Matt Mervis – Picture by Todd Johnson

It’s hard to believe that today begins the second half of the minor league baseball season for Myrtle Beach and South Bend. It was the fastest first half I can recall in a while. Then again, we haven’t had a full first half of the season since 2019. Today, though, is looking ahead as to what should be the top storylines for the second half.

These are in no particular order.

1. Promotions 

These should start to happen over the next two weeks. There could be some wholesale changes at some of the affiliates. Guys like DJ Herz, Chase Strumpf, Matt Mervis, and Adam Laskey should be on the move as soon as Tuesday.

2. Comebacks

Hopefully we will get to see Brennen Davis this half along with Parker Chambers and Christian Franklin. Along with one of my favorites, Sam Thoresen. PCA should be back any day.

3. Cristian Hernandez

Now that he’s moved into the lead off spot for the Cubs Arizona team, the Cubs are looking to maximize his at-bats. In his first night in that spot, he went 2-for-5 and only struck out once.

4. Moises Ballesteros and Pedro Ramirez

I think these two players are going to be dudes by the time this summer is over. With the Arizona Complex League season ending in the middle of August, the two of them will get called up to Myrtle Beach to finish out the season for a couple of weeks. But if they really are being dudes, will they get called up any sooner?

5. Adan

All Adan Sanchez has done in the DSL is hit. And it’s a consistent day-to-day thing for him. He’s not a streaky guy, but he’s out there every day putting the ball in play for high average. I know we’re going to see him this fall in instructs, I wonder if he’s going to get that very rare stateside call during the year. It’s really hard for that to happen just because of the cultural differences of living in the United States. Between the lines, he’ll be fine but it’s such a huge culture shock but I don’t think it happens even though it might be good for his development.

6. Matt Mervis

He’s clearly been the hitter of the first half. He’s destroyed two levels and will probably be at Iowa fairly soon. To see a guy go through two levels and a half and just destroy both of them, that doesn’t happen very often in the Cubs system in recent memory to see a guy go through two levels and a half and just destroy both of them. Pitchers yes, hitters no. That gives you a sense of his dominance and whether or not this is real because it it. And if he makes it to Triple-A, how will he do there? Will he hit for average and power? It would be ironic for him to finish the year in Iowa again, which I think last year sort of gave him a boost of confidence that actually jumpstarted his performance this year.

7. Assad

While he was in the running for the starting pitcher of the first half, he’s likely going to be at Iowa fairly soon, if not next week. His consistency this year along with his curveball have shown that his performance is not a fluke and that what he is doing is really him taking a leap forward and breaking out at Double-A. How is that going to hold up when he gets to Des Moines? We should find out fairly quickly.

8. Rookie League Pitchers

The hitters are more of a known commodity in the lower levels of the system, starting pitching is not. Most of the players the Cubs sign as pitchers anymore are 19 and 20- years-old versus 16 and 17. A lot of that comes from the older guys being more physically mature than the younger guys, but the Cubs will occasionally sign a youngster. As a result of all these late bloomer signing, we tend to see a lot of guys break out in the Dominican. But that always doesn’t translate to success at in the Arizona complex league. And success in Arizona doesn’t exactly translate all the time to success in Myrtle Beach. Each level is kind of its own thing. It’ll be interesting to see who rises to the top in the Dominican and Arizona on the mound this summer and who is missing a lot of bats because that’s the stat that I look for at those levels. ERA, it’s fine to look at, but missing bats tells you who has a little better stuff, it just needs some refining.

9. New Talent

Between the draft, nondrafted free agency, and the Major League Baseball trade deadline, the Cubs are going to add just a little bit north of 30 players. Just how those players will improve the system will not be known for another month. The Cubs should add a top 100 prospect in the draft since he will be coming in at the number seven slot. Who they get for some of their Major League talent is going to be question of the day? Whether teams will be willing to give up top prospects for half a year of someone is a key though.

10. Rule 5 Draft and 40 Man Concerns

This is more for this fall, but the discussion begins as early as August as the Cubs will probably get a look at a few of them in Chicago the last two months of the year. Some of the Rule 5 player list could be moot by then.

11. Who is Going to the AFL?

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago. I have Cole Roederer and Alexander Canario at the top of my list. But there will be more. We will discuss those in August as well. The Cubs can send seven with one more taxi squad guy for a total of eight.

12. Playoffs

Will anyone be joining the Pelicans in the postseason? It could happen for both South Bend and Tennessee. It will be fun to watch!

13. Surprises

I am sure there will be surprises as there always are. No one saw Mervis, Assad, or Slaughter having such big halves this year. Although, we did see Luis Devers. My guy to breakout in the second half is Oferman Hernandez in the DSL. There will be others, plenty of them.

Time to get the second half started!