At 32-26 as of 6/9, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have had a pretty good first half. With just a little more than a week to go, they are 5.5 games out of first place and need a lot of help to get in. It looks as if the Pelicans will just miss out on a playoff spot, mainly because the Salem Red Sox had an even better first half, but the second half could be much better.
What’s Gone Well
The Pelicans currently lead the Carolina league in team pitching with a 3.42 ERA. Their starters, led by Trevor Clifton, Zach Hedges, Eric Leal, Jonathan Martinez, Jake Stinnett, have been outstanding. And Jeremy Null has been outstanding since he recently returned after spending some time at extended spring training.
Dave Berg and James Farris were great in their roles as closers in April and May. Ryan McNeil has come on strong and is scoreless in his last nine appearances. Jose Rosario was also near dominant in the first half after missing all of 2015. On the other hand, Rosario, Farris, and Berg were all promoted to Tennessee within the last month.
While the pitching has been excellent, the hitting has not been great. It has, however, been timely. Jason Vossler leads the team with a .284 average, followed by Ian Happ at .279 and Gleyber Torres, who is all the way up to .264 after hitting a lowly .179 in April. Yasiel Balaguert has been a disappointment average-wise, but the power is there. He leads the team with 9 HRs and 45 RBI.
What Needs to Happen in the Second Half
For most of first half, the Salem Red Sox were easily the best team in the Carolina League. They had the best prospect in Andrew Benintendi and another top-20 prospect in Yoan Moncada. Benintendi destroyed the league and has now moved on to AA. Moncada is not far behind. Since the promotion, the Red Sox have fallen back to earth and the Pelicans almost caught them in the first half. In the second half, the reverse could easily happen if the Pelicans get a little more talent.
I don’t think Myrtle Beach will lose any starting pitchers. Right now, there are no open spots above them at Tennessee or Iowa. The relievers still might fluctuate a bit, but I think the Pelicans can go on a good run here once the second half starts. Dillon Maples and Daniel Lewis have been added to the roster; both had poor debuts but have since bounced back. Jordan Minch is going to have to step it up, along with Ryan McNeil and Tommy Thorpe. James Pugliese and Daury Torrez will have to improve their consistency from outing to outing. I would not be surprised to either if Perdo Araujo or Craig Brooks arrive from South Bend to help aid in the cause.
Infusion of Bats
While the Pelicans lead the league in pitching, they are fifth in hitting with a team average of .247 and have only four players hitting above 260. As it stands right now, I don’t know if they’re going to get a lot of players from South Bend, though I think you could see Donnie Dewees coming up shortly. As for Eloy Jimenez, I can see him being treated very similarly to Gleyber Torres, who was promoted with a week to go in the season last year.
As for the current team, Rashad Crawford has improved greatly since returning from concussion symptoms. To me, he is very much like Dexter Fowler in the “You Go, We Go” sense. Trey Martin and Daniel Lockhart, two players who were defensive stalwarts, moved up to Tennessee. Andrew Ely arrived Thursday night from South Bend, where he was the sparkplug for the first place Cubs from the leadoff spot. Ely hit .371 in the month of May and will be playing all over the infield.
If the Pelicans make it to the Mills Cup Championship Series, I think their starting pitching could take over. I’d like to see the hitting be more consistent in the second half. I’d also like to see Hedges, Clifton, Null, and Leal maintain and improve on what they have built in the first half. It should be a very fun run to Labor Day.
You may find it strange that I only mentioned Happ and Torres once each, and then only to comment on their batting averages. I think both of these players can turn it up a notch and help carry the offense though. Another player who could really help is Jeffrey Baez, who put South Bend on his back last year and almost got the team into the postseason with a .348 average and 8 home runs from the leadoff spot. He has not done well yet this season, though it would not surprise me to see him turn it on again n the second half.
A lot of things have to go right for the Pelicans, but none of those things are out of the realm of possibility. Many of the items listed above just require an improvement upon the first half production. That’s how the second half is supposed to work. And if this comes to fruition, Myrtle Beach will be celebrating some more.