This should be an exciting year for the South Bend Cubs who should have a lot of high-profile prospects when the season opens. They struggled quite a bit throughout last season due to injuries and COVID issues in the system, so continuity was even less reliable than usual.
Manager Lance Rymel will be taking over as skipper with Michael Ryan moving up to Tennessee and he’ll have plenty of pitching options to choose from. The SB Cubs will also feature several top prospects from among their group of position players, so Four Winds Field should be a great spot to catch a game all summer long.
C – Casey Opitz, Pablo Aliendo, Jake Washer
1B – Matt Warkentin, Matt Mervis
2B – Ed Howard
SS – Kevin Made
3B – Luis Verdugo, Fabian Pertuz
OF – Alexander Canario, Yohendrick Pinango, Jordan Nwogu, Christian Franklin
DH – Cole Roederer
SP – DJ Herz, Jordan Wicks, Max Bain, Daniel Palencia, Michael McAvene, Kohl Franklin, Manny Espinoza, Richard Gallardo
RP – Zac Leigh, Jeremiah Estrada, Danis Correa, Tyler Santana, Gabriel Jaramillo, Sheldon Reed, Hunter Bigge
*Subject to change
Let’s take a look at what should be some major trends to follow during the season in South Bend:
Who’s in the rotation?
However things shake out when rosters are officially announced here in the next week or so, the rotation for South Bend is going to be outstanding. Right now, we can say with relative certainty that Herz, Wicks, and Palencia should be in that group. It’s unclear whether Bain will be in Tennessee or South Bend or whether Franklin will be in Myrtle Beach or South Bend.
Cubs prospect Kohl Franklin threw 1 IP of live BP today. First time throwing live since before the left oblique injury that cost him the '21 season. Hit 97-99 with FB.
"I can't wait to call my parents. I can't wait to talk to them. I felt unreal. I felt very good." pic.twitter.com/Z2vtsE6za6
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 5, 2022
I would not want to be a team in the Midwest League that has to face Herz and Wicks on back-to-back nights and then follow that up with Palencia throwing 100 the next night. Then you could have Franklin and possibly McAvene throwing in the upper 90s before turning things back over to Herz and Wicks.
Sound ⬆️ at the end 🤣 pic.twitter.com/H46RZ2Xcap
— Dj® (@DavidjohnHerz) March 18, 2022
This rotation reminds me of Kane County in 2014, a team that featured Jen-Ho Tseng, Daury Torrez, Duane Underwood Jr., Tyler Skulina, and Paul Blackburn. I distinctly remember Jason McLeod saying it would be great if one of them one or two of them could make it to Chicago, but three of them actually did (Tseng, Underwood, and Blackburn).
I don’t know if this South Bend squad with have the same hitting that carried Kane County to a league title, but the potential starting rotation is much better.
Next step for top draft pick
As with many other players, 2021 was a major learning experience for 2020 first round pick Ed Howard. After a slow start, he ended the year hitting almost .300 with a .355 OBP and a 120 wRC+ over the last six weeks. He’s gotten bigger and stronger this offseason as he went straight from Myrtle Beach to instructs and then stayed to work out in Arizona on a daily basis.
There was a lot of pressure on Howard last year and he pressed a little bit before getting injured, after which it took a while for him to find a groove. He consistently made hard contact the whole time and his defense remained fantastic, so he should be fine as long as he’s healthy.
Cole Roederer will be spending a lot of time at designated hitter the first month or two as his elbow gets back into shape after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s been seen throwing the ball around Mesa, but he’s more than likely going to play the outfield 2-3 times a week and DH the rest. It would be really cool to see him get his career back on track after missing all but three weeks last year.
The outfield for South Bend is going to be very deep on the whole, with 22-year-old Alexander Canario joined by 2020 third round pick Jordan Nwogu. Fans will also see the return of Yohendrick Pinango, who was up in South Bend for about a month last year. If Christian Franklin comes along, I feel sorry for the pitcher that’s faces that lineup.
In terms of improving over the course of a season, I don’t think anybody did that better last year on the position player side of things than Nwogu. He showed much more discipline as the year went on and his prodigious power came out as well. He’s kind of thinking man’s hitter, which you can pick up during his interview with Marquee’s Lance Brozdowski.
Jordan Nwogu interview from Myrtle Beach dropped today for @WatchMarquee.
His explanation about how his move towards the pitcher unintentionally changed is great. This clip didn't make it to air–too nerdy!–but insights like these are gold.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) September 21, 2021
My two favorite players that will be new to South Bend this year are Casey Opitz and Jeremiah Estrada. Opitz is probably not long for South Bend as his ability to call a game and defend behind the plate are superior to anyone else in the system, even Miguel Amaya. Estrada might follow suit as he dominated in relief last year at Myrtle Beach with a 1.57 ERA and 14.87 K/9.
My breakout pitcher of the year for 2022 is Sheldon Reed, a 2020 undrafted free agent from Clemson who debuted late in the year with the Pelicans.
This team should look radically different after the first couple months of the season, as several prospects come up from Myrtle Beach. That group could include Owen Caissie, James Triantos, Kevin Alcantara, and maybe even pitcher Tyler Schlaffer.
There’s no shortage of talent coming to and through Northern Indiana this summer.