Shortstop Trio of Ed Howard, Yeison Santana, Luis Verdugo Headline Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans Preliminary Roster

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Shortstop Trio of Ed Howard, Yeison Santana, Luis Verdugo Headline Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans Preliminary Roster

Chicago Cubs

The now Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans announced their preliminary 30-man roster this morning, ahead of the start of their season on Tuesday night against the Charleston Riverdogs. This is likely to be the most prospect-heavy lineup of any in the Cubs farm system, with six of our top 40 prospects among the position player list, alone.

Leading that group is 2020 first-round pick Ed Howard, who will bypass rookie/short-season ball and jump to Low-A right out of the gate. Howard’s defensive polish will work at any professional level, but I would expect he’ll spend the full season here working on developing his bat. You can expect there will be up and downs, given that it’s his first pro experience, and given the mostly lost 2020 season. But the assignment is encouraging.

Interestingly, Howard is joined in the infield by a pair of other exciting shortstop prospects: Yeison Santana (the only prospect in the Yu Darvish trade to have any prior professional experience) and Luis Verdugo. It remains to be seen if manager Buddy Bailey has the three bounce between second, short, and third, or if Howard is entrenched at shortstop for the entire season.

Projected Lineup

  1. Yeison Santana, 2B, RH
  2. Yohendrick Pinango, CF, LH
  3. Jordan Nwogu, LF, RH
  4. Grayson Byrd, 1B, LH
  5. Ryan Reynolds, DH, SH
  6. Ed Howard, SS, RH
  7. Ethan Hearn, C, LH
  8. Luis Verdugo, 3B, RH
  9. Edmond Americaan, RF, LH

A really fun and toolsy outfield also deserves mention here, with any of those three guys providing an option in center field. Pinango’s jump from the DSL to Myrtle Beach is particularly noteworthy, as I mentioned on Wednesday. I also can’t wait to see how Jordan Nwogu handles professional pitching, as I’m quite high on his offensive ceiling.

Ethan Hearn will probably split the season between catching and DH work, and he’s a guy whose prospect status will swing wildly this season depending on how polished the bat looks. He was considered by many to be the top prep catcher in the 2019 draft, and the Cubs paid him over slot in the 6th round to get him signed.

I expect Matt Mervis will join this lineup eventually, adding one of the system’s best power bats to the lineup, but Arizona Phil mentioned he was injured in Arizona at the tail end of Spring Training.

Projected Rotation

  1. Adam Laskey
  2. D.J. Herz
  3. Manny Espinoza

As for the other rotation spots, I’ll be honest, I don’t know how is a starter and who is a reliever anymore. Bear with us!

The southpaws with Carolina ties, Laskey and Herz, headline the rotation, and both are guys I’m actively keeping an eye on for 2021 breakouts. I got a tip that Laskey saw his velocity tick up to a personal-best of 96 mph during winter indoor workouts, and he’s healthy for the first time since Summer 2018 (when he dominated the Cape Cod League). Herz, an above-slot signing from the 2019 draft, has added a bunch of muscle and more consistent velocity since his brief pro debut. The Cubs also re-built his curveball and I’ve heard praise (from teammates of his) on how quickly D.J. picked up a changeup.

Espinoza, who came from the Cubs mid-2010s pipeline into Mexico, its coming off a solid winter pitching in the LMP (Mexico’s most advanced winter league). He was billed as a polished four-pitch, command-first guy, but I took note when Arizona Phil mentioned he touched 93 mph during this Spring Training. That’s a nice step forward as well.

Here are the guys that could be your other Pelicans starters: Richard Gallardo (top 30 prospect who was not stretched out during Spring Training, but perhaps there’s a piggyback plan in the works?), Jose Miguel Gonzalez, Scott Kobos, Eduarniel Nunez, Carlos Ocampo, Sam Thoresen.

Definite Bullpen Guys

  • Jose Albertos, RHP
  • Joe Nahas, RHP
  • Bailey Reid, RHP
  • Jake Reindl, RHP
  • Blake Whitney, RHP

The guy I’m really watching here is Joe Nahas, who you’ll recall the Cubs signed to a then-record six-figure bonus as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2019. Nahas is a well-built kid with a mid 90s fastball that worked to add (or at least improve to the point of using in games) two extra secondary pitches during the time off.

Bailey Reid was an undrafted free agent last year out of small Westmont College, but his slider was something I got a good note on during Instructional League last October. This is also perhaps the last chance for the now-slender Jose Albertos to really fulfill his promise and overcome the drastic command issues that have plagued his last couple years.

Projected Bench

  • Pablo Aliendo, C, RH
  • Raymond Pena, C, RH
  • Josue Huma, IF, SH
  • Darius Hill, OF, LH

Pablo Aliendo, 19, is an athletic catcher that definitely popped for the Cubs in the last six months. He’s going to get a fair number of starts at catcher on the days that Hearn moves to Designated Hitter.

Josue Huma isn’t as toolsed-up as the other infielders on this roster, but he’s more polished, with 40 walks against 41 strikeouts during the 2019 season. He has good bat control and I think plays as a plus defensively at second base (with the ability to spot-in on the left side).

If you come across Darius Hill watching this team on MiLB TV, it’s impossible not to like his all-out grind style of play. He’s also, for what it’s worth, one of the best contact hitters in the system.

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.