Soon to be in its third season since reopening after nearly a decade-long hiatus, Hawaii Winter Baseball will feature four Cubs prospects beginning later this month: infielders Tony Thomas and Marquez Smith, and pitchers Jeremy Papelbon and Blake Parker. All were teammates this past season at Class High-A Daytona.
Thomas said he is excited about the trip to Hawaii because he went to the islands as a member of the Florida State Seminoles during his freshman year in college.
The Cubs drafted Thomas in the third round after his junior season in 2007, and he batted .266 with 30 doubles this season, winning series MVP with an 8-for-17 performance against Fort Myers that propelled Daytona to a Florida State League title.
Thomas said that already knowing the players from the Cubs’ system that will accompany him to Hawaii would help make for a smooth transition.
“It’s going to be a very good thing,” he said.
Thomas will be joined by Smith, who began the year at Class Low-A Peoria before earning a promotion to Daytona. He was the Cubs’ home run leader in the minor leagues for a while this season and finished with 17 home runs and a .278 average.
Smith was an eighth-round Cubs draft pick from Clemson in 2007.
From the pitching side, Papelbon finished the season 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 73 2/3 innings. The left-hander did not allow an earned run from June 11 through the remainder of the season – a string of over 35 consecutive scoreless innings.
He was placed on the disabled list in late August with a blister on his pitching finger.
“It’ll be pretty cool to go to Hawaii,” Papelbon said. “I was talking to my brother, Jonathan, the other day and told him I was going. He said it was awesome and that he wished he could have gone when he was in the minor leagues.”
Chicago drafted Papelbon in the 19th round in 2006.
Parker joined Daytona as a mid-season call-up from Peoria and combined to go 4-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 68 2/3 innings between the Florida State and Midwest League’s. The Cubs drafted Parker from Arkansas in 2006.
It is unclear which of the four teams the Cubs players will play for. Hawaii Winter Baseball is scheduled to begin play on Saturday, Sept. 27.