The unique nature of the minor-league baseball season is what makes it so entertaining to follow on a regular basis.
Unlike any other season-long sport, baseball in the lower pro levels consists of a massive number of roster changes throughout the season, forcing teams to adjust on a dime.
Fortunately for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, this year’s squad has a coaching staff equipped to handle a season-long journey full of constant switches in the clubhouse.
Manager Buddy Bailey’s staff works tirelessly, on the grind every day, to ensure the cohesiveness of the group never changes.
And in a 2016 season that has certainly followed the trend of fluid rosters in the Cubs organization, Myrtle Beach has responded brilliantly.
Two crucial recent moves have directly affected the Pelicans’ day-to-day lineup; both project to be difference-makers down the stretch.
Happ makes way for Bote
Unanimously ranked as one of Chicago’s best minor-league prospects by all scouting outlets in the pre-season, infielder Ian Happ was recently promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Happ was brilliant with the Pelicans, hitting .296 with a .410 on-base percentage that significantly led all Pelicans every-day hitters.
As he travels west to play for the Smokies, it’s David Bote who enters as an every-day starter in the Myrtle Beach infield. The 23-year-old former 18th-round selection has been as far up as triple-A this season, quickly emerging as one of the most underrated prospects in the Cubs organization.
Bote is hitting over .280 spanning across the three levels he’s played at this season, working effectively as a utility infielder. He’ll look to improve upon the .361 on-base percentage and .515 that he’s put up over the early course of his time in Myrtle Beach.
Rice gets the call from Amaya’s promotion
He had a bumpy start to the season, but Gioskar Amaya very much earned a call-up to Tennessee. His brilliance behind the dish and intelligence calling games helped Pelicans pitchers to smooth outings night after night during the first half of the season.
Amaya slashed .321/.415/.427 in the month of June (17 games), crushing five home runs over the course of one week.
In his place, the Cubs awarded young catching prospect Ian Rice a promotion. The 22-year-old kicked off his first full year of pro baseball with a bang in South Bend, hitting for a .321 average through 42 games.
Known as a power bat, Rice showed Myrtle Beach last weekend that his bat is the real deal.
In his first home series against the Mudcats, he picked up five hits in three games, including a double and homerun in two multi-hit games. He’ll look to bring to the Pelicans what he showed off at the University of Houston: a big-armed catcher with a bat that can crush baseballs onto Robert Grissom Parkway.
A look ahead
The Pelicans will spend this weekend at home at TicketReturn.com Field before heading out for a nine-game, 10-day road trip that will be crucial to their ability to contend for a second-half title in the Carolina League.
After Sunday’s game against the Potomac Nationals (fourth game of the four-game set), the Birds will not return home until the 13th. Then, they’ll have a quick three-game series against Frederick before traveling to Winston-Salem for another four games away from home.
In total, the Pelicans will have just three home games between July 4-July 21.
Seasons are defined by the battles against adversity — if these Pelicans can manage to keep their heads above water for this upcoming road-heavy schedule, they’ll be set to have quite the fan-friendly, late-summer stretch at home along the Grand Strand.
All stats as of Tuesday, June 28.