I call it Opening Day in the headline, but it sure does feel like a weird one, huh? Technically, it IS Opening Day for the Tennessee Smokies, South Bend Cubs, and Myrtle Beach Pelicans but that comes off of Tuesday’s Opening Day (Iowa) and Thursday’s Opening Day (Chicago).
So let’s give the three leagues starting today some extra love. Here are five guys that I’m especially keeping my eye on as all three first pitches are thrown at 6:00 CT tonight.
Chris Clarke | RHP, South Bend
On a roster loaded with starting pitchers that boast résumés of a first round pick (Wicks), the reigning Cubs MiLB pitcher of the year (Herz), and another guy that’s arguably the best pitching prospect in the system (Franklin), it’s Clarke that’s getting the ball on opening day.
We’re waiting for the massive right-hander to really break out and this might be the year with his devastating hook and mid-90s heat. I think this is a big prove-it year from Clarke and I think he has the attitude to make it start on opening night.
Tyler Schlaffer | RHP, Myrtle Beach
I had Schlaffer as a dark horse candidate for Cubs MiLB pitcher of the year as of a few weeks ago. Then he was assigned to Low-A, a level that I think he’s too advanced for already.
We could see this kid put up some silly numbers at The Beach to start off this season and that could kick into full-swing here on opening night. If I’m putting money on one starting pitcher putting together a lights-out performance tonight, it’s Schlaffer.
James Triantos | IF, Myrtle Beach
I mean we are gonna be watching Triantos like a hawk all season long, should it be any different on opening day? Twitter can’t stop talking about him and every time I post something about Rojito the Cubs world explodes. That should be no different if he piles up a couple hits tonight. If he goes yard — watch out.
Owen Caissie | OF, South Bend
The big man was pushed up to High-A for this season, a move that really shows just how much the Cubs front office believes in him. Facing off against advanced competition will be something Caissie deals with all year, but if he can get off to a hot start tonight, we might drop that narrative altogether and instead just talk about how the kid absolutely rakes.
Yonathan Perlaza | OF, Tennessee
We’ve had our fun with the fact that Perlaza put up some of the best offensive numbers in the system last year. But now he’s in the upper minors and gonna be hitting in a truly stacked lineup in Tennessee.
It will be interesting to see where the switch hitting Perlaza is placed in the lineup tonight and how many runners are on base when he strolls to the plate.