Cubs’ roster has little, if anything, on Iowa’s
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2012 7:56PM
Tony Campana led the Cubs in stolen bases in 2011, but he will open this season at Class AAA Iowa. | Getty Images
Updated: May 3, 2012 8:12AM
MESA, Ariz. — If you’re wondering who might win a three-game series between the Cubs and their Class AAA Iowa affiliate right now, you’re not alone.
‘‘I think we’d give ’em a game at least,’’ said Tony Campana, who’s expected to be Iowa’s starting left fielder to start the season. ‘‘I think we’d be competitive.’’
That’s not just empty bravado or sour grapes from a guy who didn’t make the big-league club this spring.
When the Cubs break camp Tuesday, they’ll leave without two of the top four or five talents in camp this spring (center fielder Brett Jackson and first baseman Anthony Rizzo), a three-year big-league veteran with the second-best career ERA among all starting pitchers in camp (Randy Wells), the top-hitting, top-throwing catcher in camp (Welington Castillo) and their reigning stolen-base leader and the fastest guy in the organization (Campana).
All those players are headed to Iowa, which will feature big-league experience at virtually every other position and throughout most of the pitching staff.
‘‘We’re pretty loaded down there,’’ Campana said.
That’s the idea. Well, maybe not the part about Iowa being more athletic, faster and better defensively, with what looks like more power in the lineup, than the big-league club.
‘‘Yeah, we should swing the bats there, for sure,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any question. That’s a good thing. I know it’s a cliché, but we’re going to need a lot of guys over the course of the summer. The team that looks good on paper with no depth is not a very good team.’’
President Theo Epstein, Hoyer and player-development/scouting boss Jason McLeod only have begun to build the kind of depth they want in the Cubs’ system. This isn’t anything close to where they say they want to be.
But between bolstering the starting-pitching depth and acquiring Rizzo and a handful of other mid- to high-minors players in the last few months, the Cubs think they have created options and
insurance within the system for
inevitable injuries and performance issues.
‘‘It’s something we’re really
actively trying to build up in the organization,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘When you get to the point where a guy gets hurt and you bring up a guy that’s almost as good, it means you’re probably a pretty good
organization. It is a little bit about a war of attrition over the course of the summer, and the teams that can’t handle that usually struggle.’’
It also keeps the guys at the big-league level on their toes when the guys coming up behind them are creating bigger buzz in the minors than some of the guys in Chicago, especially once that big-league club starts producing the 90-victory
seasons year after year the new
regime talks about.
And it’s not all about starting over. Much of the depth comes from players drafted and developed by the former regime.
Either way, it gives manager Dale Sveum and his staff what they think is something to work with as they try to reverse a trend that has seen the Cubs’ results decline for three consecutive seasons.
‘‘It’s been nice to look at your Triple-A team and be able to say, ‘OK, I’ve got this, I’ve got that, [he] backs this up, [he] backs that up,’ and you’ve got pretty much everything covered down there,’’ Sveum said.
Everything except maybe the bet if he puts his Cubs players on the field against their Iowa counterparts.
‘‘I think it’d be close,’’ Campana said.