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:   


* bats or throws left
# bats both


Jose Ascanio  
Matt Avery
Cory Bailey
* Neal Cotts
Sean Gallagher
Jim Henderson (limited physical activity - unknown-type injury)
Mark Holliman
* Geoff Jones 
Juan Mateo
* J. R. Mathes
* Ryan O’Malley
Billy Petrick
Rocky Roquet
* Les Walrond

Mitch Atkins
Justin Berg
* Edward Campusano
Michael Cooper (limited physical activity – shoulder surgery rehab)
* Darin Downs
Jesse Estrada
Grant Johnson (limited physical activity – spained elbow ligament)
Gregory Reinhard 
Jeff Samardzija
* Chris Shaver (had shoulder surgery last June)
* Donald Veal 
Tanner Watson

Esmailin Caridad
Jose Ceda
Marco Carrillo
Dumas Garcia
Adam Harben
* Arik Hempy
* Casey Lambert
Alessandro Maestri
Marcos Mateo
Ryan Meyers
Billy Muldowney (had TJ surgery last July)
* Jayson Ruhlman
* Jeremy Papelbon
Mike Phelps
* James Russell

Alberto Alburquerque
* Zach Ashwood
Todd Blackford (had TJ surgery last May)
Alberto Cabrera
Robert Hernandez
Chris Huseby
Jordan Latham
Scott Meyer
Craig Muschko
Blake Parker
Dae-Eun Rhee
* Dustin Sasser
* Chris Siegfried
Stephen Vento

Francisco Acosta
Ryan Acosta
* Jeffry Antigua
* Luis Astorga
* Michael Bunton
Rogelino Carmona
Rafael Dolis (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Eduardo Figueroa
Yohan Gonzalez
Marcus Hatley
Kitt Kopach (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Kevin Kreier
Oswaldo Martinez (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Jon Mueller (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Julio Pena
Jose Pina (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Hernan Ramos
Carlos E. Rojas 
Audy Santana
Ryan Searle
Jose Severino
Miguel Sierra
Larry Suarez (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Scott Taylor (serving 50-game prohibited substance suspension)
Harol Tolentino


# J. D. Closser
# Koyie Hill
Tony Richie

Jake Muyco
Chris Robinson

Welington Castillo
* Steve Clevenger (C-1B)
* Mark Reed

Josh Donaldson
* Blake Lalli (C-1B)
Mario Mercedes

Carlos Guevara
Carlos Perez
Roberto Sabates 
* 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)

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)


Jake Fox
* Sam Fuld
* Josh Kroeger
* Eric Patterson
# Andres Torres

* Matt Camp
* Corey Coles
* Tyler Colvin 
Ryan Harvey

* James Adduci
Yusuf Carter
* Jeff Culpepper (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
Ty Wright
* Jonathan Wyatt

* Cliff Andersen
Brandon Guyer (limited physical activity – injury rehab)
* Leon Johnson
* Dylan Johnston
# Jose Made

# Andres Quezada
* Nelson Perez
Kevin Soto 
* Luke Sommer
Jesus Reyes (limited physical activity – injury rehab)

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.


Excellent work as always Dr. Phil. What injury did Larry Suarez incur that has him doing light workouts?


question: how is dwayne kemp (the dutch Guy) dooing in mesa!!!!!!!

Too bad about Dopirak. I saw him play at Lansing when he had that monster year. Here's a quote about Dopirak by Jim Callis in a BA chat following that year:

"Scouts said he'll either hit 40 homers a year or flame out in Double-A, and it's too early to know exactly which way he'll go. He has the ceiling to be an all-star."

Flame out indeed.


Pawelek is indeed headed for Extended spring training. Scott Koerber was released as well (sorry if that's a repeat).

Rob -

Any idea if the Cubs still see Pawelek starting down the line or might they be looking at him as a relief pitcher? Sounds like Grant Johnson all over again (albeit a 2nd rounder vs. a 1st rounder).

I think they're just looking for him to buy a clue at some point...

guy has had some tough luck, much of it his own doing. As for reliever vs starter, I'm not sure they've labeled him a reliever quite yet, but they have asked me to junk most of his repertoire and focus on 2-3 pitches.

That's pretty interesting. They've asked YOU to junk most of his rep, Rob?


TCR to the MAX!

Thanks for all the great work, Phil.


Based on what you've seen this spring, who do you like for a "break-out" season? (i.e. Soto and Hart in 2007)

Submitted by Dr. aaron b on Fri, 03/28/2008 - 3:20pm.

Excellent work as always Dr. Phil.

What injury did Larry Suarez incur that has him doing light workouts?


AARON B: I don't know the exact nature of Suarez's injury, but when he shags fly balls, he throws the ball back left-handed. He barely moves his right arm. 

And Grant Johnson's injury is a partially torn elbow ligament. Whether he will have TJ surgery depends on how his elbow responds to rest.

Submitted by Romero on Fri, 03/28/2008 - 4:26pm.

AZ PHIL: Based on what you've seen this spring, who do you like for a "break-out" season? (i.e. Soto and Hart in 2007)


ROMERO: Among the pitchers, I would say James Russell, Alessandro Maestri, and Jesse Estrada, and among the position players, I would say Josh Donaldson, Tony Thomas, and Welington Castillo.

I can totally see everyone you mentioned above, but I wonder about Jesse Estrada. What does his repertoire look like? I don't even know what pitches he has and his FB speed. Why do you think he'll break out this year? He was someone I thought could get released this year if numbers warranted it.

Thanks Phil!

Any idea who will be split between Boise and Mesa? - Looking for a status on Hatley. He had a good spring but was bumped down?

These reports are great, Phil! Nice job!

There are just a few players who have slipped through the cracks. Can you confirm their release? Pitchers - Yuri Higgins, Simon Lee, Andrew McCormick, Taylor Parker, Christopher Rivera and Catcher Matt Canepa.

They've all been released.

I can confirm Canepa, Lee, Huggins and Parker for you. It's on

Great! Thank you!

Ceda all the way down to A Ball? Wow -- early days of ST, he was impressing a lot of people. In the games, not so much.

Hey Phil High A ???? Any word on over the limit as they have 26 heading to Daytona ?? Rumor has it they have to put someone on the D.L. You hear ...??? Have you heard this happening before ???


Submitted by dtersak on Sun, 03/30/2008 - 9:29am.

Phil, Any idea who will be split between Boise and Mesa? - Looking for a status on Hatley. He had a good spring but was bumped down?


DTERSAK: Marcus Hatley will be one of about five or six pitchers at EXST who will be the replacement cadre in case a pitcher gets injured at Peoria or Daytona or gets demoted to EXST from Peoria.

If Hatley doesn't get a replacement promotion to Peoria or Daytona sometime in April or May, he'll almost certainly go to Boise in June.

Great Thanks

Submitted by Striker on Sun, 03/30/2008 - 11:55am.

hai question:

how is dwayne kemp (the dutch Guy) dooing in mesa!!!!!!!


STRIKER: He's doing OK. Nothing special.  

Depending on when his visa expires, he will either go back to the European Baseball Academy in Italy when EXST ends in June, or he will stay in the U. S. and be assigned to the AZL Cubs in June.

Glad he is dooing oke, but got the idea he is an talented kid!!!!!! about his visa!!!!!!!!!Does he has a tourist visa...........otherwise he will stay till they drop him

What happened to Alfred Joseph?

Joseph was released in the off-season. He's had a few tryouts with other organizations, but was not signed. He may wind up in the Frontier League or some other indy circuit.

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