildemaro Vargas have all been excellent at the plate. Greg Deichmann has struggled in the outfield and Donnie Dewees is currently on the IL but rehabbing in Mesa. Nelson Velasquez, who already has a 40-man spot, seems to be adjusting well to Triple-A. After last years dominating turn in the Arizona Fall League, he had a rough couple weeks to start the year and has been hitting extremely well since mid April.
As for the pitching side of things, Caleb Kilian has been a dream to watch. He’s allowed one run at most in every start this year. That’s it. His season ERA is at 1.57. And there’s no rush to get him to Chicago. It looks like the Cubs are more than willing to let him learn in Iowa for the time being.
Matt Swarmer has had a very good year and he’s probably the least talked about arm in the system, Yet, he has a season ERA of 2.17 and he has pretty much been pitching like this now since late July of 2021. The only problem is Swarmer does not have a 40-man spot. I don’t know if the Cubs would create one for him just yet. A lot depends on how the season goes in Chicago.
After last week‘s performance in his Triple-A debut, Cam Sanders was just fantastic as he flashed major league stuff and he struck out nine in 5.2 IP. For years, I have talked about how much of a live arm he has. If his command-and-control get better over the next few months, he’s going to be a fantastic pro in whatever role the Cubs decide to have him do once he gets to Chicago. Right now, he’s probably tucked in right behind Kilian as the next starter as a definite 40-man spot awaits this fall.
As for the bullpen, it’s been kind of up and down, especially Ueckert and Uelmen. Ben Leeper has really turned it around after a rough start. He’s not allowed to run this month and his ERA is sinking like a stone as he has just been nails. Like Swarmer, Leeper does not have a 40-man spot, but the Cubs would make one for him.
This roster is going to change quite a bit over the next two months. We’re going to see guys like Andy Weber and possibly Bryce Ball find their way north from Tennessee. Levi Jordan could find his way back to Iowa as he has done nothing but rake in Tennessee. We could also see Eury Ramos join former Smokie Bryan Hudson at the back of the Iowa bullpen. And, if we are lucky, maybe, just maybe, Brailyn Marquez and Miguel Amaya could return to active duty in Iowa.
We got to see Dakota Mekkes make his debut last weekend and Jack Patterson cannot be too far behind.
This could be an exciting summer in Des Moines as several guys are close to being ready for Chicago.