Back-to-back-to-back was the goal for the Pelicans in 2017, as the high-A affiliate aimed to win their third straight Mills Cup Championship in 2017. The team floundered around .500 for most of April and well into May before they caught fire, winning 20 of 24 to win the first half Southern Division title and giving themselves a shot to complete the trifecta in September.
As well as they did in the first half, the Pelicans struggled to even get to a winning record in the second half. If not for a stretch in August where they won 10 of 12, I had serious doubts that they would even win a game in the playoffs.
Their postseason run was cut short, in part due to Hurricane Irma. But it was a lack of offense and missed opportunities with runners in scoring position that doomed them as they only managed to push across only two runs in two games.
The trade that sent Eloy Jimenez, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete to the White Sox seemed to take a lot of thunder away from this team. And when pitcher Adbert Alzolay was promoted to Tennessee, the rotation struggled to find a replacement.
With Jimenez gone, shortstop Zack Short became the most exciting player on the team when he arrived from South Bend. Eddy Martinez had a solid second half, hitting just shy of .280 and leading the team in RBI most of the season. Third baseman Jesse Hodges was consistent all year long as he hit .268 with 13 home runs and a team-leading 63 RBI. Trent Giambrone was up and down all year, while Tyler Alamo grew by leaps and bounds throughout the course of the season.
In August, the hitting and pitching seemed to gel as Duncan Robinson and Michael Rucker shut down teams in the Carolina League, though Thomas Hatch lacked consistency from start to start. Kyle Miller showed marked improvement as a starter filling in for the injured Justin Steele (1.52 ERA in 4 starts).
The strength of this team was the bullpen. Dillon Maples and Craig Brooks both dominated in April and May before heading to Tennessee. Pedro Araujo then became the team’s closer and seemed to fit the role like a glove. Setup man Dakota Mekkes did not allow run for over two months.
Second baseman Carlo Sepulveda, who missed most of the season, should advance with his teammates to Tennessee next year. Pitcher Justin Steele, who was injured in August, is likely to miss most of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks ago.
Oscar de la Cruz returned just in time for the playoffs after missing all of June and July and half of August. He is still a long way from having enough innings on his arm to be ready for the major leagues, but will be playing in the Arizona Fall League to add some experience.
Final Record – 73-67
Avg – Tyler Alamo – .281
HR – Eddy Martinez – 14
RBI – Jesse Hodges – 63
OBP – Zack Short – .372
SBs – Robert Garcia – 16
ERA – Duncan Robinson – 2.37
Innings Pitched – Thomas Hatch – 124
WHIP – Adbert Alzolay – 1.07
Ks – Thomas Hatch – 126
Saves – Pedro Araujo – 10
Going to the Next Level
AA is always the biggest test and I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen next year. Some players may rise to the occasion while others will struggle to adapt. I am most curious to see how Eddy Martinez, Zack Short, Duncan Robinson, Thomas Hatch, and Michael Rucker manage at Tennessee.
One Name to Know for 2018
Bryan Hudson is going to be the player who takes off the most next year at Myrtle Beach. The Carolina League is known as a pitcher’s haven and I think Hudson, a noted groundball enthusiast, will benefit most from that environment.