Another Cubs affiliate joins the fray this week as the Eugene Emeralds make their short-season Class A debut as a member of the Cubs organization. The team plays a total of 76 games split into two 38-game seasons. For almost 60 years, the Emeralds have been a part of the Northwest League. From 1968-1973, the team was the AAA affiliate of the Phillies. Over the next 27 seasons, the franchise has been the host for several organizations including the Reds, White Sox, Braves, Royals, Cardinals, and Giants. From 2001-2014, the Emeralds were affiliated with the San Diego Padres.
In conjunction with the University of Oregon, the team shares a stadium, PK Park, and development facilities built by Nike, which is what drew the Cubs to sign a 2-year development deal with the Emeralds last winter. The organization is known for its colorful green-tinted uniforms, its logo of a Sasquatch holding an evergreen, its footprint-style E hat, and of course, Sluggo, its adorable green mascot.
If there is one thing this summer at Eugene could become known for it is the power bat of Eloy Jimenez. At 6’4” and 205 pounds, Jimenez physically resembles a young Jorge Soler circa 2012. Jimenez is ranked at #9 by MLB.com as one of the top 30 Cubs prospects. Here is what they say of his potential:
Like Soler, Jimenez has huge raw power and fits the right-field profile to a tee. He looked raw but not overmatched while making his U.S. debut at age 17. His large, projectable frame is starting to add strength and already generates impressive bat speed and leverage. He shows the makings of plate discipline and pitch recognition, which will increase his chances of fully tapping into his home run potential.
Jimenez signed with the Cubs in 2013 and was the #1 ranked prospect in International Free Agency that summer. He is only 18 years old!
The Cubs will be sending several of their top young prospects to play with Jimenez in Eugene this summer. Players from MLB.com’s Top 30 Prospect List include Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Kevonte Mitchell.
Mitchell, a 6’4” speedster, will play alongside Jimenez in the outfield. A 2014 draftee, he surprised a lot of people last year with his outstanding play in the field and at the plate while converting from 3B to OF. Last year in the Arizona Rookie League, Mitchell played 30 games in CF and 4 games in right. At the plate, he hit .294 and stole 19 bases. As this year goes on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some power develop from his somewhat large frame.
Left-handers Carson Sands and Justin Steele will be two of the starting pitchers from the Cubs vaunted 2014 high school pitching class. Sands, the Cubs fourth round pick from last summer, tweeted out his jersey and locker on Wednesday.
Go time⚾️ pic.twitter.com/AsN4qQXxJL
— Carson Sands (@southpawsands) June 16, 2015
Sands will be the opening day starter on Thursday night. At 6’3″ and 19 years old, he is pretty well polished and has good command of 3 pitches: a low mid 90s fastball, a 12-6 curve, and a changeup with armside movement.
Steele will follow him on Friday night in Everett. Drafted in the fifth round out of high school, Steele has a very good movement on his pitches but does not have control to match that of Sands. MLB.com said this of Steele’s repertoire:
He’s capable of reaching back for 95 mph on his fastball, but he gets more life and is often more effective when he pitches at 88-92 mph. Steele is adding more power to his curveball, which already featured good depth and could give him a second plus pitch. He has some fade to his changeup but sometimes tips it off by slowing his arm speed, a correctable flaw.
Fellow starter Oscar de la Cruz is making his stateside debut. The 6’4” right hander pitched for the Cubs Dominican Summer League team in 2014 and was 8-1 in 14 starts with a 1.80 ERA while striking out 64 in 75 innings.
Recent position player draftees Ian Happ, Donnie Dewees, and Matt Rose should show up after they sign their contracts and complete an organizational orientation in Mesa, Arizona. I think Happ and Dewees probably will only stay in Eugene for a couple of weeks before moving on to South Bend. The same could be true for Rose, who is said to have an extremely good control of the strike zone.
Here is the roster which was released on Wednesday the 17th. It should remain pretty fluid throughout the summer as players move in and out of Eugene.
Pitchers: Adbert Alzolay, Pedro Araujo, Jordan Brink, Oscar de la Cruz. Andin Diaz, Greyfer Eregua, Jae-Hoon Ha, Corbin Hoffner, Dillon Maples, Jose Paulino, Carson Sands, Alexander Santana, Justin Steele, and Sam Wilson
C –Justin Marra
1B – Tyler Alamo
2B – Frandy Delarosa
SS – Ho-Young Son
3B – Adonis Paula
LF –Ricardo Marcano
CF – Kevonte Mitchell
RF – Eloy Jimenez
Bench – Varonex Cuevas, Alberto Mineo, and Erick Castillo
6 more players can be added to the roster the next few days.
Some other 2015 draftees who could join the team later include SS Sutton Whiting and OF Alex Bautista. Recently drafted relief pitchers David Berg, Craig Brooks, Scott Effross, and Jared Cheek will likely join the team after two weeks of preparation in Mesa. However, starting pitchers that were drafted, like Bryan Hudson, Ryan Kellogg, Preston, Morrison, Kyle Twomey and Jake Kezler, will remain on pitch limits in Arizona as they have already thrown at or near 100 innings in the spring.
The Emeralds’ home opener will be on Tuesday the 23rd against Boise – the Cubs former Northwest League affiliate.