Pelicans Revamp, Reload, Head Toward Another Championship

In the beginning of May, a series of promotions shook the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ roster. OF Jacob Hannemann, OF Billy McKinney, RP Tayler Scott, and RP Starling Peralta were all sent to Tennessee. New closer Jasvir Rakkar came from South Bend and filled in the bullpen. Relievers Zach Cates and Fernando Cruz came down from Tennessee. Outfielder Trey Martin came up from South Bend and fit in well in the outfield with his former teammates from Kane County.

The Pelicans cruised to a first half title with a 41-28 record and qualified for the Carolina League playoffs. When the second half began, injuries in their starting rotation, along with some ill-timed promotions, hit the Pelicans hard. They stumbled out of the gate in the second half, losing their first five games. Since then, the Pelicans have gone 17-10 and now sit two and a half games out of first place. At one point, they won seven in a row before losing three in a row.

Every team in the minor leagues goes through changes via promotions and injuries, but for the Pelicans to do it and still win is exceptional. Part of the reason is the managing of Mark Johnson. The other reason is the quality and depth of players in the Cubs system.

June 1 Lineups Late July Lineups
SP Underwood, Skulina, Blackburn, Martinez, Torrez, and Tseng Blackburn, Martinez, Torres, Tseng, Heesch, and Markey
C Caratini and Carhart Caratini and Hankins
1B Rodgers Brockmeyer
2B Lockhart Lockhart
SS Penalvar Penalvar
3B Candelario Vossler
OF Chen, Martin, Zagunis, Brown Chen, Martin, Zagunis, Brown
DH Young Young
RP Paniagua, Heesch, Conway, Pugliese, Ihrig, and Rakkar Conway, Pugliese, Cruz, Rakkar, Garner, Berg, Farris

Second Half DL – Dunston, Underwood, Carhart, Skulina, Null

I find it amazing the amount of turnover the team has seen in just a short amount of time, especially in the bullpen and starting rotation. Jeremy Null (before an injury) and Brad Markey fit right into the rotation when they arrived from South Bend. The bullpen has now taken in 2015 draftee Dave Berg, who gets better with every appearance, and David Garner, who has a 1.32 ERA for the month. James Farris, who was pummeled in his first two relief appearances at high A, has not allowed a run in his last seven games.

cy 85At the plate, Mark Zagunis went 1 for 22 at one point but has since righted the ship. Chesny Young has reached base in an amazing 44 straight games. When Jeimer Candelario and Jacob Rodgers were promoted to Tennessee, Cael Brockmeyer fit seamlessly back in at first base and catcher while Young has seen some time at first and third. The Pelicans still have trouble scoring runs from time to time, as theirs is a lineup built around defense up the middle; they depend on Young and Zagunis to get on base and others to drive them in.

The pitching, in spite of the injuries, has been fantastic. Jen-Ho Tseng has a 1.41 ERA for the month and Paul Blackburn seems like a different pitcher since he came off the DL three weeks ago, posting an ERA of 0.69 for the month. Just this past Sunday, Brad Markey went seven innings, didn’t allow a run, and struck out ten batters!

It is an exciting team to watch play. Knowing that they are in the playoffs allows the Pelicans the opportunity to get their club healthy and ready for a run at a championship. With over 15 players from last year’s Midwest League Championship team at Kane County on the roster, the Pelicans are experienced and ready for the playoffs. If South Bend falls out of the race in late August, don’t be surprised to see 2-3 players head south, including SS Gleyber Torres, OF Ian Happ, and reliever Ryan McNeil.

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