Triple-A baseball came to Des Moines in 1968 with the Iowa Oaks, and the Iowa Cubs have carried the torch since 1982. Here is a collection of some of the biggest names and best players at the time.
Mark Marturello and Michael Zamora / The Register
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs started focusing their attention on the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in the pitching for the first time.
They started storing weapons throughout the system and even selected pitchers with the first four picks. Since then, the Cubs have developed those poor and patiently waited to see if they could ever help at the highest level.
This season could finally become the year.
Pitching outlook is expected to be the high point of the 2019 Iowa Cubs, who will play their first home game in Principal Park at 18:30 on Tuesday against New Orleans baby cakes.
Fans coming Tuesday will see the start of a steady stream of pitching prospects who find their way to Des Moines this season.
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Adbert Alzolay is expected to radiate the big arms that this season must appear before the Iowa Cubs. (Photo: Rick Scuteri / USA TODAY Sports)
"It's going to be a very special group of weapons," said Jaron Madison, director of the development of players in Chicago. "There will be a lot of guys this year contributing to big league wins. So it's a good chance to see those guys in Iowa and compete for fans of the house, which will be great.
"I think a good number of those guys will contribute to the big league club this season."
That is the hope.
The Cubs have already proven that they can identify and develop big league talent from position players. In fact, that was the early emphasis of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Epstein and the Cubs greatly improved position prospects when he first arrived in Chicago in October 2011.
In 2012 the Cubs took Albert Almora Jr. in the first round. Then, from 2013 to 2015, the Cubs took Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ with their first-round picks. All four have made a significant contribution over the years, but Happ is back at Iowa to rediscover his swing.
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But the only area the Cubs had trouble with: Pitching.
Injuries and simply inconsistent play have hampered some of their pitching opportunities. Others, such as Paul Blackburn and Dylan Cease, a sixth round-round, have been part of the trade to help the big league club.
But the Cubs hope that some of their most recent choices can not only remain in the organization, but also become important pieces of the puzzle. And so on.
While position players such as Bryant, Schwarber and Happ can quickly rise through the system, pitching often takes time to develop.
Pitch counts, collection restrictions and injuries often delay those increases.
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Some of those weapons from the 2017 lesson and even previous years have reached an important time in their development this year.
"I think it's going to be a huge season," Madison said. "I think we have a really good pitching depth on multiple levels and lots of exciting guys to not only compete for the big league club, but to put together successful seasons and get guys in position to work their way up to the major competitions. "
Some of the biggest weapons are already in Iowa.
Iowa & # 39; s Opening Day selection included two pitchers ranked by MLB.com as top 25 prospects in the organization.
Iowa Cubs pitcher Dakota Mekkes has risen rapidly through the system this season. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Iowa Cubs (Dylan Heuer))
Reliever Dakota Mekkes (24) and starter Duane Underwood Jr. (25) are back for their second seasons in Iowa.
Starter Adbert Alzolay, who is in fourth place as the best in the organization, is in Arizona getting ready for the season and should join Iowa when he's ready.
Trevor Clifton, the Minor League pitcher of the year in 2016, was also added to Iowa & roster-Monday.
That is just the beginning.
Justin Steele (eight), Keegan Thompson (10) and Thomas Hatch (17) all start the season in Double-A. But with strong starts of the season, they could come to Iowa.
That's why 2019 is such a big season, not just for the pitchers in Iowa, but also for those big arms in Double-A.
It is one of the final steps in their development.
"Every time you come to Triple-A, it's the kind of polishing stages where guys just work on overall control and consistency with their stuff – trying to eliminate as many mistakes as possible because you can't get away with them on the Triple-A level and you never gets away with them at the highest level. So it's just about tuning in and being as consistent as possible, so if you get the chance to go to the big leagues, you stay there. "
The prospects are also not the only major weapons in the system. Just look at the selection of Iowa.
Iowa Cubs pitcher Dillon Maples talks about the pitching prospects of Cubs in the system.
Iowa & # 39; s bullpen has other weapons such as Dillon Maples, Matt Carasiti, James Norwood and Tim Collins that are not on the top rankings of MLB.com but could play an important role at Chicago this year. Carasiti, Norwood and Maples all have a big fastball in the high 90s. Then there is Carl Edwards Jr., a proven major-league reliever who struggled lately, but was sent back to Iowa to get back on track.
"I am very excited," says Iowa manager Marty Pevey. "I'm glad they're here. I'm glad they come from our bullpen. We haven't had so many guys from the mid-1990s that we can use every night. So it's going to be interesting."
It will really be. But for some boys, the 2019 season could be a make or holiday year.
Madison said he can't wait to see how the poor are doing during their big season.
"They are really exciting pieces to see," Madison said. "So we are very enthusiastic about the group."