Drumroll please………..

And the final offseason mailbag question is…

Who is your affiliate to watch this year?

CubsCentral08 on Twitter

Yes, it is from me. But it’s a good one.

North Side Bound will be rolling out our affiliate previews in less than a month’s time. Each affiliate has its own reason(s) for staking a claim as to my affiliate to watch this year.

In looking back at this winter’s other series, I did two sneak peeks for each affiliate. 

Iowa Iowa Bullpen | Iowa Infield

TennesseeTennessee Bullpen | Tennessee Outfield

South BendSouth Bend Starting Rotation | South Bend Outfield

Myrtle Beach – Myrtle Beach Infield | Myrtle Beach Starting Rotation

And while those do technically do give you a sneak peek into who will possibly be at those affiliates, they do not tell the whole story.

Let’s break down the case for each affiliate and I will give you my choice.

Iowa – The Cubs assigned to Des Moines will have a legitimate shot to get to Chicago. As we have already seen this spring, injuries are already impacting the possible opening day roster. Iowa could have big arms like Assad, Kilian, and Wesneski early in the year along with a healthy Brennen Davis and a soon-to-be Alexander Canario. Add in Darius Hill and Miguel Amaya and Matt Mervis, there is a bit of everything to check out. That also includes Ben Leeper and my favorite future Cub for 2023, Cam Sanders.

Tennessee – The starting rotation here will be just sick. I should know as I saw most of them last summer with South Bend. DJ Herz, Daniel Palencia, Jordan Wicks, Luis Devers, and possibly we will also see the return of Ben Brown and Ryan Jensen. This, my friends will be the best starting rotation in the system. As well, an outfield of PCA, Owen Caissie, Yohendrick Pinango, and Jordan Nwogu will be a joy to watch. Jake Slaughter will probably be there for a bit along with Bryce Ball and we might even see Luis Verdugo playing some short for a bit. 

South Bend – I am slated to attend close to 30 games this year to do some photography of South Bend as they play in the Western Division of the Midwest League. It will be a fun start to the year as I will be in attendance on opening day in Davenport. I am expecting to see Porter Hodge, Luke Little, and Kohl Franklin start the year there. In addition, I will be pumped to see top hitting prospects Kevin Alcantara, James Triantos, and Ethan Hearn as well as the comebacks of Ed Howard, Christian Franklin, and Parker Chavers. What also will make this year interesting will be who will be in the bullpen. I am also expecting to possibly see Sheldon Reed and Adam Laskey begin the year there but not finish it. It should be fun to have a little mystery.

Myrtle Beach – Speaking of mysteries, this squad will be full of them. From the rotation to the bullpen to position guys, it’s quite unclear who all will be there. Will there be a lot of 2022 draft picks on the roster? Will most of last year’s Mesa’s squad be wearing the Pirate hat? There are a lot of unknowns. And then there are the knowns, which are also exciting. The knowns include Cristian Hernandez and Pedro Ramirez. The unknowns could include the return of Reggie Preciado Moises Ballesteros. The biggest unknowns are about which pitching prospects from last year’s draft will be where. Will Cade Horton be in Myrtle Beach? Will he be in South Bend? What about Nazier Mule? And then there’s Jackson Ferris and his HS teammate Drew Gray. Lots of stuff could be happening….or it could not be.

So, it comes down to this: Guys close to Chicago in Iowa, high-end talent in Tennessee and South Bend, or the mysterious roster of the Pelicans.

Your thoughts…

And I agree. 

It will be all about the Smokies (except when I am photographing South Bend games). The combination of the outfield and starting rotation in Tennessee being filled with high-end talent is just too rich to ignore. To be extremely frank, I would not be surprised to see several Smokies in Chicago by the end of the year.

If I were to do this same exercise at the end of the first half for the second half, we might have a whole new affiliate(s) to focus on depending who ends up where by then.

Regardless of who I choose or who you choose, every affiliate is going to be extremely fun in its own way.