I-Cubs in the World Baseball Classic
DES MOINES, IA -The World Baseball Classic is baseball’s biggest showcase of the top talent around the world. Players from all different professional baseball organizations unite to form their country or territory’s team. The international tournament began in 2006 and was held again in 2009, 2013 and 2017. After an
DES MOINES, IA -The World Baseball Classic is baseball’s biggest showcase of the top talent around the world. Players from all different professional baseball organizations unite to form their country or territory’s team. The international tournament began in 2006 and was held again in 2009, 2013 and 2017. After an extra two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the World Baseball Classic is back.
The fifth installment will be the biggest yet. 2023 will be the first tournament with a pool of 20 teams versus the previous 16. Teams are split into four pools with regional and historic focus. Two teams from each pool will advance to the Second Round, with a final four set to face off in the Championship Round.
Eligibility is given for a certain team if the player previously appeared on the team’s roster; the player legally resides, is a citizen or was born in the team’s country or territory; the player has at least one parent who is a citizen or was born in the team’s country or territory; or the player can prove they could be granted citizenship of a team’s country or territory.
This year, rosters contain 67 MLB All-Stars, 186 players on 40-man rosters and 332 total players under contract with big league teams. The Chicago Cubs have 16 players under contract who will participate in the tournament, the third most among MLB teams.
Many of those Cubs played with Iowa last season or are likely to appear with the I-Cubs in 2023.
Played with Iowa in 2022, will likely return in 2023
Matt Mervis, Israel
Mervis played at three levels in 2022, hitting a combined .309 (158-for-512) with 40 doubles, 36 home runs and 119 RBI. His 36 home runs are the most by a Cubs minor leaguer in a single season since Kris Bryant crushed 43 in 2014. Mervis’ 119 RBI were the single most by a player in Minor League Baseball since 2019.
In his 57 games with Iowa, Mervis hit 15 doubles (7th on team), 15 homers (4th) and 39 RBI (5th). He had a season-long 13-game hitting streak from Aug. 18-Sept. 4, batting .417 (20-for-48). Mervis was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month in August, hitting .305 in 24 games.
Among all minor league players, he ranked in the top 10 in multiple categories: 36 HR (T-3rd), 119 RBI (1st), .605 SLG (5th), .984 OPS (8th), 158 H (7th) and 40 2B (2nd).
Mervis was named the Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year for 2022. As of March 1, he is the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect and MLB’s No. 4 first base prospect.
Mervis received a non-roster invite for Spring Training this year. He went 2-for-17 in eight games with two runs and one double.
Israel begins their tournament on March 12 against Nicaragua. They will also play with Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela in Miami March 11-15 in Pool C.
Jared Young, Canada
Young spent nearly all of 2022 with Iowa appearing in 109 games, the most among active players to end the year with the I-Cubs. His season began with five home runs in April and his first multi-homer game on April 19. Through a six-game streak in June, Young hit .375 (9-for-24) with four runs scored, two doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBI. On the season, he collected 61 runs (1st on team), 92 hits (4th), 21 doubles (T-3rd), 17 home runs (3rd) and 59 RBI (2nd).
Young’s contract was selected on Sept. 14, and he made his Major League debut with Chicago on Sept. 16 against Colorado. Young’s first big league hit came from a double in the bottom of the 8th inning that day. He appeared in six games with Chicago posting five hits, two doubles, five runs and one stolen base.
Young was optioned to Iowa on Sept. 27. The following day, he smashed a walk-off, two-run homer in Iowa’s final game of the year.
The Chicago Cubs gave Young a non-roster Spring Training invite. He went 2-for-9 with two RBI in six games.
Canada will play its first game March 12 against Great Britain. They will be competing March 11-15 in Pool C in Phoenix against Colombia, Mexico, USA and Great Britain.
Javier Assad, Mexico
Assad had a short stint with Iowa in 2022, appearing in eight games. He began the season with Double-A Tennessee, playing 15 games. He was assigned to Iowa on July 3 and made his Triple-A debut the next day where he allowed two earned runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings.
In his 36.2 innings, Assad recorded a 2.95 ERA with 37 strikeouts, giving up just 31 hits and 12 earned runs. He spun back-to-back quality starts on Aug. 12 and 18, allowing just one run on nine hits while striking out 11 over the two games.
He had his contract selected by Chicago on Aug. 23 and made his Major League debut that day against St. Louis. Assad spent the remainder of the season with the Cubs and pitched in nine games, going 2-2 with a 3.11 ERA.
Assad is currently on Chicago’s 40-man roster. In Spring Training this year, he recorded 4.0 scoreless, hitless innings and one win.
Mexico will play Colombia on March 11 to begin their tournament. They will also play with USA, Great Britain and Canada in Pool C in Phoenix March 11-15.
Nelson Velazquez, Puerto Rico
Velazquez appeared in 34 games with Iowa in 2022. He started the season with Double-A Tennessee. Velazquez was assigned to Iowa on May 6 and made his Triple-A debut the next day, going 2-for-4 with two doubles. He scored 21 runs and hit six homers, seven doubles and 15 RBI during 2022 with Iowa.
On May 30, Velazquez was recalled to Chicago, made his Major League debut the next day and was optioned to Iowa the following day. When he returned to Iowa, he had a five-game hitting streak from June 2-7 in which he hit .368 (7-for-19). Velazquez was once again recalled to Chicago on June 20 and remained there for the remainder of the season.
Velazquez went 2-for-13 with one home run and two RBI in Spring Training this year. He is on Chicago’s 40-man roster.
Puerto Rico plays their first game against Nicaragua on March 11 in Miami. They are a part of Pool D with Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Israel and Nicaragua and will play March 11-15.
Danis Correa, Colombia
In 2022, Correa had a brief stint with Iowa, making his Triple-A debut on Aug. 12 against Louisville. That day, he earned a win striking out three batters in his one inning pitched. In his 16.2 IP with Iowa, he recorded 24 strikeouts allowing 10 earned runs. His season high five strikeouts came on Aug. 23 against St. Paul.
Correa started 2022 with Double-A Tennessee but ended the season on Iowa’s roster. He received a non-roster spring training invite from the Chicago Cubs. In two appearances, he allowed one hit and two earned runs while striking out two.
Colombia will face Mexico on March 11 for their first World Baseball Classic Game. They will play in Pool C with USA, Mexico, Canada and Great Britain in Miami March 11-15.
New to the Cubs, likely to play with Iowa in 2023
Roenis Elias, Cuba
The Chicago Cubs signed Elias to a minor league contract on Dec. 20 and he was assigned to Iowa on Dec. 22. In 2022, he spent most of the season with Triple-A Tacoma (SEA). He threw 65.0 innings in 37 appearances, recording a 5.12 ERA with 55 strikeouts.
Elias has appeared in a Major League game in seven seasons, throwing in seven games for the Seattle Mariners in 2022. He collected six strikeouts, allowing just three earned runs in 7.2 innings. He holds a career 3.96 ERA with 331 strikeouts in the big leagues.
Elias is a non-roster invitee at Chicago Cubs Spring Training. He appeared in two games, earning two wins while striking out five.
Cuba will play in Pool A with Netherlands, Italy, Panama and Chinese Taipei in Taichung March 9-12. They face Netherlands on March 7 to begin their tournament.
Ben Deluzio, Italy
The Chicago Cubs signed Deluzio on Dec. 12 and was assigned to Iowa on Dec. 15. He spent much of the 2022 season with Triple-A Memphis (STL). In 94 games with the Redbirds, he hit .278 with 9 homers, 16 doubles and 49 RBI.
The St. Louis Cardinals selected his contract on Sept. 1, and he made his Major League debut the next day. He appeared in 22 games with the Cardinals, recording three hits, three runs and one double.
Against Iowa in 2022, Deluzio went 9-for-22 (.290) with four doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.
Deluzio is at big league camp and on the Cubs 40-man roster. In three games, he went 1-for-4 with one stolen base and one run.
Italy will play in Pool A with Cuba, Netherlands, Panama and Chinese Taipei in Taichung March 9-12. They will face Cuba on March 9 for their first game.
Miles Mastrobuoni, Italy
The Tampa Bay Rays traded Mastrobuoni to the Chicago Cubs for Alfredo Zarraga on Nov. 15. He spent most of 2022 with Triple-A Durham (TBR). In 129 games, he hit .300/.377/.469. He led the team with 32 doubles, was second in walks with 63, tied for fourth with 16 homers, and fourth with 64 RBI. Mastrobuoni ranked second in Triple-A in doubles, fourth in OBP and ninth in walks.
The Tampa Bay Rays selected Mastrobuoni’s contract on September 22 and he made his debut that day. He recorded his first Major League hit the following day, going 2-for-4.
He is currently on the Cubs 40-man roster and at big league camp. He appeared in four games, going 2-for-7 with one run and two walks.
Vinny Nittoli, Italy
The Chicago Cubs signed Nittoli to a minor league contract on Jan. 13, 2023, and was assigned to Iowa on Jan. 19. He spent most of 2022 at the Triple-A level with Lehigh Valley (PHI), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY) and Buffalo (TOR). Nittoli recorded a 3.81 ERA in 52.0 innings combined. He appeared in two games with the Philadelphia Phillies, tossing 2.0 innings, giving up no hits or runs.
Nittoli received a non-roster invite to Chicago Cubs Spring Training. He threw 2.0 innings where he recorded three strikeouts, giving up just one hit and no runs.
Played with Iowa in 2022, not likely to appear in 2023
Robel Garcia, Italy
Garcia played 41 games with Iowa in 2022. He finished with a team best 1.013 OPS and smashed 12 home runs (5th on team). Garcia hit five homers in a four-day stretch from May 10-13 against Omaha, one of three players to hit a home run in four consecutive games in 2022.
From May 10-19, Garcia hit .471 (16-for-34) with three doubles and 14 RBI. He crushed eight home runs in those nine games. Garcia had a pair of two-homer performances on the season, one coming on April 24 against Louisville and the other on May 10 against Omaha.
Garcia was released on June 4 and is currently a free agent. He played parts of 2022 in the Korean Baseball Organization and the Dominican Winter League.
Nicholas Padilla, Puerto Rico
With Iowa in 2022, Padilla appeared in 10 games recording a 1.23 ERA with 17 strikeouts. He climbed three levels of Chicago’s minor league system and earned an assignment to Iowa on July 22. He earned a win in his Triple-A debut on July 26 against St. Paul.
His contract was selected by the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 23 and made his Major League debut that day. Padilla threw 1.2 innings, striking out one while allowing one run. He returned to Iowa following his debut and was eventually designated for assignment on September 6. The Chicago White Sox claimed Padilla off waivers, and he is currently at Spring Training with the club.
Marcus Stroman, Puerto Rico
Stroman was sent to Iowa on Major League rehab on July 3. He appeared in just one game, allowing five earned runs on seven hits in his 2.2 innings. He was activated by Chicago on July 9.
For Chicago, Stroman threw 138.2 innings, striking out 119 with a 3.50 ERA. He is currently at Spring Training on the Chicago Cubs 40-man roster where he made two starts, throwing 4.1 innings and recording five strikeouts.
Andrelton Simmons, Netherlands
Simmons started 2022 on the injured list and joined Iowa’s roster on a rehab assignment on May 7. He had a hit in each of his first two games in Iowa and went hitless in four more games. He joined Chicago’s roster on May 15.
On July 28, he was sent on another rehab assignment, playing in six more games with Iowa. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 6 and released on Aug. 7. He is currently a free agent.
Netherlands opens the World Baseball Classic on March 7 against Cuba. They will play in Pool A in Taichung with Cuba, Panama, Chinese Taipei and Italy March 9-12.
More Players in the Cubs System
Owen Caissie, Canada
In 2022, Caissie played with High-A South Bend. He was selected 45th overall by the San Diego Padres in 2020. He was a part of a multi-player trade that December that sent him to the Cubs. Caissie currently ranks as the Cubs No. 13 prospect.
Curtis Taylor, Canada
The Chicago Cubs signed Taylor to a minor league contract on Jan. 31 and was assigned to Iowa Feb. 3. Taylor spent 2022 at three levels in the Washington Nationals system, playing in 27 games with Triple-A Rochester.
Liam Spence, Australia
Spence played at two levels in 2022, ending the season with Single-A Myrtle Beach. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2021 draft.
Australia will play in Pool B with Japan, Korea, China and Czech Republic March 8-12 in Tokyo. They open their tournament on March 8 against Korea.
Fabian Pertuz, Colombia
Pertuz spent all of the 2022 season with High-A South Bend. He was undrafted and signed with the Cubs in 2017.
BJ Murray, Great Britain
Murray spent 2022 at two levels, ending the season with High-A South Bend. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 15th round of the 2021 draft.
Great Britain will play their first game on March 11 against USA. They will also play with Mexico, Colombia and Canada in Pool C in Phoenix.
Branden Noriega, Great Britain
Noriega was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round of the 2022 draft.
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 7 and will conclude March 21. For the full schedule click here.