Former first-rounder Simpson among notable cuts

Former first-rounder Simpson among notable cuts

Former first-round Draft pick Hayden Simpson and former two-time All-Star Dontrelle Willis were among the Minor Leaguers the Cubs released on Saturday.

The Cubs selected the right-handed Simpson with the 16th overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Southern Arkansas University, but he never found his footing. Mononucleosis prevented Simpson from making his pro debut that year, and he suffered from a loss of velocity.

Simpson, who turns 24 on May 20, made 30 starts in 56 Minor League appearances from '11-'12, getting as far as High Class A Daytona last year. Overall, he went 5-17 with a 6.42 ERA, 120 strikeouts and 89 walks in 161 1/3 innings. He posted an ERA of 5.72 or higher at each level along the way.

Willis signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs in January, ending the retirement he announced last July after a brief stint with the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk. The 2003 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner made one Cactus League appearance this spring, on Feb. 25 against the Dodgers. He issued a walk, then exited with tightness in his left shoulder while facing the next batter.

Originally an eighth-round Draft pick by the Cubs in '00, Willis won 46 games with a 3.27 ERA for the Marlins from '03-'05, but has struggled with injuries and poor performance in recent years. He last pitched in the Majors in '11, when he made 13 starts for the Reds, posting a 5.00 ERA.

The Cubs also released catcher Michael Brenly, the son of former team broadcaster Bob Brenly. The younger Brenly, 26, hit .227 with six home runs and 28 RBIs for Double-A Tennessee last season.

Bob Brenly left the Cubs this offseason to broadcast games for the D-backs, the team he managed to the '01 World Series title.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.