Iowa roster full of major league experience

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Josh Vitters will man the hot corner for the Iowa Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)

By just scanning down the 2013 Opening Day roster, it’s apparent that the Iowa Cubs have some major league experience. Though the lineup doesn’t include a top prospect of Anthony Rizzo’s pedigree and Jeff Samardzija’s days of shuttling back and forth between Chicago and Des Moines are a thing of the past, this Iowa side has enough talent and experience (17 of the 26 players on the Opening Day roster played in the majors last year) to make things interesting in the Pacific Coast League this season.

Center fielder Brett Jackson will be the centerpiece to this season’s squad. The organization’s No. 4 overall prospect (according to MLB.com) struggled putting the ball in play last season, striking out 217 times combined in Triple-A and in the majors. He spent the offseason reworking his swing, with the hopes of cutting his K total down. If it works, he’ll receive a call-up, or—at worst—there could be an increase in his 15 homers and 47 RBI in 106 Triple-A games from a year ago.

Josh Vitters also returns to the fray after struggling with an August 2012 call-up. He crushed Triple-A pitching last season though, hitting .304/.356/.513 in 110 games, with 17 homers and 68 driven in. He spent much of the offseason working on his patience at the plate, looking to see more pitches and be more selective.

Ryan Sweeney will give the organization a boost as well. The new Cub (signed April 2) has spent seven seasons in the majors, and owns a career .280 average, including hitting .260 with the Red Sox in 2012. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native will get an opportunity to play in front of his home fans before a hopeful return to the bigs.

Much like the other minor league affiliates, the pitching staff doesn’t have a top-level arm. But that’s not to say there aren’t intriguing pitchers.

The rotation boasts three players with 2012 big league experience in lefties Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley and right-hander Drew Carpenter. Rusin’s numbers are the most notable of the three, starting eight games last year and compiling a 6.37 ERA. But during the spring, the 26-year-old surrendered just five runs during 23.1 innings.

The organization’s minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck and Barret Loux both received promotions from Double-A, and round out the rotation. Struck went 14-10 in Double-A Tennessee last year, with an ERA of 3.18 in 155.2 innings, fanning 123. Loux, a former first round pick, recorded a 14-1 record with a 3.17 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A Frisco of the Rangers’ system.

Marty Pevey will take over as manager of the I-Cubs. Here’s the full roster he’ll have to start the season:

PITCHERS
Esmailin Caridad RHP
Drew Carpenter RHP
Jaye Chapman RHP
Casey Coleman RHP
Rafael Dolis RHP
Jensen Lewis RHP
Barret Loux RHP
Yoanner Negrin RHP
Blake Parker RHP
Zach Putnam RHP
Brooks Raley LHP
Chris Rusin LHP
Nick Struck RHP
Cory Wade RHP

CATCHERS
J.C. Boscan
Luis Flores

INFIELDERS
Edwin Maysonet
Donnie Murphy
Brad Nelson
Josh Vitters
Logan Watkins

OUTFIELDERS
Brian Bogusevic
Brett Jackson
Darnell McDonald
Ryan Sweeney
Ty Wright

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