Six names to watch in the Cubs' minor-league system who could help in 2024 (2024)

CHICAGO — A 30-pitch seventh inning during which Chicago Cubs ace Shota Imanaga somehow kept the St. Louis Cardinals off the board turned out to be the most pivotal moment in the Cubs’ 5-1 victory Saturday afternoon. With two outs, the Cubs leading 2-1 and men on first and second, Imanaga battled with lefty Brendan Donovan. Donovan worked an eight-pitch at-bat, at one point taking a 1-2 heater that Imanaga thought had painted the outside corner.

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Imanaga didn’t lose his composure though. He saw Donovan foul off two more pitches, then delivered a sweeper just off the plate that Donovan swung through to end the threat. It was Imanaga’s 103rd and final pitch of the game and he unleashed any remaining energy with a scream and a Tiger Woods-like fist pump as he bounced off the mound with his team clinging to that ever-so-small lead.

It’s one win, and so many question marks remain. Through the first six innings, the Cubs scored just two runs on six hits and five walks and went hitless in their first nine chances with runners in scoring position. Ian Happ changed that with a two-out, three-run homer in the seventh to give a bullpen decimated by injuries a little breathing room in the Cubs’ first victory by four or more runs since May 15.

For now, the Cubs are just another mediocre team in a league filled with them. Outside of a handful of teams, it seems like everyone is just searching for a hot streak that can get them to 80-something wins and into the postseason.

To do even that, the Cubs are going to need more help. They’ll have to make trades at some point, but internal improvements could happen as well. They need help at catcher, but that won’t be solved internally. At least not this year. When it comes to improving the bullpen, getting healthy with the likes of Yency Almonte, Julian Merryweather and others returning would likely be the best bet. Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel and Happ consistently hitting like they can would be the boost the offense needs.

But with all that in mind, here are four relievers and two bats who could help the team and have yet to be seen this year at the big-league level. The information below is based on multiple conversations with league sources.

RHP Ethan Roberts

Roberts made the roster out of spring training in 2022, struggled, and almost immediately got injured upon his demotion to the minors and underwent Tommy John surgery. Entering play on Saturday, he’s yet to give up a run at Triple-A Iowa in 9 2/3 innings and has struck out 31 percent of the batters he’s faced. Roberts’ walk rate is a bit elevated (14.3 percent) but the Cubs need arms that can help in the bullpen and he certainly could do that — and soon. He’s already shown he can work on shorter rest and also has a back-to-back on his ledger this year.

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Roberts has a low-90s heater that comes from an interesting arm slot, giving him some deception and allowing the fastball to play up. His sweeping slider is a real weapon that could make him useful against right-handed hitters. Roberts had an opt-out on June 15 that wasn’t used, so perhaps he could be called upon soon. Since he’s still on the 60-day injured list, the Cubs would have to make room on the 40-man to call Roberts up.

WELCOME BACK ETHAN ROBERTS!

A perfect inning for Ethan in his first I-Cub appearance since 2022! pic.twitter.com/ByM0FNCC9b

— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) May 19, 2024

RHP Zac Leigh

Leigh’s fastball sits around 93 mph, but he gets good extension on the pitch, allowing it to play up a bit. It also has some cutting action, making it a weapon against lefties as well. The walks have spiked of late, which Leigh will have to remedy.

The slider is not a crazy sweeper, but it does have more horizontal movement than the traditional slider one sees. Whatever happens with Leigh, he’s a steal as a 16th-rounder in the 2021 draft.

RHP Hunter Bigge

Bigge has battled injuries and missed the beginning of the season, which has largely led to him dropping off the radar for some. But he’s got a fastball that sits around 98 mph, a short slider in the upper 80s and a slurve in the low-to-mid 80s.

The stuff is there, but a tick-up in command would be a big step for him. Still, he’s around the zone enough to be intriguing. The sample is too small right now (3 2/3 innings entering play on Saturday) and he eventually needs to show he can go on shorter rest to be impactful at the highest level, but he’s got the type of arsenal that puts him on the radar.

RHP Michael Arias

A former shortstop who converted to pitching when signed by the Cubs in the winter of 2021, it’s still too early to tell if Arias can help this season. But the Cubs think enough of him that he was added to the 40-man after last season so they wouldn’t lose him in the Rule 5 draft.

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He’s logged just four innings at Triple A and walked five batters to four strikeouts. He comes from a lower slot that gives his fastball some tailing action and some ride. The continued development of the changeup and slider, which the Cubs view similarly as far as current effectiveness, will be key. If he can improve the command on both and get them in the zone more often, he could arrive this season.

3B Matt Shaw

There’s still an outside shot Shaw helps the team this season. The defense has developed nicely at third to the point where it’s not being ruled out that he’s the future for the team at that position.

After rarely walking in his professional debut last summer, Shaw is now taking free passes at a 14.1 percent rate. They’re currently focusing on his swing-and-miss though, which has jumped a bit this season (9.2 percent swinging-strike rate), but isn’t unmanageable. There is some debate internally whether they should tone down a very unique swing, but there are innate bat-to-ball skills in place which means it wouldn’t be a drastic change.

Either way, there’s still plenty of upside here and the chance for an impactful presence in the lineup who could arrive as late as this summer.

#Cubs No. 3 prospect Matt Shaw has 10 hits in his last seven games, including three homers and a pair of doubles.@USAFRecruiting #AimHigh pic.twitter.com/HW6oWLLYq6

— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) June 4, 2024

OF Owen Caissie

As a left-handed hitter with power, Caissie has some calling for him to be moved quickly to the big leagues. He could certainly contribute in some fashion, but the Cubs have to decide whether that’s best for him and his development. Would calling him up sooner and not giving him everyday playing time stifle his development?

While fans would be ready to insert him somewhere in a corner outfield spot or just stick him at DH, that likely wouldn’t be how it works. Limited at-bats now could keep him from reaching his full potential. They also believe he’s more athletic than he’s given credit for and has a chance to be a better outfielder than originally believed. He just needs more reps to continue to improve.

Swing-and-miss will always be there, but Caissie takes his walks and has some of the best exit velocity numbers in all of baseball — not just the minors. He’s also starting to tap into that in-game power that’s been promised as his slugging has steadily risen as the season has progressed.

(Photo of Owen Caissie from spring training: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

Six names to watch in the Cubs' minor-league system who could help in 2024 (1)Six names to watch in the Cubs' minor-league system who could help in 2024 (2)

Sahadev Sharma is a staff writer for The Athletic and covers the Chicago Cubs. Previously, Sahadev was a national baseball writer for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN Chicago. Follow Sahadev on Twitter @sahadevsharma

Six names to watch in the Cubs' minor-league system who could help in 2024 (2024)

FAQs

Are the South Bend Cubs AAA? ›

The South Bend Cubs are a Minor League Baseball team of the Midwest League and the High-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

Who is the double A affiliate of the Cubs? ›

  • Triple A: Iowa Cubs.
  • Double A: Tennessee Smokies.
  • High A: South Bend Cubs.
  • Low A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
  • Complex League: Arizona Complex League (ACL) Cubs.
  • Dominican Summer League: Dominican Summer League (DSL) Cubs.
Mar 15, 2024

Where do the Iowa Cubs play? ›

They are located in Des Moines, Iowa, and are named for their Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliate. The Cubs have played their home games at Principal Park since 1992, replacing Sec Taylor Stadium which the Cubs used from 1969 to 1991.

What team is older Cubs or Sox? ›

The Cubs began playing baseball in Chicago in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings, joining the National League charter six years later. The White Sox originated in the Western League as the Sioux City Cornhuskers before Charles Comiskey, a former Chicago baseball player and manager, bought them in 1894.

What minor league team is the Cubs in Tennessee? ›

The Tennessee Smokies are a Minor League Baseball team based in the Knoxville, Tennessee, metropolitan area. The team, which plays in the Southern League, are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Smokies Stadium, the team's ballpark, is located in the suburb of Kodak, and seats up to 8,000 fans.

How much is a beer bat at Cubs game? ›

Introduced at Wrigley Field this season, the $30 baseball-bat-shaped plastic container holds 26 ounces of beer (or frozen margarita, if that's your thing).

What beer is served at Cubs games? ›

Concessions Guide
Menu ItemStand NameSection
BudweiserBars Concourse107, 114, 118, 122
Bud LightPortables Bleachers501, 504, 506, 507, 514, 515, 540
Bud LightPortables Upper Deck306, 308, 311, 321, 323, 326, 328
Bud LightPortables Mezzanine209, 212, 214, 217, 218, 222, 223, 228, 232
36 more rows

Who owns the South Bend Cubs? ›

Andrew Berlin is Chairman and Owner of the South Bend Cubs.

Why did Wrigley sell the Cubs? ›

When Philip died Tuesday, April 12, 1977, his estate owed between forty and fifty million dollars in taxes. Philip's son, William Wrigley III inherited the company and the debt. William III was forced to sell ownership of the Cubs and of Wrigley Field in order to pay the tax bill.

Who was the Hawk on the Cubs? ›

Andre Nolan Dawson (born July 10, 1954), nicknamed "the Hawk" and "Awesome Dawson", is an American former professional baseball outfielder who played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Who has the most doubles in a minor league season? ›

Mundell now has 56 doubles, one more than Zach Daeges, who hit 55 doubles for high Class A Lancaster in 2007, and Scott Seabol who did it for low Class A Greensboro in 1999. No one has hit more doubles in a minor league season since the minors reorganized in 1963.

Are kids free at Iowa Cubs? ›

Child, Senior, and Military rates available. Children 3 and under are free. Group rates available for groups 25+.

What is the Cubs rainout policy? ›

Rainout Ticket Policy

If less than 5 innings of a game (4 1/2 innings if the South Bend Cubs are ahead) are played, your ticket can be exchanged for good for any regular season game later in the season and may be exchanged at Four Winds Field box office for a ticket of equal or lesser value subject to availability.

Can you buy Iowa Cubs tickets at the gate? ›

WALK-UP TICKETS/WILL CALL

If fans arrive at Principal Park without tickets, members of the Iowa Cubs staff will be available outside the gates to help fans purchase tickets through their phone rather than waiting in line.

Whose Minor League team is the Yard Goats? ›

The Hartford Yard Goats are a Minor League Baseball team based in Hartford, Connecticut. The Yard Goats, which play in the Eastern League, are the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

When did the Cubs become a major league team? ›

The Cubs, first known as the White Stockings, were a founding member of the NL in 1876, becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903. Throughout the club's history, the Cubs have played in a total of 11 World Series.

Are the Milwaukee Brewers a Minor League team? ›

The Milwaukee Brewers were a minor league baseball team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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