You all know the story by now. Myrtle Beach had the best record in all of minor league baseball in the first half of the year. They won their division by one game over Charleston and earned a spot in the Carolina League playoffs.
Now here’s the rest of the story.
Good teams in the minors don’t stay good teams for long. Usually what happens is players that make them good get promoted to the next level. And that’s what’s happened with Myrtle Beach. Yet, somehow, the Pelicans are pushing to win the division in the second half and pull off a sweep. To do so, they are going to have their work cut out for them as the Charleston RiverDogs have been on a roll while Kannapolis and Augusta slipped. In fact, the Pelicans have passed up Augusta and are 2.5 games back of Charleston. It’s going to be an exciting six weeks of baseball.
Myrtle Beach in the second half is missing quite a few big-name players. Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Made, and BJ Murray are now in the lineup every day at South Bend. Four out of the five starting pitchers are also up at South Bend. Only Luke Little remains from the beginning of the year and Tyler Santana, who probably should be in South Bend, moved from the bullpen to the rotation and has been outstanding. However, Myrtle Beach did get the rookie league team’s best hitter in Moises Ballesteros who is doing a bit of catching and crushing the ball as the DH.
Kevin Alcantara and James Triantos both have had decent seasons at 19 and now 20-years-old. They both still remain and probably will for the rest of the season. Catcher Ethan Hearn has been playing very well the last three weeks along with Jacob Wetzel, whose new batting stance is really paying big dividends in that same amount of time. Ezequiel Pagan has been a mainstay in the outfield, even though I’ve called for him to be promoted to South Bend as well. Juan Mora, or as he’s better known as Juan Baseball, has been a steady force at the top of the lineup.
To win back-to-back halves of the Carolina League and to go deep into the playoffs, Myrtle Beach’s bullpen is going to have to improve. We’ve seen them be susceptible to surrendering leads, allowing inherited runners to score, and your basic meltdowns. With closer Alfredo Zárraga off to South Bend last week, they’re going to have to figure out who is going to be the closer, the set up man, and who can just come in and shut it down. Right now Chase Watkins, who I also think should be at South Bend, has been downright nasty the past month. The same is true for Gregori Montano. But the Pelicans just need to get outs and the other pitchers are going to have to step it up to get those outs if Myrtle Beach is going to win a title.
One thing that could benefit the Pelicans is if a few draft picks came aboard as relievers or openers to lessen the load at the back end of the pen during the stretch run and in the playoffs. That would be quite nice of them to do. Whether it gets done, I’m beginning to wonder as none of the draft picks have played as of yet.
With Josue Huma turning into a beast at shortstop and Felix Stevens at first, the offense does not really need a lot of help. They may get some from Mesa here when the ACL season ends. That really might be Myrtle Beach’s best chance. Bringing up some rookie league players like Cristian Hernandez, Christian Moore, Pedro Ramirez and Rafael Morel could help the bench and relievers Oliver Roque, Tomy Sanchez, Rony Baez, and Elian Almanzar could deepen the pen. Then again, they are a bit untested.
Knowing how Buddy Bailey manages come playoff time, you can bet that Ethan Hearn is not going to take his mask off for any game behind the plate. You can also bet that Bailey’s going to favor defense over offense in the playoffs. So, we could see Moises Ballesteros be the DH every day and some guys may not even see the light of day as they try to beat Charleston because the other division doesn’t really hold that much of a challenge. The Carolina League champion could be determined in the first round. And the Pelicans have the talent, or they will have the talent by the time the playoffs come around, especially if they get a few new bodies.