By Todd Johnson
Happy New Year!!!
2017 was great for many reasons. The Cubs won a World Series Title and Eugene and Myrtle Beach won MiLB championships. I got to see a lot of baseball in person throughout Illinois and Iowa and even more on MiLB.TV.
Here are 7 things I am looking forward to in 2017.
1. Defending the World Series – Every night will be a challenge as every team will be out to get the Cubs. That should be no different from last year as they truly embraced the target on their backs.
2. Myrtle Beach Goes for the Trifecta – It was nice that Eugene got their first title in 41 years but the Myrtle Beach Pelicans will be going for three in a row with a heavily offense-laden roster with Eloy and some possible high quality starting pitchers like Ryan Kellogg.
3. Kyle Schwarber – His comeback in the World Series was Roy Hobbs-like. His comeback in the upcoming regular season. I hope to be Ruthian. I don’t expect him to be out there in left field every day, but 120-130 games would be nice.
4. The Long Term Plan – With position players locked up through 20211, it will be fun to see how the Cubs assemble a pitching staff to coincide with the hitters. After 2017, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta have their contracts expire. That leaves Lester, Hendricks, and maybe Mike Montgomery as starters signed for 2018 and/or beyond.
5. Tennessee – I think Tennessee will be the affiliate to keep an eye on as some of the Cubs’ longest tenured prospects try to make their way to Chicago. Duane Underwood and Trevor Clifton are two to watch right now. Yes, they are that close to finally making it. Also, Jacob Hannemann, who was added to the 40 man last fall, should also be there. Hopefully, his offense will catch up to his defense.
6. Trips – The Midwest League changed the schedule a bit. I can longer make it to Burlington or Peoria because of my regular daytime teaching gig, but Beloit will be in play, as usual. I might make it up to Appleton for one night, and Des Moines should be a destination for a couple of days as well as South Bend.
7. Dylan Cease Live – I cannot wait to see him pitch in person this year. He is the one player I want to see most, right now. There will be others who will come along who surprise me. There always are. I think the South Bend team is going to be a gas to cover. DJ Wilson, Wladimir Galindo, and all of last year’s draft picks are going to be very exciting to cover on a daily basis.
Bonus – Watching Eugene at home – This went from an Internet radio tradition to an Internet TV tradition in just one year! Out of all the affiliates this year, their roster is the most unknown and the most unsettled. Spring training and extended spring training should shake out that roster quite a bit.
*Position Breakdown Series: Right-Handed Starters Part 1
*Next Up Series: Eddy Martinez
*Draft profile: Brendon Little