I am not sure quite how to feel about this year’s opening day for the minor leagues. I have been waiting for this for months, but now that it is here, I wonder how I am going to watch 3 games at once tonight. Iowa begins play at 3 Central and the other three teams begin at 6. Iowa will not be a problem to watch, but the other three will be as I have to pick and choose who I watch at that time. I think a lot of that depends on who is pitching.
Going for Iowa tonight will be the returning Cubs minor-league pitcher of the year, Ryan Williams. The 6’4″ righty is one of my favorite pitchers to watch in the organization. He works fast, he doesn’t waste pitches, and he goes right after the hitters getting a lot of ground balls. Last year, his first full year in the organization, Williams went from low A all the way to AA without missing a beat and skipping high A in between. He was also outstanding in spring training this year going nine innings without surrendering a run.
Tennessee opens the season with Rob Zastryzny. The former 2nd round pick out of Missouri is returning to Tennessee for a second season with the Smokies. The 24 year old lefty has struggled each of his three seasons as a professional, never really putting it together. Instead, we have seen flashes of his potential at times, including two months at Daytona in 2014 and every other start in the Arizona Fall League in 2015. This, hopefully, will be his year to break out. When he does have it going, he is fun to watch as he keeps hitters off balance down in the zone.
Myrtle Beach is sending 2015 Carolina League All-Star Jonathan Martinez to the mound. Martinez had a 2.56 ERA last year and was one of the top pitchers in the league. The 21-year-old was caught in a numbers game of starting pitchers at AA Tennessee. Martinez, like Williams, works fast and knows how to command his pitches. I do not think he will stay at Myrtle Beach very long as the league does not hold much of a challenge for him.
South Bend has Preston Morrison on the mound. The Cubs’ 2015 eighth round draft pick was outstanding in 2015 in limited duty at Eugene last year with an ERA of 0.81. Morrison has a deceptive delivery and throws from a side arm slot at the waist. Morrison finished spring training with nine consecutive scoreless innings.
I think I’ll be watching South Bend, rain permitting, in the second game. I’ve seen Williams, Zastryzny, and Martinez pitch before. I haven’t seen Morrison pitch since he’s become a Cub. After watching Jake Stinnett and Tommy Thorpe throw a one hitter last night against Charleston, I think a lot of my focus in the minors this summer is going to be on pitching.
I almost forgot about Eloy Martinez, Donnie Dewees, and Eddy Martinez playing the outfield at South Bend tonight. That’s gonna be a treat all summer long. I cannot wait until I get home from teaching to settle into my chair for a nice five hours of MiLB.TV.