I had a preview written about the Eugene Emeralds, who begin play on Friday, June 17. It was all set. I went into detail about some players to watch for, who might be joining the team very shortly, and how good the Ems were going to be. All that still holds true.
What changed everything were two pieces of news that came out this week. On Tuesday, it was announced that the Cubs had extended their development contract with the Emeralds through 2018. I don’t think that’s any surprise given the quality of players the Emeralds produced last year and how well those players have done at South Bend this year. In addition, the facilities the team shares with University of Oregon are top notch and some of the best in the nation.
The second bit came on Wednesday, when the Emeralds announced that they would have MiLB.TV!
— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) June 15, 2016
I have been begging for this for over year at Cubs Insider. At the Cubs Convention, I asked Jason McLeod if it was going to happen. It did not look promising then, but it’s here now and I cannot wait!
I love to listen to Northwest League games late at night in the summer because there’s no other baseball happening in the Cubs system. It began first with the Boise Hawks and announcer Mike Safford a few years ago, and then last year, I started listening to the radio broadcast on the Internet when the Cubs moved to Eugene.
What made me most excited when I saw the tweet was I would get to see Dylan Cease and Bryan Hudson pitch and to watch them late at night when no other affiliates are on. Granted, it’s only going to be for home games, but I think it opens up a whole new world of reporting on what the prospects are doing at Eugene. That includes analysis of their performance and development.
Players of Note
Bryan Hudson is big presence on the mound. The 6-8 pitcher is only 19 and it’s going to be interesting to see how his curveball plays at Eugene and how deep he can go into games and sustain velocity on his fastball.
Jesus Castillo is the last of the Tony Campana pitchers and will make his short-season debut. He had an outstanding extended spring training, pitching a little over 19 innings with an ERA of 3.26, 20 strikeouts against 8 hits. What’s more, Castillo averaged only 12.8 pitches per inning, which is very efficient.
Pedro Silverio is my breakout pitcher of the season after spending the last two years in the Dominican Summer League. He had a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings of work at extended spring training, striking out 32 batters in that time.
Jose Paulino is a big lefty who is transitioning into a starting role after being a reliever last year at Eugene.
Marcus Mastrobuoni is easily the most improved hitter this year. In 17 extended spring games, he hit .444 with one home run and seven RBI and only struck out once in 36 at bats.
Wladimir Galindo is a guy I’ve been following since he was in the Venezuelan summer league in 2014 as a 17-year-old. He is now 19 and he’s had trouble staying healthy the last two years. When healthy, this kid can hit the ball and he can hit it a long way.
Andruw Monasterio came on strong in Arizona in August when he hit almost .280. He’s still a little raw but let’s hope he can smooth things out this summer.
Yeiler Peguero was the Dominican Summer League All-Star Game MVP last year and had an excellent year hitting leadoff for the summer league team. He is only 18.
Chris Pieters showed the ability to hit for average last summer in the Dominican Summer League and even in a short stint in the Arizona Rookie League after transitioning from the mound. I expect him to play a little first base and a little outfield. His big 6-3 frame might develop some power for the Emeralds.
Darryl Wilson is one of the Cubs’ top prospects, Wilson will get his first crack at centerfield this summer after seeing limited action last year in the Arizona Rookie League and again in fall instructs. He will need to work on his hitting, but the glove and speed are spectacular.
Robert Garcia hit .300+ last summer in Arizona. He can play all three positions in the outfield and will be a versatile member of this team.
Probably Joining Later
Michael Cruz is the only drafted position player in the Cubs top 10, and his bat played at a high level in college. Expect him to catch, play first base, DH some, and also to show off a solid approach at the plate. He won’t swing at just anything.
Zach Short is only 5-11 and 175 pounds, but word is the shortstop is still growing. He has nice hands and potential for power, so it would not surprise me to see the Cubs play him at several positions throughout the infield.
Trent Giambrone has a reputation as a solid defender with the potential for more hitting prowess than what he has shown to date.
Based on the quality of players, Eugene should contend for titles in both halves. Even though there are a few returnees, most of the players come from last year’s Arizona playoff team. Add in a few key cogs like Cruz, Short, and some college pitchers later in the summer, and it is going to be an exciting season. If they keep Cease and Hudson all season, it might be a magical one and we will get to see it on TV.