Ryan McNeil

The Weekly: May Flying By, A Few Promotions, and “The Jinx”

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By Todd Johnson

It’s been a rough week in the minors. There were a lot of rainouts and doubleheaders in addition to night games followed by early morning affairs. It was enough to make a prospect’s head spin. As a result, the Cubs’ system did not have a good week.

As May comes to a close, the pitching that was dominating hitters in April took a downward turn as the weather warmed up. In April, the Cubs had eight starting pitchers with ERAs under three and several of those eight had ERAs under two. With just 11 days to go in May, the Cubs only have three pitchers with an ERA under 3.00 for just this month. They are Keegan Thompson at 2.65, Michael Rucker at 2.81, and Alec Mills at 2.89.

There have been plenty of outstanding starts by many pitchers just this week. Last night, Cory Abbott struck out 11 for South Bend while Thomas Hatch threw a 7 inning complete game shutout for Tennessee. Earlier in the week, Erich Uelmen went six shutout innings for South Bend as well, while Duncan Robinson tossed six innings of one run ball. There’s some great stuff happening on the mound. Maintaining that high level of success is easier said than done. We will see if more can get below that 3.00 threshold to make it onto the May All-Star Team.

As for hitting, one would think it would be improving as the weather warmed up. It has a little bit. In April, six Cub position players hit above .300 for the month and Jeffrey Baez posted a .411 average for the span. In May, those numbers increased to eight guys hitting over .300 lead by Tyler Alamo at .366. David Bote hit over .500 for Iowa but that was before his call-up 12 days ago. As a result, he doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify (3.1 ABs per game). Still, Bote has been extremely impressive at AAA at .455 in just 33 ABs. If you include his 17 MLB plate appearances, he’s at 22 for 52 or .423.

Promotions and Releases
Reliever Ryan McNeil debuted for Tennessee this week. The 2012 draft pick missed most of the year down in extended spring training. However, McNeil’s debut saw the release of long time prospect James Pugliese. Drafted in 2011, Pugliese filled a variety of roles at Kane County, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee. Hopefully he can catch on with another system in a relief role.

Infielders Vimael Machin and Yeiler Peguero were also promoted from Myrtle Beach and South Bend, respectively. Their promotion saw the release of long time shortstop Carlos Penalver. Penalver was known more for his defense but had trouble hitting at the plate at Kane County, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee. Good luck to him in his MLB pursuit.

The Jinx
On Twitter, I have been known to tweet out live pitching stats during a game. Well, for about 3-4 days in a row, as soon as I tweeted something out, that pitcher then got knocked around the next inning. It happened to both relievers and starters. I am sure they were just coincidences, but it makes you wonder. Follow the thread on this tweet to see what happened with Dakota Mekkes.

Coming Up Next Week on Cubs Central
On Monday, I’m going to slap a grade on the 2017 draft class. It will be their first one. As for the rest of the week, I am going to let the action dictate the content. I don’t have anything planned for “The Midweek” or The Six Pack.” Although, I do have some thoughts banging around my brain. Maybe you will see a “10 Things I Think” post or a “Prospect Stock Watch.” You could even see an affiliate update.

After Memorial Day, I will be doing some phone interviews with a few Myrtle Beach Pelicans. I always look forward to talking to the players and reporting back on their career paths and stories. I don’t have a definite list of who I’m going to interview, but Pelicans announcer Scott Kornberg and I talked about a few players that fans might want to know more about.

With the MLB draft just two weeks away, I’ll be pouring through some mock drafts and rankings this week. Right now, there’s not a lot of consensus on where players will be falling after the first few pics.

This Week’s Records
Iowa 2-3 (13-26)
Tennessee 3-4 (22-20)
Myrtle Beach 3-2 (17-24)
South Bend 3-5 (17-23)

Players of the Week

Things I Wrote for Other Sites
BP Wrigleyville
Nelson Velazquez

Cubs Insider
Brendon Little

Baseball Card of the Week

A Few Website Changes
As a website, Cubs Central has never been static. I do make changes on what I hope are improvements from time to time. This week I removed the Prospect Pictures and Video Page that was filled with images I took myself. They are now placed in albums on the Facebook page. In addition, I am in the process of uploading any videos I took to my YouTube account (that could take awhile). I am hoping it just makes for a cleaner experience and as it created a lot more memory on the server.

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Cubs Central’s Preseason 1st Half All-Star Team Has Some Powerful Names

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Today is a fun day! It’s opening day for four of the Cubs’ minor-league affiliates! Weather permitting, Iowa, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend will take the field for the first time in 2017. It is not looking good for South Bend today as three to six inches are called for in West Michigan. As usual, I will be watching all the happenings. Then, starting this Sunday, “The Weekly” will have the players of the week. But today, it’s our annual preseason All-Star team for the first half.

What is happening today is I am picking out several players who I think will be the best at their position in the Cubs’ system through the middle of June. 

  

Catcher
I think that Victor Caratini is locked and loaded and has his eyes set on Chicago. He will be at AAA this year and more than likely, come 2018, he will be the backup catcher to Wilson Contreras. He might even see some time this summer depending on his defense.

First Base
Even though he is currently on the DL, I think Yasiel Balaguert has this position sewn up. Last year, he had 19 home run the 96 RBIs and I think he will improve upon that this year as he has been working on hitting up the middle and to the right.

Second Base
There is some stiff competition for this position with Carlos Sepulveda and Yeiler Peguero competing to get their name on the Internet. However, Ian Happ wins in a landslide. It is so self-evident, that I’m not even going to explain my thinking process for selecting him.

 

Shortstop
At the age of 17, Isaac Paredes made his class A debut at South Bend in late August of 2017. This year, the Cubs will get the full effect of what this man-child can do. He earned the starting spot and hopefully some power will go along with an outstanding batting average and on-base percentage… I’ll from an 18-year-old kid.

Third Base
I am going to break the mold, and tradition, and go with Wladimir Galindo who I think will do extremely well as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League. Normally, I would pick Jeimer Candelario for the spot, but I think Wladimir is determined to succeed and show his worth.

  

Outfield
I think this was the toughest category to pick just three players. I think the deciding factor is how I project them to perform in the first half and the excitement that they will bring to the game. As a result, I am selecting DJ Wilson of South Bend, Eloy Jimenez of Tennessee, and I’m going to stun everybody and go with Bijan Rademacher of Iowa. I know I am leaving out Eddy Martinez and Mark Zagunis, but I think Bijan is going to hit more home runs than both the next two months.

  

Starting Pitchers
I found it hard to just pick six because the Cubs development of pitchers is becoming more and more pronounced. I am going with Dylan Cease, Trevor Clifton, Eddie Butler, Erling Moreno, Oscar de la Cruz, Thomas Hatch, and I am picking Kyle Miller as a Darkhorse. I also thought about including Ryan Williams, Rob Zastryzny, and Zach Hedges. What used to be the weakness of the organization is now turning into a strength. I would not be surprised to see a couple of these pitchers make it to Chicago this year.

Relief Pitchers
Last year, relievers were the strength of the organization. They helped out the big league club down the stretch and Rob Zastryzny even made it to the World Series. This year, Pierce Johnson leads a group of arms who are still a ways off from helping the big league club. Ryan McNeil, Jordan Mnch, Wyatt Short, Dakota Mekkes, and Chad Hockin are just a few of the names who will be excellent bullpen arms the spring. I know there are other bullpen arms, especially in South Bend, who could’ve been added to this list.

Last year’s preseason All-Star team played a significant role in two ways. Some of them wound up on the major-league roster and were key players in the World Series victory. Other prospects were parts of packages used to acquire Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery who helped to win the World Series.

I don’t quite know what will happen this year with some of these prospects, but that’s the fun of it. In four weeks, the April All-Star team should give us a glimpse into how well this package of players listed above did on the road to Wrigley.

The Weekly – Ian Happ Explodes and the First Draft Profile of the Year

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By Todd Johnson

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The Arizona Fall League is Over
On Saturday, seven Cubs prospects finished their tenure in the Arizona Fall League as part of the Mesa Solar Sox. The team won the championship game behind Ian Happ’s electric day. He went 4/4 with 2 home runs, one from each side of the plate.

James Farris closed out the game with a perfect inning of relief.

On the whole, the Fall League proved to be a huge success for relievers James Farris and Stephen Perakslis. Neither allowed an earned run all fall. For Farris, the experience should move him faster to Iowa in the spring.

For Eloy Jimenez, his season in the AFL was a roller coaster but he did flash his potential and the ability to adjust to more advanced pitching. However, he showed he was still susceptible to injury. On the other hand, I think the experience might shorten Eloy’s time at Myrtle Beach in 2017. You have to remember that Eloy was playing against AA and high-A pitchers and he very much held his own, especially in the second half.

Duane Underwood only made two starts and neither went well. After that, he disappeared. Reliever Ryan McNeil struggled early in relief before going scoreless in his last four appearances. When it came to Victor Caratini, his bat started to come around the last two weeks. The emphasis for him this fall was to improve his defense.

As for Ian Happ, the Championship game showcased his potential and why I find his inconsistency frustrating. Then again, here’s what Happ had to say to MLB.com:

“First time in my whole life I’ve done that from both sides. I’m normally hacking when I hit from the left side and then go righty, but that was awesome. […] I was seeing the ball well today and was fortunate enough to get a couple barrels on the ball. They were all falling today.”

He’s always shown a great approach and his AFL OBP of .385 was no different than any other league he’s been in. He also showed some anger just last Sunday when he went 0-4 with 3 Ks, a bat flip, and a helmet toss. That was very unlike him. He is known to keep a pretty even keel. Happ will likely return to Tennessee in 2017.

Earlier in the day, former Cubs farmhand Gleyber Torres was named MVP of the AFL.

caratini 65 2016 tenn 2

40 Man and the Rule V Draft
Late Friday, the Cubs selected the contracts of Duane Underwood, Victor Caratini, Jack Leathersich, and Jake Hannemann and added them to the 40 man roster. The prospects are now protected from the Rule V Draft on December 8.

Cubs Convention Tickets
I did not get one this year. I have gone back and forth all year about going, not going, going, and not going. Now that I cannot go, I want to go. Go figure. I did put in for a press pass late Friday afternoon, so who knows?

Draft Profile:
Ricardo de la Torre – SS – Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
With a season left in high school, the young 17-year-old shortstop has a lot of tools left to develop. At 6’2” and 175, his body has a lot of projection left. What I like is his size and that he is not a finished projected, far from it actually. He is likely to be a late first rounder or second round pick unless he begins to shoot up the boards in the spring.

I have seen a couple different videos of him hitting. One has him with a leg kick, and the other does not. Regardless, you can definitely see the power in his swing. I think the video below might be the best because you get to see him in a variety of situations.

He’s not the most polished player yet, but you can see the potential. He comes across very athletic and a little stiff in certain activities. He has issues with his feet aligning and planting in the field.I think the Cubs could work out some of those kinks.

I think the key is to evaluate him is seeing glimpses of a power bat and that he’s a fluid athlete who could possibly play more than one position. I think De La Torre is one to keep an eye on. He might be a better pick for round 2 rather than round 1.

Upcoming Posts
The Weekly with Draft Profiles
Next Up Series: Wladimir Galindo
Position Breakdown Series: Catcher

The Weekly – Happ Heats Up and Loses His Cool as AFL Nears the End

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By Todd Johnson

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AFL News

Ian Happ finally caught fire this week when it came to hitting. On the other hand, he also lost his cool. Early in the week, he was hot at the plate. Later in the week, he struck out 3 times in one game. He threw his helmet after he struck out for the second time in the game and his bat after a third K later. This is very unlike the even-keeled prospect. In fact, it is very un-Cub like. Meanwhile, at the plate, Happ also hit his first home run in the league this week. Being the streaky player that he is, his average ballooned to almost .290 before dropping down to .271 with a .386 OBP. That’s how he’s always been. He has a great eye at the plate, but his ability to hit for average is pretty much like a roller coaster.

None of the Cub pitchers in the fall league made an appearance this week until Friday. In fact, it’s been over three weeks since Duane Underwood saw any action. You could read into that that he might be injured, or he might just be done for the season. Either way, the season did not end well for the former top pitching prospect in the Cubs system.

stephen-perakslisThere’s not much time left in the fall league. Their regular season ends on November 17. After that, the players will take a month or two off before resuming activities in Arizona to get ready for the 2017 season.

Some key things to remember from this year’s fall league are that James Farris and Stephen Perakslis are much better than we thought. I think both will be at Iowa next year and both might have a chance to contribute to the major league club in the second half of the year. If either one were left-handed, we might be talking about them making the club out of spring training. Ryan McNeil finally came around this week and had his best outing with 2 IP, 0 runs, and 2 Ks.

For Victor Caratini, he caught most every day this fall, including one no-hitter. While he did not hit for average, he did get to work on his defense which is considered the weak part of his profile. With Miguel Montero in the last year of his contract, Caratini would be a nice backup if he can improve his defense.

Thinking about Happ, I don’t know about his value long term. Unless his bat becomes overpowering, there is no really no place for him in Chicago. He’s blocked by Baez at second and a plethora of outfielders with different skill sets than his. I don’t foresee him as a bench player or a utlity guy but as an every day player.

When it comes to Eloy, he has shown the ability to adapt to a higher talent level. Out of all the players the Cubs had in Arizona this fall, he is the one who drew the most rave reviews. Several national writers talked about how his bat is more advanced than the guys who were actually hitting a lot of home runs. His BP sessions were legendary. I think going forward, his time in Arizona definitely shortens the time that he will spend in Myrtle Beach in 2017. I think it was pretty evident that his ability to adapt was much quicker than we thought. That should bode well for him next spring in Myrtle Beach.

Other News

The Cubs signed another young International Free Agent in Josue Huma, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. He’s a switch hitter who is  6’1: and 175 pounds, He is just 16. This news came from The Cub Reporter.

wchamps-2016Final Thoughts

In 2013, I originally planned to retire this blog when the Cubs won the World Series. The problem is the Cubs did it so quickly. I did not see them winning in just a few years. Now that I have become so invested in covering all levels of the system, there is no way I can quit. I will continue my own site as well as write for Cubs Insider.

Starting this week, Cubs Central will begin rolling out its offseason articles. See down below for upcoming posts for this week, but we will also have some breaking news and trade analysis when those occur along with an updated Top 21 lists should any of top prospects be traded. The “Next Step Up” and “Position Breakdown” series will both start the week after Turkey Day. In just a little over 100 days, Spring Training Begins!

Upcoming Posts

Cubs Top MiLB Hitting Storylines for 2017

Cubs Top MiLB Pitching Storylines for 2017

The Rule V and the 40 Man

The Weekly

The Weekly – James Farris Continues to Roll in the AFL

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By Todd Johnson

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Arizona Fall League News

Eloy hit a home run on Tuesday and that was about all the excitement for the week for him until Friday when he went 3 for 4 and raised his average from .198 to .250. Although Eloy has shown some flashes of his massive talent, the longer the fall league continues, I think the better he gets. In turn, this experience is going to affect his development for 2017 in a positive way. I am thinking that Eloy could be at AA Tennessee by the middle of June.

Ian Happ had a nice day on Wednesday going 3 for 3 but then laid a goose egg on Friday going 0 for 4. Happ, too, is hitting .250 while Victor Caratini still stagnates around .182.

Image result for james farris arizona fall leagueThe story of Cub prospects in the AFL continues to be the dominance of James Farris. The young right-handed reliever has yet to allow a run this fall in 6 appearances. I think this year has been a good year as far as his development is concerned. He has learned to make adjustments at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. I think Tennessee was a rougher go for him, but he was able to figure it out the last two months and has carried over into the Fall League.

Farris has pitched at the highest level of the NCAA, but that was as a starter. As a reliever, I think he’s just beginning to find his footing. He came out like gangbusters this past April and was quickly promoted to Tennessee where he struggled in May and June. It’s interesting to watch him attack hitters now rather than attack the zone. This fall, he’s seems to have accelerated his plan a bit. He should not be back at Tennessee to begin 2017. He should be at AAA Iowa.

After two seasons of development, Farris now uses a low 90’s fastball with outstanding late movement and a biting 1 to 7 slider/curve. Farris seems to have benefited from two years of coaching and strength development that has seen his fastball slowly improve over the last two summers. I’m excited to see where it goes in 2017.

Duane Underwood has not pitched for over a week. Stephen Perakslis continues to be like Farris, but in a smaller role. Perakslis has yet to allow a run either in a scant 2.1 IP.

After I’m done with posts I wish to be about the Cubs winning the World Series next week, I’ll be back with a look at Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects list. Hopefully, it will be out by then as they are doing the AL East this week.


Upcoming Posts

World Series Recaps

The Weekly

Baseball America Top 10 Cubs Prospects

The Weekly – Eloy Puts Up Zeroes, Farris Shines, IFA List Released, and a Draft Report from BA

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By Todd Johnson

The Eloy AFL Watch
farris 71 2016 mbAfter Eloy got off to a great start in his first three games in the Arizona Fall League, there was not much to watch this week at all. In fact, Eloy went zero for 11 on the week. Fellow prospects Victor Caratini and Ian Happ did not fare much better at the plate. Pitcher Duane Underwood’s second outing was better than his first, yet there is still much room for improvement. He went 3.1 IP while allowing 2 runs.

Seems that the only Cubs prospects having success in the AFL are Stephen Perakslis, who’s only pitched in one game, and James Farris, who has yet to allow a run in three appearances. The other Cubs prospect in the AFL, reliever Ryan McNeil, has struggled with an ERA over 10. There are still six more weeks in the AFL with a little over 30 games left. We will keep you posted on their progress.


In other news…

Baseball America released articles on every team’s draft class from 2016. They didn’t necessarily give each team a grade, but they did break down each draft class into categories such as the best pure hitter, fastest runner, closest to the majors, and several other categories. Here is the link to the whole article (subscription required),

To sum it up for the Cubs, Baseball America is high on the bat of Michael Cruz, the young catcher from Bethune-Cookman. Not only do they like his potential to hit for average, they also like his potential to hit for power. When it came to pitching, Baseball America liked several of the arms the Cubs selected in this year’s draft. They loved Thomas Hatch, the potential of Michael Rucker, the curveball of Duncan Robinson, and the fastball of Bailey Clark.

In addition, writer John Manuel echoed my sentiments about the potential of 19-year-old Delvin Zinn. Although Zinn was a little late to the game last year, I think his potential will start to blossom in 2017 at Eugene. I still don’t know if the Cubs know where he will play. He played SS before he was drafted and saw some action in rookie league and fall instructs at 2B.

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1219651The Cubs also released their international free-agent signing list from this summer. The Cub signed a mixture of 17 players from six different countries. I don’t know anything about most of them. It’s a mixture of 16-20-year-old position players and pitchers. The one name we do know is Manuel Rodriguez from Mexico. He’s pitched in the Mexican League for Leonis de Yucatan the last three years. Although in 2016, he missed most of the season due to an injury and only pitched and 16 games. However it 2015, the then 19-year-old reliever posted an ERA of 1.84 in 50 games where he struck out 46 in 49 IP.

The list comes courtesy of The Cub Reporter.

Oswaldo Pina, SS (VENEZUELA) – R/R – 5’10 170 – Age 18
Ricardo Verenzuela, OF (VENEZUELA) – L/R – 6’0 175 – Age 16
Carmelo Alfonzo, OF (VENEZUELA) – L/R – 6’0 177 – Age19
Keiber Arredondo, RHP (VENEZUELA) – R/R – 6’0 178 – Age 19
Jonathan Bruzual, LHP (VENEZUELA) – L/L – 6’1 172 – Age 16
Kleiber Carreno, RHP (VENEZUELA) – R/R – 6’2 165 – Age 18
Yovanny Cruz, RHP (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) – R/R – 6’1 190 – Age 17
Denmy Sanchez, RHP (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) – R/R – 6’0 190 – Age 18
Jose Gomez, RHP (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) – R/R – 6’2 165 – Age 19
Vicente, King, SS (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) – R/R – 5’7 160 – Age 16
Jeinser Brete, 3B (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) – R/R – 6’0 190 – Age 16
Danis Correa, RHP (COLOMBIA) – R/R – 5’11 155 – Age 17
Manuel Rodriguez, RHP (MEXICO) – R/R – 5’11 205 – Age 20 – spent three seasons with Yucatan (Mexican League) – $100K bonus
Ferrol Heredia, LHP (MEXICO) – L/L – 5’11 200 – Age 17 – $50,000 bonus
Carlos Pacheco, OF (MEXICO) – R/R – 5’11 195 – Age 17
Chi-Feng Lee, RHP (TAIWAN) – R/R – 5’11 155 – Age18 – $30,000 bonus
Didier Vargas, LHP (PANAMA) – L/L – 6’0 175 – Age 17


Upcoming Posts
NLCS Playoff Recap(s)

World Series Preview (Fingers are Crossed)

World Series Recaps (Fingers are Crossed)

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Myrtle Beach: 2016 Report – Pelicans Plow through the Carolina League

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Record: 82-57; 2nd Half Southern Division Champions; Carolina League Champions

After squeaking by the first half with a 36 and 34 record, the Pelicans looked like they were destined to go on a run. They led the league in pitching ERA but they’re hitting just had not clicked. Yasiel Balaguert was clearly the MVP in the first half as he hit nine home runs and drove in 46 to lead the team. Top prospects Gleyber Torres and Ian Happ struggled to hit in the middle of the lineup. In June, Happ began to turn it on and hit .600 over a two week period to end the month. He was quickly shipped off to AA Tennessee.

bote 71 2016 mbThe Pelicans did well in July, but when Gleyber Torres and Rashad Crawford were traded in the Aroldis Chapman deal, some wondered where the Pelicans we’re going to get runs. Well, David Bote stepped right up and became the man for the second half of the year hitting over .350. Yasiel Balaguert, who hit .223 in the first half, hit .300 in the second half with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Promotions from South Bend helped settle the lineup with Donnie Dewees, Bryant Flete, and Ian Rice. Rice’s power, along with Bote, provided some protection for Yasiel. The second half saw the Pelicans go 46-23.

All year long, the Pelicans had the best starting staff in the Carolina League. Zach Hedges and Trevor Clifton were both outstanding in the first half. Hedges would be promoted to AA Tennessee in July. Clifton stayed after a rough June, but righted the ship and had a dominant August and was the Pitcher of the Month in the Cubs’ system in August.

The bullpen took a while to round itself out. James Farris was promoted early, but Ryan McNeil stepped in and, in July and August, was almost unhittable. He wound up leading the Carolina League in saves. At one point in late August, Tommy Thorpe, Daury Torrez, Ryan McNeil, Daniel Lewis, and Tommy Nance had not given up a run for the month until the last week. That is some dominant pitching

In the playoffs, Trevor Clifton pitched a great game in game one to defeat Salem in a blowout. Although the Red Sox won game two, the Pelicans rebounded to win game three behind the pitching of Duane Underwood and the hitting of David Bote, who hit 556 for the 3 game series. A sad note was that MVP Yasiel Balaguert was injured. For the Mills Cup Championship series, the Pelicans called up Eloy Jimenez from South Bend after game one to take Yasiel’s place. James Pugliese’s 4.1 IP with 7 Ks held off the Hillcats in game 4 and the Pelicans earned their second Mills Cup in a row!

Team Leaders – Offense

Average HR RBIs SB OBP
.337

David Bote

19

Yasiel Balaguert

96

Yasiel Balaguert

38

Jeffrey Baez

.410

David Bote

Team Leaders – Pitching

ERA (50 IP min) Strikeouts WHIP Saves Innings
2.33

Ryan McNeil

129

Trevor Clifton

1.14

Zach Hedges

22

Ryan McNeil

131

Jonathan

Martinez

Team MVP

Yasiel Balaguert – 19 HRs, 96 RBIs, that’ll do, Yasiel, that’ll do.

Team Cy Young

clifton-81Trevor Clifton – He led the team in strikeouts and was a dominant force in May and then again in August. At times, he was unhittable for long stretches. His changeup has really developed into a 2nd plus pitch over the course of the year. Throwing in the mid-90s, Clifton is beginning to look like a middle of the rotation starter. At worst, he’s going to be a high-powered arm out of the pen.  I cannot wait to see what he can do at Tennessee in 2017

Breakout Prospect

David Bote – He began the year as an organizational player and then turned into a star hitting over .350 in the second half. In the playoffs, he came up big including a 4 hit night in game one of the Mills Cup Championship Series.

Looking Ahead to 2017:

The Carolina League changes quite a bit next year. They go from an eight-team league into a ten team league. It is still a bit unsettled, but it looks like Kinston and Fayetteville will be the two affiliates for teams to be determined. This will change the number of times the Pelicans play every team in their division. So, instead of playing Carolina, Salem, and Winston-Salem 30+ times, that number shrinks to the mid-20s.

eloy-77-2016-mbI’m not quite sure how long Eloy Jimenez is going to stay at Myrtle Beach next year. I have a feeling that the reigns will be off of him fairly quickly and that he could move up to Tennessee, say by June or July. But while he is there in Myrtle Beach, I am sure Pelicans fans will come to adore him the way that South Bend fans have come to adore him. I am not quite sure if Eddy Martinez is ready for that same kind of fast track. I think missing two years of playing ball or at least a year has affected his approach. There’s no doubt he’s excellent in the field and that he may have the best arm in the Cubs minor-league system. The second half at South Bend for him in 2016 was pretty good as he hit almost .280. I think it is his power that needs to improve. Once it does, he’s going to be just fine.

Matt Rose hit under 200 for the first month and a half at South Bend and was reassigned to Eugene. It was there that he rebuilt his game and his confidence and finished second in home runs in the system to only Yasiel Balaguert in 2016. I think Rose will spend the whole year at Myrtle Beach and I think Pelicans fans are like him too.

As for pitching, I’m not sure quite sure how it’s all going to shake down. I am not sure, either, who all is going to end up at Myrtle Beach. I think Ryan Kellogg makes it along with Casey Bloomquist, Oscar de la Cruz, and likely Adbert Alzolay, but after that, I am not quite sure. South Bend pitching kind of fell apart in the last month, especially the bullpen. Some of the pitchers mentioned above could start or relieve. Justin Steele, who improved much in the second half, could do both as well as Kyle Miller and Kyle Twomey. That’s a lot of versatile arms and lefties to boot.

Sleeper Prospect for 2017

As the Cubs third round pick in the 2016 draft, Tom Hatch did not pitch after he signed. Considering he already threw upwards of 130+ innings, that was a wise choice. With four pitches that he can throw for strikes, I am not quite sure where Hatch will play in 2017. I know it’s not going be Arizona or Eugene, and I don’t really think South Bend will be much of a test for him. I tend to lean towards Myrtle Beach. He is currently at fall instructs.

I think the people of Myrtle Beach have to be ecstatic with the product on the field for the Pelicans the last two years. And I think they’re gonna be ecstatic again next year, at least for the first half of the year. I don’t know how long some of the top position players will remain. While they are there, they should put on a fireworks show every night. The current players who will be at Tennessee next year should do well with the experience and develop that they made this year. They are an exciting group that I’ve been watching and listening to for the past three years at Boise, South Bend, and Myrtle Beach. Next year will be four at Tennessee. I look forward to it and the players I watched at South Bend this year will succeed at Myrtle Beach.