The past week has brought a few tweets from MLB clubs with fancy infographics listing their rosters for fall instructs and I’d been waiting for the Cubs to come up with something similar. However, news of their instructional roster came instead from The Cub Reporter as Arizona Phil put out the full list of prospects headed to the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa.
I was a little surprised to see not just who all will be in Arizona for the next six weeks, but also by who is not on the roster.
The pitching staff is made up of mostly players who would’ve been in the Arizona Rookie League or at Eugene this summer, like 19-year-old Manuel Espinoza be assigned here. He had a very good 2019 in the AZL, putting up a 2.49 ERA in 47 innings. Top international free agency acquisitions Richard Gallardo and Joel Machado will be there, along with Scott Kobos, an undrafted free agent who had an excellent interview on The Rant this summer.
It was good to see Bryan Hudson on the list after a bumpy 2019 at Myrtle Beach. MiLB free agent-to-be Erling Moreno, who’s still just 23, may not be a free agent after all if he’s pitching in instructs with the Cubs. There are a few older pitchers like Cory Abbott, Peyton Remy, Bryan Hudson, and Cam Sanders, the latter of whom has been working on a slider this summer.
— Scott Sanders (@yosandman27) September 19, 2020
Some of the Cubs’ big-name pitchers were not invited to Arizona. Ryan Jensen, their top pick in 2019, isn’t on the list and neither were several college pitchers from that same draft like Chris Clarke, Josh Burgmann, or Michael McAvene. Also notably absent are top 20 prospects Kohl Franklin and Riley Thompson. According to sources, that’s because they have already gotten their work in this year and most of the guys heading to instructs are working on something or making up for lost time.
On the hitting side of things, Brennen Davis won’t be attending after spending the summer at the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend. However, alternate site member Chris Morel is going to instructs along with his little brother Rafael, a shortstop who was outstanding in 2019 in the Dominican Summer League where he hit .288 with a 127 wRC+.
The biggest names among the position players are 2020 first round pick Ed Howard, Cole Roederer, Andy Weber, Nelson Velasquez, Chase Strumpf, and 2020 third round pick Jordan Nwogu. Those gentlemen will be making up for lost plate appearances vs. live pitching.
Two names to keep an eye on are first basemen Alfonso Rivas and Matt Mervis. Rivas came over to the Cubs from the A’s in the Tony Kemp trade after a blistering Arizona Fall League performance in 2019, hitting .306 with a .417 OBP. Rivas has yet to play in a Cubs uniform in the minors, although he did appear in a major league spring training game. Mervis was one of my favorite undrafted free agent signings from this summer. He crushed the ball at Duke in his abbreviated senior season, hitting three homers with a .458 OBP in 16 games. He can relieve a little, too.
One interesting sidenote to the list is that Yonathan Perlaza is listed as an outfielder. The former infielder only played 10 games in left last year in South Bend and is sure to get a lot more there this fall.
Aside from Davis, the most notable omission was undrafted free agent infielder Scott McKeon from Coastal Carolina. Outfielders Ezequiel Pagan or Carlos Pacheco, both of whom were slated for Eugene last summer, also had me cocking an eyebrow.
Like the pitchers, most of the position players would have started at class A or lower this year and several are getting their first taste of action as Cubs. That includes a few who’ll be making their stateside debuts, such as catcher Ronnier Quintero, shortstop Kevin Made, and outfielders Yohendrick Pinango and Felix Stevens.
Overall, it’s an interesting mix of players that should give us a glimpse into the next generation of Cubs prospects. Here’s the full list, per AZ Phil, with * denoting left-handed pitchers or batters and # indicating switch-hitters.
Jose Miguel Gonzalez
Ed Howard IV (SS)
Kevin Made (SS)
Matt Mervis* (1B)
Christopher Morel (3B)
Rafael Morel (SS)
Fabian Pertuz (3B)
Alfonso Rivas* (1B)
Chase Strumpf (2B)
Luis Vazquez (SS-2B)
Luis Verdugo (SS-3B)
Andy Weber* (SS-2B)
Greg Huss also contributed to this article.
Ed. note: According to a not-so-anonymous source, there may be more players in attendance than just those listed above.
AZ phil missing some names
— Cory Abbott (@Cabbott40) October 4, 2020