2021 Chicago Cubs Affiliate Previews: Myrtle Beach Pelicans Feature Exciting Young Hitters Led by Ed Howard

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have probably seen the most change since the last time their team took the field back in 2019. They remained a part of the Cubs organization, but there are plenty of new things to talk about. They changed from High-A to Low-A and will play in a brand new league that is a combination of former Carolina League and Sally League teams. They will also have the legendary Buddy Bailey as their new manager.

With the absence of a short-season affiliate, Myrtle Beach will be the new de facto entry into pro ball for young stars. Plenty of Cubs prospects have reported that Eugene was one of their favorite stops along the line because of their introduction into a whole new world of baseball, but I think the beautiful beaches and golf courses of South Carolina will do the trick moving forward.

There is going to be quite a cluster of players making their way in and out of a Pelicans uniform this season, and while the actual word I wanted to use also starts with “cluster,” that doesn’t at all take away from the talent we will see here. The Cubs are absolutely loaded with talent in the low minors and there will be all sorts of movement on and off the roster for the entirety of the summer. Because of that, it is nearly impossible to say who will be in the lineup on a daily basis by the time August rolls around.

Probable Lineup

C – Ethan Hearn
1B – Grayson Byrd
2B – Yeison Santana
3B – Luis Verdugo
SS – Ed Howard
LF – Yohendrick Pinango
CF – Darius Hill
RF – Edmond Americaan
DH – Jordan Nwogu

SP – DJ Herz, Manny Espinoza, Richard Gallardo, Adam Laskey, Carlos Ocampo
Key RP – Scott Kobos, Joe Nahas, Eduarniel Nunez, Bailey Reid, Sam Thoresen

CI’s Top 20 Hitters

Ed Howard (3)
Jordan Nwogu (9)
Luis Verdugo (14)
Ethan Hearn (16)
Yeison Santana (18)
Yohendrick Pinango (19)

Howard, last year’s first-round pick, leads the charge here. Because of the strange circumstances of the 2020 draft and minor league season, Silk’s debut might be the most highly anticipated pro debut since Kris Bryant.

Besides Howard, there is a massive collection of talent on the Myrtle roster. Six top 20 bats will take the field every day for the Birds which is justifiably insane. Nwogu will finally get a chance to show off his talents on the field instead of in the gym, and the young quartet of Verdugo, Hearn, Santana, and Pinango will build upon their raw tools that placed them in the teens and move their way up prospect lists by showing impressive results in real-life.

CI’s Top 20 Pitchers

Richard Gallardo (8)
DJ Herz (13)

This dynamic duo will headline the starting rotation to begin the year. Add in No. 11 Yovanny Cruz after some seasoning in Mesa, No. 20 Benjamin Rodriguez once he gets healthy, and No. 14 Koen Moreno when the front office feels like he is ready to leave the nest in Arizona, and you are looking at a rotation that might be tops in the league.

Both Gallardo, and Herz are ready to take the next big step as prospects as they have pretty nasty offerings. While the bullpen might leave a bit to be desired compared to the rest of the affiliates, you will want to tune in each night starting at first pitch to make sure you watch some of the top prospects in the system toe the rubber.

Biggest Predictions

In 2019, the Pelicans saw 50 different players sport their uniform at some point during the season. With the sheer number of young players, the uncertainty of who really belongs where, and an active roster that is allowed to be as large as 30 guys this season, you should expect to see even more prospects in Pelicans gear this summer. Seeing upwards of 60-65 guys shouldn’t surprise you in 2021.

Widely regarded as a pitchers’ park, Pelicans Stadium will be home to some impressive hitting talent. I could see multiple players leading the league in various batting statistics this year. Hearn and Nwogu both have a chance to be among the top of the league in homers with their impressive raw power, Howard and Pinango have both been heralded for their contact skills at the plate and could take charge in batting average, and I would be shocked if Hill isn’t tops in the league in stolen bases.

I would typically include my best guess at a standings/title/record here, but to be completely honest, I can’t do that with this team. There is so much uncertainty that it would be pretty irresponsible of me to do so. Instead, I’ll predict that it is going to be an absolutely wild ride watching this team along the way.

Channel your inner strange, Pelicans fans!

Other previews:
High-A South Bend Cubs
Double-A Tennessee Smokies

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