The Iowa Cubs have been the Cubs Triple-A affiliate since 1981 and are signed to remain with the Cubs through the 2018 season, which is as long an affiliation extension can be under baseball's rules. Among Triple-A affiliates, only the Royals affiliation with Omaha and the Red Sox relationship with Pawtucket are longer.
Today's preview is going to be briefer than the other three because I don't think I need to introduce most of the Iowa Cubs to you. You're all pretty familiar with Blake Parker and Brian Schlitter and if you don't know Kris Bryant's situation by now, you simply aren't a baseball fan.
Who is in charge? Manager Marty Pevey is back for his third straight season as Iowa's skipper after leading the team to a 74-70 record last season. Pevey has been in the Cubs organization for the past seven years in different positions, including a year managing the Peoria Chiefs in 2009. Before that, Pevey was a longtime coach with the Toronto Blue Jays, including stints as their first-base and third-base coach on the major league level. His major league playing career consisted of 13 games with the Montreal Expos in 1989.
Also back for his third season as Iowa's hitting coach is Brian Harper. Before that, he managed Tennessee in 2011 and Daytona in 2012. He had a long major league career as a player and was the starting catcher on the World Series Champion 1991 Minnesota Twins.
Mike Cather is the new I-Cubs pitching coach and new to the organization after holding the same position for Triple-A El Paso in the Padres organization last season. He no doubt welcomes the chance to work with pitchers at a lower elevation. Cather pitched for the Atlanta Braves from 1997 to 1999.
Leo Perez is the new assistant hitting coach. Perez played off and on in the Cubs system between 2004 and 2008.
Are there top prospects to see? You could say that, but you'd better get there early in the season. They may not be there for long. But the combination of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez is one of the greatest collections of infield talent you will ever see on one minor league team.
Who will pitch for Iowa? The same guys who pitched for them last year, for the most part. Four of the five starters in the opening day rotation are guys who pitched for Iowa in either 2013 or 2014. The one newcomer is Donn Roach, whom the Cubs picked up off waivers from San Diego over the winter. Roach pitched 30.1 innings out of the Padres bullpen last season and had a 4.75 ERA. Roach will make the Opening Night start for Iowa.
The rest of the rotation is familiar names. Left-hander Eric Jokisch and right-handers Carlos Pimentel, Yoanner Negrin and Barret Loux are the rest of the rotation. The interesting name here is Loux, who is coming back after missing all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In the bullpen, right-handers Blake Parker, Brian Schlitter and Armando Rivero along with lefty Zac Rosscup are back. The Cuban Rivero is the only one to not pitch in the majors last year. Newcomers to the Iowa bullpen are left-handers Joseph Ortiz and Drake Britton as well as right-handers Gonzalez Germen and Blake Cooper.
Who are the catchers? Rafael Lopez is back in Iowa after getting a September call-up last season. Veteran catcher Taylor Teagarden joins Lopez after playing last year in the Mets organization.
Who are the infielders? Chris Valaika. That's the answer to your question "Who is going to play first base?"
The rest of the infield is well-known to you. Javier Baez needs to work on making more contact while in Iowa. Kris Bryant needs to work on making 12 days go by. Addison Russell needs to work on finding a trade destination for Starlin Castro.
Who are the outfielders? The outfield isn't nearly as star-studded as the infield is, although it is expected that Bryant will play some left field while he's here. Junior Lake is back in Iowa after spending most of last season in Chicago and hitting .211. His job is pretty much the same as Baez's.
Korean Jae-Hoon Ha is a former solid prospect who hit a wall in the upper minors. He struggled in Iowa in 2013 and went back to Tennessee last season, where he struggled again. He's getting one last chance in Iowa. He's still only 24 years old.
The Cubs signed journeymen outfielders Mike Baxter and Adron Chambers to minor league deals over the winter. Jonathan Mota is a Cubs organizational man who can play both infield and outfield. He's been with the organization since 2005, which makes him one of the few players still left in the Cubs minors from when I first started writing about them in 2007. (Jeffry Antigua is the other.)
When can I see them? The I-Cubs first game is tonight in Memphis at 7:05 in a game on milb.tv or the free radio call on iowacubs.com. The I-Cubs home opener is Friday, April 17 at 7:08 pm. We'll see who is still there by then.