Pelicans’ Johnson, Young, Zagunis make CL All-Stars

pel-zagThe Carolina League announced its 2015 Year-End All-Stars on Saturday, and three members of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, have been honored with selections. Utility infielder Chesny Young and outfielder Mark Zagunis have been named Year-End All-Stars, while manager Mark Johnson has been honored as the Carolina League Manager of the Year.

Young, 22, has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Carolina League this season, and he currently leads the circuit with a .332 batting average, which also ranks second among all Cubs full-season minor leaguers. Selected as a utility infielder, he paces the Pelicans with 123 hits, the most on the team, which is also good for third-most among Carolina League hitters, translating into the second-best on-base percentage in the league (.398). Among his peers, he is one of the toughest to strikeout, averaging 9.81 plate appearances per strikeout, also the second-best mark in the circuit. A right-handed hitter who spent 28 games with Class-A South Bend earlier in the year, he has combined to hit one home run this season, driving in 44 runs, clubbing 22 doubles, and four triples, while also scoring 84 runs. Of his RBI total, 30 have been with Myrtle Beach, including 17 of his doubles and three of his triples. Twelve of his 21 stolen bases have been with the Birds, and he’s been caught just five times with Myrtle (eight overall).

In his first full professional campaign, Young’s offensive contributions have translated into a record-setting season. He was promoted from South Bend on May 15 and proceeded to collect a six-game hit-streak in a Pelicans uniform, with the final five games of that streak being multi-hit efforts. On June 6, Young began an on-base streak that lasted 44 consecutive games, an all-time Carolina League record (the Carolina League began tracking on-base streaks in 2009). It started with an RBI single in game two of a doubleheader against the Carolina Mudcats at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark and ended with an 0-for-4 night against that same club, also in Myrtle Beach, on July 26. During that stretch, he set a career-high 14-game hit-streak.

In 93 games with the Pelicans, Young has 37 multi-hit games, highlighted by a 5-for-5 performance against the Potomac National on July 17. He has also been a streak machine, with two 11-game hit-streaks, a nine gamer, a 12 gamer, two six-game streaks, and he currently rides an eight-gamer that began on August 19.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, the Cubs selected Young in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Mercer University. This is his first career Minor League accolade.

Zagunis, 22, was also a Midseason All-Star selection this year, and this is his first career selection as a Year-End All-Star. Ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect and 15th by Baseball America, the six-foot-tall right-handed hitter has played all three outfield spots this season, with some time spent as a catcher in his pro career. Selected as an outfielder, Zagunis has launched eight home runs, the second-most on the team, along with 24 doubles, five triples, and 53 RBI. His .276 batting average is fifth in the circuit (he led the league earlier in the season), and he posted a season-high 12-game hit-streak in which he hit .438 (21-for-48) from May 8?22. He currently leads the league with a .407 on-base percentage, ranks fifth in slugging (.425) and is tied for the third-most runs scored (74). With 108 games under his belt, Zagunis has also ranked among the best in drawing walks this year, having collected 73 bases on balls, the second-most in the circuit.

A native of Willingboro, New Jersey, the Cubs originally selected Zagunis as a catcher in the third round (78th overall) of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Virginia Tech University. He was the second backstop drafted by the Cubs that season after Kyle Schwarber (first round, fourth overall pick) and has played exclusively in the outfield this year. The Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for June 2015, Zagunis was also named the Carolina League Player of the Week for June 15-21.

Johnson, 39, is in his fifth managerial campaign in the Cubs system, and is the sixth skipper in Pelicans history. A former Major League catcher with eight years of big league experience between the White Sox, Athletics, Brewers, and Cardinals, Johnson was at the helm of last year’s Class-A Kane County team that posted the best record in Minor League Baseball (91-49) en route to a 7-0 postseason run and a Midwest League Championship.

Johnson retired in 2010 after a seventeen-year playing career, finishing with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, and he immediately joined the coaching ranks. In 2011, his first season as a manager, he led Class A-Short Season Boise to back-to-back postseason appearances, and with this year’s Pelicans club having won the Carolina League Southern Division First Half Championship, he has secured a postseason berth in four of his first five seasons. For his efforts last year, he was named Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year and the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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