Hayden Simpson and Dontrelle Willis Among Minor Leaguers Released by the Cubs

As Opening Day approaches for minor league baseball, the Cubs have released several players from the system, including 2010 first round pick Hayden Simpson.

According to reports, the Cubs released Simpson, along with C Michael Brenly, RHP Brett Wallach, knuckleballer Joe Zeller, LHP Casey Harman and LHP Dontrelle Willis. The Cubs released RHP Ryan Hartman and RHP Su-Min Jung earlier this spring.

Hayden Simpson joins a disappointing list of first round picks that did not work out for the Cubs. The Cubs selected Simpson with the 16th pick in the 2010 draft. Simpson came down with mono soon after being drafted and was not able to get on track.

Simpson was moved to the bullpen last season and put up decent numbers. Simpson posted a 4-7 record in 29 games, five starts, over two levels in the system with a 6.56 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. Simpson walked 22 batters while giving up 102 hits in 82 1/3 innings.

Over two minor league seasons, Simpson posted a 5-17 record in 56 games, 30 starts, with a 6.42 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP.

Hayden Simpson’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Michael Brenly spent a majority of the spring in big league camp, his second straight non-roster invite to camp. With the lack of depth at the catcher position in the system, releasing Brenly is a little surprising. While he did not project as a big league catcher, he is considered a very good defensive catcher that could help the young arms in the system with their development.

Michael Brenly’s Page on Baseball-Reference

The Cubs signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal in the off-season. The D-Train was searching for one more season in the sun. Willis finally threw a pitch in a Cubs’ uniform on February 25 in Glendale against the Dodgers. Willis could not throw strikes before leaving the game with an arm injury. Willis barely resembled his former self on that Monday afternoon in Arizona.

The Cubs acquired RHP Brett Wallach from the Dodgers along with Blake DeWitt and Kyle Smit for Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and cash in July of 2010. Brett, the son of former big leaguer Tim Wallach, had a hard time getting on track in the Cubs’ system and spent a majority of last season on the DL. The 24-year old right hander was 4-9 in 26 starts, 21 games, over two levels (Peoria and Daytona) in 2011 with a 5.91 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP.

Brett Wallach’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Casey Harman was selected in the 29th round of the 2010 draft out of Clemson. The 24-year old southpaw made it to the Double-A level last year where he posted a 1-4 record in 34 games, two starts, with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. In 69 minor league games, 148 1/3 innings, Harman has given up 157 hits while walking 29 and striking out 123 batters.

Casey Harman’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Joe Zeller, another 2010 draft pick, posted solid numbers over four levels of the Cubs’ system a year ago. The knuckleballer was 3-5 in 31 games, 10 starts, with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP that included 54 strikeouts and 25 walks in 98 2/3 innings.

Joe Zeller’s Page on Baseball-Reference

There is an unconfirmed report that the Cubs also released RHP Jay Jackson and 1B Paul Hoilman.

Unfortunately, the news of more players being released will surface in the coming days prior to the Cubs announcing the Opening Day rosters for all of their Minor League affiliates.

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  • Tom U

    Two more tweets sat the RHP Kevin Rhoderick and 1B Justin Bour have been assigned to Double-A Tennessee.

    • Tom U

      Add RHP Tony Zych to Tennessee

  • Scott

    I’m baffled by this. Someone help me understand. Why give up on your first round pick after just two, albeit disappointing, seasons? Surely there was room for him on someone’s staff, he has to have talent, you can’t at the very least make this guy into an effective reliever? What is the harm of giving him another season? Are they saving money by releasing him? It’s just so frustrating flushing a first rounder down the crapper.

    • paulcatanese

      Double baffle if you compare the patience being shown to Ian Stewart, not to mention the dollars being spent on him.

      • 07GreyDigger

        Oooh. Two million dollars spent on Stewart. Two million is baseball money is like spending $100 on a new cell phone.

    • Aaron


      What’s to be baffled about? He was horrible, and word is, he was barely touching mid 80’s last year at times. Not only that, but he lacked command to boot.

      I don’t like giving up on talent, but Simpson was NOT “talent”. He was one of the worst top draft picks in Cubs history, drafted WAYYYYYYY higher than he should have been, and the only reason he stuck around as long as he did was because of the signing bonus.

      Now, having said that, the real guy that should be let go is the guy that slashed the draft budget that year at the last moment….none other than Crane Kenney. How that guy still has a job in this organization just blows my mind. He botched the baseball side of things, and he’s botched the operations side of things as well. One has to wonder what type of contract he really has. He might have a huge buyout or something like that. Who really knows?

      • SuzyS

        It would be really interesting to get the “inside” story of why Tim Wilkins selected Simpson in the first place.
        I remember most of the pundits scratching their heads at the time…and I just figured that Wilkins was our guru…and he must know something about what he was doing….guess he really didn’t.

      • Brp921

        I agree about Kenney. What has he ever successfully done for the Cubs?

  • calicub

    Jay Jackson, how far hath thou fallen? 2 years ago he looked like he was going to be a stud..

    I’m also surprised to to see Zeller being cut. he seemed to have decent numbers and you don’t see many knucklers in the system

  • Ripsnorter1

    Jay Jackson…

    Really pitched well at A ball, but was lit up in AAA for two straight years.

    Hayden Simpson was well paid for his time in the Cubs’ system.

    The Lilly trade was a complete bust, except for $2.5 million saved on Lilly’s salary.

    • J Daniel

      Would have rather kept Lily and Theriot! Terrible trade for 2.5? Another example of trading off for prospects that don’t even get a sniff. Most don’t.

      • Tony_Hall

        People will always look back at specific players in trades to show how bad they turned out. Prospects are about quantity and quality. You needs lots of quantity to get each player to the majors and by making trades, international free agents, etc to bring in more prospects is all about improving the quality in your system.

        Baseball is a game of failure, and people who want to find it can always find it. If Rip was a Giants fan he would have been “ripping” the moves of the Giants the last 5 years as well….all the way to the World Series. Just imagine what he would have said about Vogelsong when they brought him back.

  • BosephHeyden

    Brenly getting released seems like more of a “Your dad doesn’t work here any more” release than anything to do with actual talent. I still say he should have been given a shot last year, rather than giving Koyie Hill yet another shot to prove he isn’t a real baseball player (which, I guess, is still very much an option for the Cubs seeing as how, as pointed out in the article, there’s very little depth at catcher in the system).

    • Tony_Hall

      As is also in the article “he did not project as a big league catcher”

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