The beginning of June also marks the beginning of the rookie leagues, or as they are now known, the complex leagues. The Cubs have three such teams – one in Mesa, Arizona, and two in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic.
Over the next couple of days, Rich Biesterfeld and I will be doing previews of the three clubs who begin play on Monday the 5th of June. So, today, you get the DSL squads while Rich will do the Mesa Squad later.
During the season, I will wrap up what is happening in the DSL on a weekly basis on Sunday afternoons while Rich will recap the Arizona squad.
How the League Works
The Cubs’ two squads will play 5 games a week. They are off on Wednesdays and Sundays. The DSL squads usually play at 10 central in the morning. They will play close to 60 games by the time they are done. It is rare for a player to get promoted stateside during the year, but it does happen as it did last year with Kevin Valdez. The Cubs have a Blue Squad and a Red Squad. There is no significance to being on either team. The only time you can see game video on either team is when they play the Mets at their place and that is always on YouTube.
Who Are the Top Players to Watch?
1. Derniche Valdez – The young 17-year-old switch hitting shortstop will make his pro debut and expectations are a bit high, considering his almost $3 million signing bonus. My expectations are a little tempered. I am more of a hurry up and wait kind of guy and I am willing to let things play out quite a bit more.
Here is what MLB Pipeline had to say of his skills:
He’s best known as a prospect with tons of upside on the offensive side. Valdez projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and run producer if he continues to develop and mature physically at a normal pace. He already shows the ability to hit hard line drives to all fields and drive the ball out of the ballpark to all fields. He shows a solid approach at the plate and a feel for the strike zone.
2. Ludwing Espinoza – The Cubs had a leg up in signing Espinoza for $1.5 million last January as they already inked up his brother. Still, the young 17-year-old is valued for his hit tool. He may not possess the potential for power of Valdez, he is projected to be a top of the order bat. Here is Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com talking about Espinoza:
While he might not be as physically imposing as some of the other prospects, it’s his overall offensive and defensive package that makes him one of the most appealing prospects on the international market. […] A smart player, Espinoza could be a potential base-stealer and is the type of player that makes things happen on both sides of the ball. He projects to be an above-average defender.
3. Angel Cepeda – While he is currently a shortstop, I wonder just how many other positions he will be playing this summer as he has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism. The Cubs signed him for $1 million this past January. He might be my favorite player to keep an eye on because of his possible versatility.
4. Brander Guevara – He was just signed this past week. The ink on the contract is not even dry. In fact, he might not even begin his career in the DSL. It has not been announced. But the former star of the Cuban 15U team from 5 years ago is a Cub and he boasts a solid fastball to be his calling card. He probably will be in Arizona as he is 20. We will find out tomorrow.
5. Oferman Hernandez – I still like this kid a lot because we did see improvement from 2021 to 2022 last summer, just not enough to get him to Mesa. He will be 19 all summer and hopefully this is the year everything clicks for him.
6. Any breakout pitcher – The Cubs have not invested heavily in pitching in the IFA market, Lately, they have tended to focus on signing “late bloomers” or 18 or 19-year-olds who are a bit more physically mature than 16-year-olds. Kevin Valdez and Gabriel Agrazal were last year’s breakouts and I wonder who will step up.
The Tentative Rosters
These were put together using the MiLB team pages of the Red and the Blue squads with some help from Arizona Phil’s depth chart which has players that were on last year’s squads now in Arizona. They were not a perfect match so we will have to wait until Monday to get full rosters that might include some late signings as well as the assignments of many of this year’s IFA signings.
SP – Yoendris Gonzalez, Diego Dugarte, Yafrerlyn Vasquez, Jostin Florentino
RP – Jair Jimenez, Luis Rafael Reyes, Charbel Gonzalez, Joel Jimenez, Adrian Santana, * Zhiorman Imbriano, Welington Quintero, Emmanoel Madeira
C – Dilver Gomez, Abel DeLeon
1B – Jose Herrera
2B – Ezequiel Alvarez
3B – Moises Febrillet, Luis Maza, Grenyerbert Velasquez
SS – Sandy Sanchez
OF – Albert Belliard, Leonel Espinoza, Raul Guzman, Daniel Ferreira, Wilmer Bolivar, Edward Vargas, Derik Alcantara
SP – Melvyn Amador, Samuel Rodriguez, Ronny Lopez, David Bracho
RP – Fraiman Marte, David Olivo, Runelvis Toribio, Irving Vazquez, Alfredo Romero, Nestor Pirela, Joandy Duran, Luis Marte
C – Yidel Diaz, Yoanis Aleksandrov, Daniel Campos
1B – Carlos Altuve
2B – Elizaul Chalas
3B – Andrws Cruz, Albert Gutierrez
SS – Derniche Valdez
OF – Erbin Jaque, Darlyn DeLeon, Andres Bonalde, Daniel Benschop, Josias Ramirez, Oferman Hernandez, and Julio Valdez, Joan Delgado
Not assigned yet
RHP Juan Archbold, C Daniel Campos, RHP Eduardo Castillo, SS Angel Cepeda, LHP Miguel Cruz, SS Ludwing Espinoza, 2B Omar Ferrera, 3B Brailyn Pascual, RHP Santiago Payares, RHP Brander Guevara