Pelicans Flying Into Contention

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rice 86 2016 mbThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans won four games in a row and flew into the second place in their division in the Carolina League. The team underwent a massive change in personnel the past month. Nine new players arrived from South Bend to replace players who were either promoted, injured, or traded. Just this week, Zach Hedges was promoted to AA Tennessee. Then on Monday, shortstop Gleyber Torres and outfielder Rashad Crawford were part of the deal for reliever Aroldis Chapman. The players promoted from South Bend are fitting in quite nicely.

A 17 and 15 record may not seem like much, but getting above .500 is. They currently hold a 3 game lead in the wild-card race. And, even though the Pelicans are just one half a game out of first, they are starting to put things together things they did not do in the first half. The first thing changed is hitting. The key to the Pelicans resurgence are the bats of David Bote (.385 in his last ten), Charcer Burks, and Ian Rice, who has been on

The key to the Pelicans resurgence are the bats of David Bote (.385 in his last ten), Charcer Burks, and Ian Rice, who has been on a HR tear at Myrtle Beach since arriving back in June. He has 5 HRs and 13 RBIs in a month. While his average is only .235, he has a .383 OBP and has been a big boost hitting behind Yasiel Balaguert. Torres and Crawford were also having great months before they were traded.

However, I think the biggest key in the batter’s box has been the awakening of first-baseman Yasiel Balaguert. Balaguert has won back to back Carolina League Player of the Week awards. For July, he has 3 HRs, 22 RBIs, an average of .333, and an OBP of .380.

balaguert 76 2016 mb

Gone from the Pelicans are Ian Happ and outfielders Trey Martin and Shawon Dunston, and in, starting yesterday, are outfielder Donnie Dewees and infielder Bryant Flete, who both arrived from South Bend yesterday. Pelican fans are going to love Dewees style of play. He hit .282 in South Bend with a .327 OBP, 15 doubles, 3 HRs, and an amazing 12 triples while driving in 54, third on the team. Flete is an outstanding defender who has been home run happy the past two weeks by hitting three. In their debuts last night, Dewees went 2 for 4 while Flete went 3 for 4 with a triple and RBI while scoring 2 runs.

McNeil 77 2016 mbAnother big factor in Myrtle Beach’s recent surge is the rebirth of the bullpen. Recent addition Pedro Araujo has been outstanding, except for one outing, since arriving from South Bend. Craig Brooks got off to a rough start and seems to be settling in since his promotion from South Bend. Daury Torrez, Tommy Thorpe, James Pugliese, and closer Ryan McNeil have all been outstanding during the past month.

The strength of this team has always been its starting pitching. Joining the Pelicans will be pitcher Preston Morrison, He adds to an already elite staff led by Trevor Clifton, Erick Leal, Jonathan Martinez, Jake Stinnett, and Jeremy Null. I think Pelicans fans are really going to like Morrison on the mound. He had a 0.79 ERA in June and a 0.49 ERA for July. He has four pitches which he can throw for strikes, but I think the movement he gets on his pitches is a little like Jake Stinnett, except Morrison has much better control.

Even though last year’s Pelicans team won the title, the strength was always in their starting pitching and defense. This year’s team as it’s now constructed going forward, it’s a little bit more offensive, in a good way. With all the recent additions from South Bend, this team is much deeper. That gives manager Buddy Bailey more options late in games on the mound, and at the plate.

The next six weeks are going to be very exciting for this club as they try to defend the Mills Cup. With all the position changes, bullpen help, and stable starting pitching, they should be able to get it done.

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