The Cougars’ first season as a Class A affiliate of the Cubs begins at 6:30 p.m. today, when the club hosts Quad Cities at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. The Cougars still must make a roster move to pare their roster to 25 players, but it’s likely the player sent elsewhere will see Geneva again before long. Here’s a glance at the young men who would be Cubs, including the Rock with big power numbers on paper:
Chadd Krist, C
Cal product headlines a three-catcher group, and recently was recognized as the Cubs’ organization’s top defensive backstop. That can’t hurt with manager Mark Johnson, a former big league catcher who debuted with the White Sox.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH
Baseball America rates him as the organization’s No. 7 prospect. Vogelbach says he wouldn’t know. He reads pitchers more than publications, and it shows; he smacked 17 homers in 61 games over two levels last season.
Gioskar Amaya, 2B
Reigning Northwest League leader in triples and runs – 12 and 61, respectively, in 69 games – brings same explosiveness to his defense up the middle, which scouts rate as above average.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B
One slot behind Vogelbach in Baseball America’s rankings, the Manhattanite might only be limited by the drink menu at the adjacent The Country House restaurant. He turned 19 in November and was the youngest Northwest League regular in 2012.
Marco Hernandez, SS
Cubs brass likes his left- handed bat at a position that doesn’t always offer that attribute. Vogelbach lauded the keystone combination of Amaya and Hernandez as “solid all-around.”
Pin-Chieh Chen, LF
Part of a glut of prospects in the outfield, the Taiwanese-born Chien initially projected to begin the season at Class A-Advanced Daytona (Fla.), but Johnson said there “was really nowhere for him to go.”
Trey Martin, CF
Brings speed and range to Fifth Third’s occasionally tricky outfield, which sees its share of wind shifts this time of year. Has power, but also an adept bunter, which should serve him well in the tourney should he crack Cubs’ big league camp.
Bijan Rademacher, RF
Moved between three levels after the Cubs drafted him in the 13th round in June and showed consistent range and a good left-handed bat throughout. Baby name websites say his first name means “hero,” which bodes well for the bottom of the ninth.
Oliver Zapata, RF
Is among the names that should sound familiar to die-hard Cougars fans after playing in 109 games for then-Cubs affiliate Peoria last season.
Rock Shoulders, IF/DH
No doubt Chevy trucks admen are pulling for Shoulders – given name Roderick – to ascend the Cubs’ system. Another burly type, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder will put on his share of BP spectacles alongside Vogelbach.
OFF THE BENCH
Yaniel Cabezas, C
Eager to get second crack at Midwest League after batting .197 in 58 games for Peoria last season.
Willson Contreras, C
Early clubhouse leader as St. Charles North boys soccer coach Eric Willson’s favorite player improved from 23 errors in 2011 to eight last season.
David Bote, IF
Cubs’ 18th-round selection last season was member of 2012 JUCO World Series All-Tournament Team, representing Neosho County (Kan.).
Jose Arias, RHP
Reliable righty made 13 starts at Short-A Boise last season, and was part of nucleus that migrates east after helping the Hawks to the 2012 Northwest League championship series.
Lendy Castillo, RHP
Former Rule 5 pick joined Cubs from the Phillies organization and made 13 appearances with the Cubs last season. He’ll be stretched out as a starter in Kane County and, he hopes, beyond.
Michael Heesch, LHP
Prairie Ridge High graduate attended a handful of Cougars games as a child, and easily recalls the days before Fifth Third’s covered concourse. Reliever has worked to convert father, Fred, who grew up a White Sox fan.
Pierce Johnson, RHP
Supplemental first-round pick in June is Baseball America’s sixth-best organizational prospect. He was drafted out of Missouri State and offers a curveball and cutter along with his mid-90s fastball.
Tayler Scott, RHP
Born in South Africa, the right-hander was drafted as an Arizona high schooler in 2011 and had a 2.52 ERA in 15 starts at Boise last season.
Justin Amlung, RHP
Wonder who he likes in the Final Four. ... Louisville product was Big East Pitcher of the Year last season, which sounds even better given his itch to quit baseball in favor of golf at age 10.
Jeff Antigua, LHP
Elder statesman of roster – by minor league service time, anyway – entered organization in 2006 and reached Double-A Tennessee for 20 games last season.
Ian Dickson, RHP
Boise rotation regular is used to having a cat on his cap. He was drafted out of Lafayette College (Pa.), nicknamed the Leopards.
Nathan Dorris, LHP
Another southpaw reliever from Illinois, the Carbondale native pitched for his hometown Salukis after beginning his collegiate career at nearby Rend Lake Community College.
Eddie Orozco, RHP
This guy really likes exploiting hitters. He listed the Jose Canseco’s expose “Juiced” as his favorite book on his Cal-Riverside athletics profile page.
Felix Pena, RHP
Contributed seven scoreless innings to boost Boise into the league championship series last season.
Was a weekend starter for Maine in college after playing for father, Steve, in high school.
Brian Smith, LHP
Power pitcher hits 92-93 mph on his fastball but knows the development of his other pitches will be biggest key.