At 64-74, the 2018 South Bend Cubs did not have one of their best years. While they had plenty of pitching, a lack of impact hitting up and down the lineup was noticeable. Still, it was a gritty team that saw Jared Young and Miguel Amaya form one of the best one-two punches in the Cubs’ system. Even with that firepower, the Cubs could not put things together.
Things look to be a little brighter when it comes to the bats in 2019. Buoyed by several top 2018 draft picks, South Bend should be well situated to improve under new manager Buddy Bailey.
Possible Daily Lineup
C – Rafelin Lorenzo
1B – Tyler Durna
2B – Delvin Zinn, Levi Jordan
SS – Andy Weber
3B – Fidel Mejia
OF – DJ Artis, Cole Roederer, Jonathan Sierra, Nelson Velazquez
SP – Derek Casey, Brailyn Marquez, Riley Thompson, Cam Sanders, Faustino Carrera
RP – Sean Barry, Riley McCauley, Ethan Roberts, and more
Ever since the Cubs moved to South Bend, they’ve been used to developing top prospects. First it was Gleyber Torres, then Eloy Jimenez, Ian Happ, and Miguel Amaya. This year, outfielder Cole Roederer, a 2018 second round pick out of high school, looks to be very promising. A 129 wRC+ in rookie ball points to a player who can produce in a variety of ways. He can hit for average and power, and he has decent speed. In addition, he uses that speed to go get balls in the gap and his arm is good enough to stay center.
Highlight of team
While Roederer will be one player to watch in the outfield when he arrives, on-base machine DJ Artis will start the year in left and physical specimen Jonathan Sierra will be in right. Artis should be setting the table for Roederer and Sierra. He is capable in left and could DH a bit to make room for the gritty Dalton Hurd out of Washington.
Sierra has yet to live up to his potential but he’s not far off. He’s got a great eye at the plate and good pitch recognition skills. The issue is the batting practice displays have not translated into game results. Add in Nelson Velazquez, who improved greatly at Eugene last summer, and you have quite the packed house in the outfield. Thankfully, there’s a DH spot to have room for all four.
Only 20 years old, third baseman Fidel Mejia lit up the Arizona Rookie League last summer, hitting .324 with a .389 OBP and a wRC+ of 130. The switch-hitting corner man will be challenged by players who are 2-3 years older on average, but he’s added some weight since last year and has been bopping the ball with much more authority this spring.
First to be promoted
Considering the logjam of pitching at all levels, it would be seem to be a challenge for an arm to move up. As a result, Andy Weber tops this list. He was on Myrtle Beach’s spring training roster all of March and was moved down at the last minute. But what I loved about Weber at Eugene last summer is that he was the coolest player on the field at the most tense moments.
Whether he was playing at short, second, third, or first, he made the right play. If he was at the plate, he took the walk, went the other, made contact, or basically whatever it took to get on base or drive a run in. He’s never overwhelmed by the moment and is just out there doing what needs to be done.
Bailey should be living the dream in his new role. This is a pretty stout lineup and one that could do some winning, but it is also needs to do some developing. Bailey’s strength has always been helping develop players by making small adjustments. Those could be mental strategies or swing adjustments, like getting David Bote to create more lift.
I am excited to see how Bailey handles these young kids and how they soak up what he has to say.