By Todd Johnson
It is no secret that one of my highlights of last summer was watching the Eugene Emeralds’ home games on MILB.TV. While it may have only been 37 games, those same players are now moving on to play in South Bend a week from today. The number of games they will play will double in 2017. As a result, their development will intensify exponentially.
Last year, the South Bend Cubs went 84-55 and won the first-half Eastern Division title. The Cubs were led by top prospect Eloy Jimenez, all-stars Donnie Dewees, PJ Higgins, and Carlos Sepulveda. Pitchers Preston Morrison and Ryan Kellogg also had outstanding seasons for the Cubs low class A affiliate.
10 Things I Think
I am going to do something different with this preview than I did with the other previews. If it seems like I have been writing about South Bend for a week. it is because I have. I talked about South Bend rotation on Tuesday for BP Wrigleyville. I just recently posted one for Cubs Insider. Now, it’s time for my own look.
10. Yeiler Peguero is an extremely exciting player. He can play shortstop and second base. He can hit for average and he has speed to burn. However, that speed has not translated to stolen bases yet. The young 19-year-old should be a fascinating watch this summer.
9. Trent Giambrone can hit really well. I don’t see him hanging around South Bend very long with his hit tool. Surprisingly, he has more power than expected and he can play all infield positions well.
8. At the plate, Zack Short has shown that he knows what he’s looking for in a pitch. He has some power, but he also knows how to get on base via the walk. He is also a plus defender and can play three positions in the infield.
7. The bullpen is going to be stacked with several arms from last year’s draft. They basically turned every game last summer into a five or six inning game.
6. With just a week to go until the season, I think it’s still a little unclear on who will be in the starting rotation due to injuries and precautions to avoid injuries. I think Tyson Miller and Duncan Robinson are in, but I think Bryan Hudson and Bailey Clark are out.
5. Erling Moreno is another favorite of mine. The young right-handed pitcher has a plus-plus curveball to go along with a mid 90s fastball. After missing two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Moreno was outstanding last year at Eugene with an ERA under one and a whip of 0.70.
4. Pitcher Manny Rondon is a lefty who seems to have grown by leaps and bounds since he came to the Cubs organization. Under the tutelage of pitching coach Brian Lawrence, Rondon flourished at Eugene and was named Northwest League Pitcher of the Year. Rondon will get to have Lawrence as his pitching coach again this year.
3. I think by the end of the summer, most people’s definition of exciting will change after they watch DJ Wilson play the outfield for 140 games. The youngster has speed to burn and knows no fear. His bat is still a work in progress and it will be just as exciting to watch it develop.
2. I think this is the year that Wladimir Galindo puts it together. The 20-year-old third baseman could hit 20+ home runs if he becomes more selective and is able to recognize pitches better at the plate. Luckily for him, manager Jimmy Gonzalez can help that department as it is his specialty.
1. While Dylan Cease does have a fastball that closes in on 100 mph, his changeup needs some work. The great thing about that fact is that we will get to see him work on it most of April and May. In the meantime, there will be lots of fastballs and curves to go along with the changeups. Enjoy his talent while you can!
I think the South Bend Cubs can get another first half title in 2017. The key to doing that is having a balanced team. After the All-Star break last year, promotions to Myrtle Beach disrupted the flow of the team. This year, however, I don’t think the promotions in late June will have as much of an effect because of who could be coming to South Bend courtesy of the draft and Eugene.
Three names you might hear for the second half who could help a title run are pitcher Jose Albertos, catcher Michael Cruz, and shortstop Isaac Paredes.
First to be promoted – Trent Giambrone. His bat is just too polished and his approach is too top-notch to remain in South Bend very long.