The Tennessee Smokies officially announced its 2013 Opening Day roster yesterday. This season’s roster includes 17 players who have spent time at Smokies Park in their careers as well as some players that are new to the Cubs organization. Four players are currently ranked in the top 25 of the Cubs prospect rankings by Baseball America. With Opening Night against Pensacola a day away, here is a breakdown of some of the players expected to play a big role in East Tennessee in 2013.
Alberto Cabrera - Cabrera is ranked the Cubs No. 13 prospect by Baseball America and has the “best slider” of any pitching prospect in the Chicago organization according to the publication. Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, the right-hander has appeared in a Smokies uniform each year since 2010. Cabrera has pitched in 42 games (18 starts) with an 8-7 record to go along with a 4.89 ERA with 114 strikeouts. In 2012, Cabrera appeared in 25 games for the Cubs going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched.
A 32nd round pick, McNutt looks to continue to build off of a successful 2012 season in East Tennessee. Photo Courtesy: Adam Kline/Tennessee Smokies
Trey McNutt - McNutt will begin his fourth season in Kodak. The 2011 Southern League All-Star has accumulated a 14-15 record in 60 games (42 starts) for the Smokies. In 2012, McNutt was second on the team with nine wins piling up 66 strikeouts in 95 innings. The right-hander is the No. 8 prospect in the Chicago organization according to MLB.com.
Kyle Hendricks - Acquired in a trade deadline deal in 2012 for Ryan Dempster, Hendricks holds the title of pitcher the “best control” in the Cubs organization according to Baseball America. An eight round selection by the Texas Rangers in 2011, Hendricks is 8-10 with a 2.80 ERA with an impressive 161 strikeouts versus just 24 walks in 183.1 innings pitched.
Rafael Lopez - A 16th round pick in the 2011 draft by the Chicago Cubs, Lopez hit .279 last season with spots in rookie ball through high-A ball. Lopez is a career .297 hitter and has thrown out 29 percent of potential base stealers.
Justin Bour - Returning for his second season in East Tennessee, Bour was the team leader in almost every major statistical category. The 25th round pick of the Cubs in 2009 had a team-leading 17 home runs, 110 RBI’s, 36 doubles, and 143 hits as the everyday first basemen.
Arismendy Alcantara - The versatile 21 year-old has played second base, shortstop, and third base during his four-year career in the Cubs minor league system. Ranked No. 10 on the Cubs prospect list by Baseball America, Alcantara has hit .283 with 15 home runs, 43 doubles, and 26 triples in his career as a minor leaguer.
Christian Villanueva – The other piece in the Ryan Dempster trade ranks 12th on the Cubs top prospect list by Baseball America. Another 21 year-old, Villanueva has a career .283 batting average with 33 home runs, 190 RBI’s, and 69 doubles.
Jae-Hoon Ha - The South Korean native returns to East Tennessee for the third consecutive season. Through 182 games, Ha has a .276 batting average with nine home runs, 72 RBI’s, and 44 doubles. Representing the 2012 World Team in the Futures Game, Ha went 2-for-2 with a home run.
Matt Szczur, a 2-sport star at Villanova, split time last season between Daytona and Tennessee.
Matt Szczur - Ranked the Cubs No. 6 prospect according to MLB.com, Szczur returns to Tennesse after being promoted to the Double-A team in July of 2012. The fifth round pick in 2010 had two home runs, seven doubles, and four triples in a Smokies uniform last season. Known for his talent as a football player at Villanova, it is no surprise that Baseball America ranks Szczur as the “best athlete” and “fastest baserunner” in the Chicago organization.
Read the official release from the Smokies
Here is full Smokies roster on the team’s official website
Michael Wottreng is a Broadcast and Multimedia Assistant for the Smokies Radio Network. You can follow Michael on Twitter here: @MWottreng