Top prospects Torres, Happ highlight talented MB roster

pel-torresIn conjunction with the Chicago Cubs, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have announced their 2016 Opening Day roster. In defense of their Carolina League championship while searching for their sixth straight playoff appearance, the 2016 Pelicans will begin the campaign with two consensus Top-100 prospects in all of baseball, and six of Baseball America’s Top 30 prospects in the Cubs’ organization.

Gleyber Torres returns to Myrtle Beach after a short seven-game cameo with the Pelicans in 2015. The Venezuelan shortstop is rated as the top prospect in the Cubs system, with MLB.com and Baseball America placing him 28th and 41st overall in baseball, respectively. Torres should form an intriguing double-play combination with Ian Happ, who transitions from the outfield to second base this season. Happ, the ninth-overall selection by the Cubs in last year’s draft, is the consensus third-best prospect in the organization while being ranked 76th and 87th overall by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively.

The Pelicans’ pitching staff features three of the Cubs’ Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. Trevor Clifton (No. 18) and Jake Stinnett (No. 21) help man the starting rotation while David Berg (No. 30) returns to Myrtle Beach after serving as the club’s closer in the second half of last season. The UCLA product Berg holds the NCAA record for saves in a single season with 24.

Clifton and Stinnett will likely be joined in the rotation by returnees Daury Torrez and Jonathan Martinez. Torrez was third in the Carolina League in 2015 in BB/9 (1.4), while Martinez led the circuit in ERA (2.56), WHIP (0.94) and BAA (.194).

James Farris, Tyler Ihrig and James Pugliese revisit the Grand Strand’s bullpen this season. The latter pitched to a 2.52 ERA in 55.0 innings out of the bullpen last year, posting 49 strikeouts against only 13 walks. Newcomers Zach Hedges, Erick Leal, Dillon Maples, Ryan McNeil, Jordan Minch and Tommy Thorpe fill out Myrtle Beach’s pitching staff.

Cael Brockmeyer, Gioskar Amaya and Erick Castillo will handle the pitching staff this year. Brockmeyer played in four separate levels in 2015, including 36 contests in Myrtle Beach. He hit best at South Bend, batting .274/.356/.414 in 63 games. Amaya hit .260/.341/.345 in 110 games with South Bend.

Jeffrey Baez played in just five games with the Pelicans last year, but raked prior to that in 101 contests with South Bend, slashing .284/.324/.427 with 34 stolen bases. Fellow returnee Shawon Dunston Jr. had injuries wipe away nearly all of his 2015 campaign, appearing in just 17 contests throughout the season. He hit .268/.304/.381 with 27 steals two years ago with Low-A Kane County. Trey Martin is the third outfielder coming back to Myrtle Beach. He swiped 14 bags in 18 attempts last year.

Newcomers Charcer Burks and Rashad Crawford round out the Myrtle Beach outfield. The former swiped 28 bags last year with South Bend, while Crawford hit .280/.322/.380 with 20 swipes.

Yasiel Balaguert is another former outfielder transitioning to the infield this season. The 23-year-old Cuban hit .271/.310/.407 with South Bend and will man first base for the Pelicans. David Bote joins Balaguert from South Bend. Meanwhile, both Jason Vosler and Daniel Lockhart return to Myrtle Beach in 2016. Vosler walked 26 times against 27 strikeouts in 38 games with the Pelicans, batting .244/.389/.441.

Buddy Bailey, who enters his 28th year as a minor league skipper, will serve as the Pelicans’ manager this season. Hitting coach Mariano Duncan returns for his second straight year with Myrtle Beach and fourth consecutive as the Cubs’ High-A hitting coach. Anderson Tavarez enters his first season as the Birds’ pitching coach while Juan Cabreja does the same as the club’s assistant coach. Athletic trainer Toby Williams and strength and conditioning coach Jason Morriss round out the staff.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

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