Cubs Release Former Top Prospect
With Cubs Minor League Camp at Fitch Park ending on Sunday, the rosters for the Cubs four "full-season" minor league clubs (AAA Iowa, AA Tennessee, Hi-A Daytona, and Lo-A Peoria) are just about set.
Several players have been released or demoted over the past couple of days, including former Cubs top prospect Brian Dopirak.
A 6'4 240+ hulking first-baseman, B-Dope was the Cubs 2nd round pick in the 2002 June Draft out of Dunedin HS. (A year later, Dopirak's high school teammate RF Ryan Harvey would be selected with the Cubs #1 pick).
It didn't take The Dude long to make his mark, as he pummeled the Midwest League in 2004 to the tune of 39 HR & 120 RBI and a .307 BA, while slugging a league-leading 38 doubles and 166 hits, leading the youngster to be named Cubs 2004 Minor League Player of the Year, and motivating Baseball America to rate Dopirak as the Cubs #1 prospect going into the 2005 season. .
But he struggled at Hi-A Daytona in '05, hitting .235 with only 16 HR, and then he broke his foot while running the bases on Opening Night at AA West Tenn in 2006, and after he came back, he hit only one HR in 52 games.
He returned to AA again in 2007, but was demoted to Daytona in May while mired in a terrible slump (.218 with only one HR in 21 games).
He recovered to have a decent year at Daytona (.277 with 17 HR and 23 doubles in 94 FSL games) and was expected to be the starting 1B at AA Tennessee in 2008, where he would be reunited with high school teammate Harvey. But he couldn't make the final cut.
What it came down to was this:
Going into Minor League Camp, the Cubs had two first-basemen who will be Minor League Free-agents after this season: Brian Dopirak and Matt Craig.
Craig spent most of Minor League Camp assigned to the AAA Iowa squad, but with the arrival of Micah Hoffpauir from Big League camp at HoHoKam, it was only a question of whether Craig would get released, or whether he would possibly take Dopirak's job at AA Tennessee.
Well, it turned out to be the latter. The Cubs decided to keep Craig around for another year, and have him return to AA (where he has spent most of the past four seasons) and play 1B there, And that decision meant the end of Brian Dopirak as a Cub.
With the memory of his 2004 season still somewhat fresh, and having been rated a Cubs #1 prospect by Baseball America just three years ago, the 24-year old Dopirak will almost certainly get an offer from another organization, or perhaps from an independent minor league team, probably someplace where he can DH full-time (he's a terrible defensive 1st baseman). And then it will be up to him to take the opportunity and do something with it.
Sometimes getting released can serve as a "wake-up call" for a player, while other times the player just hits the "snooze" button and goes back to sleep.
Here are some other recent roster moves from Minor League Camp:
IOWA: Released LHP Derrick Ellison (29-year old signed out of the independent Northern League this past off-season), demoted 1B Matt Craig, IF-OF Issmael Salas, and RHP Jesse Estrada to AA.
Also, at present the starting rotation at Iowa appears to be Sean Gallagher, Mark Holliman, J. R. Mathes, and two others still TBD (Sean Marshall would be one of the other two if he gets sent down)
TENNESSEE: Released 1B Brian Dopirak, and demoted INF Matt Matulia, LHP Jayson Ruhlman, and RHP Adam Harben to Daytona. Also, OF Yusuf Carter was demoted to Daytona last weekend, and after being absent from Fitch Park for a few days, he has decided to report to Daytona.
Also, at present the starting rotation at Tennessee appears to be Jeff Samardzija, Donald Veal, Mitch Atkins, Tanner Watson, and one other still TBD (probably either Jesse Estrada, Justin Berg, or Gregory Reinhard)
DAYTONA: INF Jonathan Mota, LHP Chris Siegfried, and RHP Stephen Vento have been demoted to Peoria. Also, RHP Joel Santo (one of two players the Cubs acquired from SD for Scott Williamson a couple of years ago) has disappeared from Fitch Park and may have been released (he would have been a six-year minor league FA after this season and failed to make the Tennessee squad) .
Also, at present the starting rotation at Daytona appears to be James Russell, Alessandro Maestri, Jeremy Papelbon, Marco Carrillo, and Arik Hempy.
PEORIA: LHP Michael Bunton, RHP Marcus Hatley, and C-1B Luis Bautista have been demoted to Boise/Mesa (Extended Spring Training). Also, RHPs Matt Maradeo, John Muller, and Cedric Redmond have disappeared from Fitch Park and may have been released, although Muller and/or Redmond may have been assigned to Boise/Mesa (EXST).
Also, I did not see RHP Ryan Acosta or LHP Mark Pawelek with the Peoria group. R. Acosta almost certainly was sent to Boise/Mesa (EXST), and Pawelek MAY have been sent there, too.
At present, the starting rotation at Peoria would appear to be Zach Ashwood, Robert Hernandez, Chris Huseby, and two from amongst Alberto Alburquerque, Dustin Sasser, Dae-Eun Rhee, and Alberto Cabrera. If Rhee and/or Cabrera don't make the Peoria starting rotation, they will almost certainly be kept at Fitch Park (EXST) where they can start.
As far as I can determine, here are the most up-to-date Minor League Camp rosters:
MINOR LEAGUE CAMP ROSTERS:
* bats or throws left
# bats both
* Neal Cotts
Jim Henderson (limited physical activity - unknown-type injury)
* Geoff Jones
* J. R. Mathes
* Ryan O’Malley
* Les Walrond
* Edward Campusano
Michael Cooper (limited physical activity – shoulder surgery rehab)
* Darin Downs
Grant Johnson (limited physical activity – spained elbow ligament)
* Chris Shaver (had shoulder surgery last June)
* Donald Veal
* Arik Hempy
* Casey Lambert
Billy Muldowney (had TJ surgery last July)
* Jayson Ruhlman
* Jeremy Papelbon
* James Russell
* Zach Ashwood
Todd Blackford (had TJ surgery last May)
* Dustin Sasser
* Chris Siegfried
BOISE/MESA (EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING):
* Jeffry Antigua
* Luis Astorga
* Michael Bunton
Rafael Dolis (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Kitt Kopach (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Oswaldo Martinez (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Jon Mueller (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Jose Pina (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Carlos E. Rojas
Larry Suarez (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Scott Taylor (serving 50-game prohibited substance suspension)
# J. D. Closser
# Koyie Hill
* Steve Clevenger (C-1B)
* Mark Reed
* Blake Lalli (C-1B)
BOISE/MESA (EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING)
* Alvaro Sosa
# Andres Blanco (SS)
# Luis Figueroa (2B-SS-3B)
* Micah Hoffpauir (1B)
Casey McGehee (3B-1B-C)
Carlos Rojas (SS-2B)
# Bobby Scales (2B-3B-OF)
Robinson Chirinos (2B-SS)
# Matt Craig (1B)
* Kyle Reynolds (3B)
Issmael Salas (3B-1B-OF)
Joe Simokaitis (SS)
* Nate Spears (2B)
Darwin Barney (SS)
Russ Canzler (1B)
Josh Lansford (3B)
* Ryne Malone (2B-3B)
# Matt Matulia (SS-2B)
Tony Thomas (2B)
* Kyler Burke (1B-OF)
# Marwin Gonzalez (SS)
Jonathan Mota (SS-2B)
* Jeffrey Rea (2B – limited physical activity – unknown type injury)
Jovan Rosa (3B)
Nathan Samson (2B-SS)
Marquez Smith (2B-3B)
BOISE/MESA (EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING):
Luis Bautista (1B)
Starlin Castro (SS)
John Contreras (3B)
Gian Guzman (SS)
# Dwayne Kemp (2B)
* Bryan Jost (1B - limited physical activity - knee surgery rehab)
Junior Lake (SS)
Elvis Lara (2B)
* Drew Rundle (1B)
Josh Vitters (3B)
* Sam Fuld
* Josh Kroeger
* Eric Patterson
# Andres Torres
* Matt Camp
* Corey Coles
* Tyler Colvin
* James Adduci
* Jeff Culpepper (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
* Jonathan Wyatt
* Cliff Andersen
Brandon Guyer (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
* Leon Johnson
* Dylan Johnston
# Jose Made
BOISE/MESA (EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING):
# Andres Quezada
* Nelson Perez
* Luke Sommer
Jesus Reyes (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
WHEREBOUTS UNKNOWN (by me):
Hung-Wen Chen, P (did not report)
Rafael Cova, P (did not report)
* Clark Hardman, OF (was with PEORIA group)
Matt Maradeo, P (was with PEORIA group)
John Muller, P (was with PEORIA group)
* Mark Pawelek, P (was with PEORIA group)
Cedric Redmond, P (was with PEORIA group)
Joel Santo, P (was with DAYTONA group)
* Marc Sawyer, 1B (did not report - may be finishing senior year at Yale)
Chi-Hsiang Wen, OF (did not report)
NOTE: These players may have been released, or they may have quit (permanently or temporarily), or they may be injured to the extent that they are unable to perform even limited activities on the field
PLAYER/COACHES: The Cubs also have three players signed to minor league player contracts who are in actuality serving as coaches:
Danny Fatheree, C (BOISE/MESA)
Leonel Perez, C (DAYTONA)
Min Kyu Sung, OF (PEORIA)
The 29-year old very rotund Fatheree was Kerry Wood's catcher at Grand Prairie HS before signing with the Houston Astros. After spending eight seasons in the Astros organization (where he never got above AA), he missed most of the past three seasons with a life-threatening illness that killed two of his uncles.
L. Perez had been convereted to a pitcher a couple of years ago, but suffered an apparent career-ending arm injury. The 24-year old is now a catching instructor and assistant coach with Daytona, although he may remain at Fitch Park for Extended Spring Training. He also serves as something of a mentor to the younger Dominican players.
Sung is a 25-year old Korean outfielder who played college ball in the U. S. at Nebraska-Omaha before returning to South Korea He was signed by Oneri Fleita (personally) last December, and he is presently assigned to the Peoria group where he is serving as basically a friend/mentor to 18-year old Korean RHP Dae-Eun Rhee. Where Rhee ends up is probably where Sung will end up also.