This marks the fourth year of the relationship between the Chicago Cubs and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Two championships and three playoff appearances over the first three seasons are gravy, but the high-A affiliate has also served as a great springboard for top prospects.
When it comes to 2018, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Pelicans roster. There are several players with a lot of talent who have not put it together as of yet. Some are on the verge of breaking out while others will be getting their first full season in as Cubs prospects.
They should be capable of scoring runs in bunches, but the issue is whether they will hit consistently or in streaks. Many of this year’s Pelican’s spent 2017 at South Bend, where the team began to put things together in mid-June and almost made a miraculous run to the playoffs. They were eliminated in the last week of the season but it was good to see so many do so well at such a young age.
This team is younger than the team a level down at South Bend, as the Pelicans’ roster has a lot of players drafted out of high school or signed as 16- and 17-year-old international free agents. South Bend, on the other hand, features a heavy mix of recent college draft picks and young international kids.
The Main Attraction
Aramis Ademan is going to be 19 years old all season. As of one the Cubs’ top prospects, he will have a lot of eyes focused on him. Right now, the only concern is his ability to hit off-speed stuff. He can turn on a fastball and is excellent (but not perfect) in the field.
The Ultimate Professional
Austin Upshaw just rakes as a hitter and reeks of baseball rat (which is a good thing). He can play a mix of 1B, 2B, and 3B and has sneaky power. But above all else, he just hits. He is going to be one of those guys who could continue to get better at every level.
Luis Ayala lacks power, he has great ability to put the bat on the ball. He hit .281 last year and was the most consistent hitter on that team all year. He skipped Eugene and held his own in South Bend.
The First Guy to Tennessee
Basically a two-pitch reliever, Jhon Romero was devastating through three levels last year. He can throw in the low-to-mid 90’s and has a hard biting curve that acts more like a cutter and that hitters struggle to pick up the spin on. He was one of the most impressive prospects in the second half last season.
If He Could Only Stay Healthy
I just love Wladimir Galindo‘s power potential and makeup. He could easily hit 20-25 dingers if he can stay healthy. He’s been a Cub for four seasons now and just turned 21 after last season. In all that time, he still only has 699 total at-bats, which is not a lot.
Erling Moreno‘s curve is the stuff of legend, but so are minor injuries that put him on the DL.
Kevonte Mitchell and DJ Wilson have a lot of potential as prospects but they have not broken out just yet. I think Mitchell does this year. His work ethic is tremendous and will soon pay off, and his power potential is off the charts. As for Wilson, everything he does looks so fluid, you wonder why that hasn’t translated into him being a young star.
Jose Paulino, Manny Rondon, and Bryan Hudson are three left-handed starting pitchers who should benefit from the wind blowing off the ocean every day in Myrtle Beach. Paulino looked very good in the second half of last year while Hudson looked brilliant at times and baffled with his inconsistency at others. Now with a full season under their belts, all three should be better prepared for Myrtle Beach and hopefully that will show up in the box score.
Andruw Monasterio is one prospect I like who beat the crap out of the ball for South Bend, hitting .281 in 58 games before a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach for the playoffs.
Joe Martarano should be better acclimated to the grind this year as well. His high leg kick is gone, replaced by a toe-tap, and this should allow him to react better to breaking stuff. When he squares a ball up, the sound is special. No one in the Cubs system hits it quite like he does.
Sleeper of the Year
Tyler Peyton made his debut last year after being drafted in 2016. He worked as a reliever last year and he improved every month, making all of the numerous adjustments that were required of him. In fact, he looked much stronger in August than he did in April. That bodes well for this year.
First Prospect Promoted to Myrtle Beach
Keegan Thompson should make it to Myrtle Beach quickly. In fact, I would not be surprised to see him skip South Bend alltogether. The 2017 4th round pick out of Auburn is very polished and has great command and pitchability for a player right out of college.
All in all, this team should be exciting to watch in the first half. There are definitely some players who can hit, but can they do it on a consistent basis? In addition, the starting rotation was still a bit unsettled before the end of camp. Even though Jaron Madison, the Cubs’ Director of Player Development, said at Cubs Convention that Alex Lange would start the year in South Bend, Lange might just end up in Myrtle Beach with Thompson. If so, this team could be in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.