Over the offseason, the Cubs had a few changes in their affiliations. The Cubs will play in Eugene, Oregon, instead of in Boise, Idaho. Kane County, Illinois is out, to be replaced by South Bend, Indiana. Daytona Beach, Florida has become a Cincinnati affiliate, and the Cubs have "upgraded" to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Most of us new this already. How does that change anything for those of us following games in the pipeline?
For those of us who remember the 12-team National League, that was quite similar to the Florida State League as far as scheduling. While it might seem like the Cubs were playing the Phillies (for instance) quite often over a short stretch, that would likely be countered by missing them for over a month or two later. The D-Cubs played quite a few games against the five teams in their division, and played a few against the non-division foes.
However, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans play in the Carolina League, which only has eight teams. In the whole league. From a scheduling standpoint, get used to playing division rivals. It's tough to sugarcoat. The Pelicans will be playing quite a few games against the Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox), the Salem Red Sox (you figured that one out), and the Carolina Mudcats (Braves).
People following the Pelicans closely will not only get the standard read on the Cubs system, they will have more knowledge of the other three division rivals, as well. I haven't paid much attention to the ChiSox system in the past years. With a preponderance of games upcoming against the Dash, as well as continued games against the White Sox affiliate in the Southern League, I might have a better read on the cross-city rival prospects.
One of the really enjoyable things about the shuffle is adding games against the Red Sox pipeline. The BoSox seem a decent proxy on how our system is doing. Ben Cherington and crew have a nice system, and seeing them regularly should either expose our weaknesses, and theirs.
More games against the Braves is a neutral. I'd prefer games against a division rival, but the allure of games against the Sox squads covers for my ennui of playing the Braves. At least their pitching is generally good, and should provide a decent test for Cubs hitters.
The shuffle takes the Cubs almost entirely away from seeing any Cardinals prospects through the system. It was nice having them as a proxy in the division in the Midwest League. The Cougars last season handled the Cardinals quite well last season, as the Cougars pitching stifled the Peoria Chiefs. One of my memories from the Daytona Cubs days is hearing Robbie Aaron call the first start of C.J. Edwards against the Cardinals affiliate. The Cardinals were reduced to shortening their swings to make any sort of contact at all.
Games against the Brewers will be a bit of a rarity, as well. They were a division rival in both Daytona and Kane County/Peoria. The Pirates were a rare opponent in the Florida State League that we won't see anymore. The only in-division increase will be against the Reds, who the South Bend Cubs will play as division rivals. But, you will see quite a few against the Sox of either Red or White variety.
One of the things I'm trying to do better in 2015 is have one game per night to focus on. This should be easier with most full-season league games in the Eastern time zone. Depending on match-ups, weather, and computer link-up issues (one can never be sure of these things in advance), I'll try to data-sort as much as possible on one tilt, while monitoring the others by way of Twitter and box scores.
Much of my attention will be on the A-Ball level. The way I look at it, those are the players with the most remaining questions. By the time a prospect hits Tennessee in Double-A, velocity, command/control, and the other measurables are more of a given. Whereas, if James Norwood gets the ball for South Bend, I'm guessing you have less information on the righthander from St. Louis University than on C.J. Edwards.
I strongly recommend following the affiliates on Twitter, as they are usually good at giving decent game updates. They are also coming together well as a family, with South Bend and Myrtle Beach developing a friendly rivalry.
For this week's poll, I'm going with four "down the ticket" types. Because of that, I'm going to provide a mini-profile of each to help your decision-making. The similarity this time is they were all later-round draft selections. The poll is to project the most likely to sport a 3 WAR career.
Kevonte Michell, center field
Selected in the 2014 draft in the 13th round as a third baseman, Mitchell was almost exclusively a center fielder in Mesa in 2014. Despite not homering, the 6-4 right-handed hitter had an OPS of .745, despite being a-year-and-a-half below league average age. If the power comes along, and he continues to show more defensive ability than expected, Mitchell could start climbing prospect boards rather soon. Look for him to be in Eugene in 2015, probably in center.
Jordan Minch, pitcher
Drafted in the 35th round, Minch was a sophomore-eligible selection from Purdue. (If a sophomore turns 21 before the signing deadline, he is draft-eligible.) He was being groomed early-on as a reliever option in Mesa, but fanned 14 in just over ten innings.
Will Remillard, catcher
From Coastal Carolina, Remillard was a 2013 pick in the draft's 19th round. His OPS was .753 in Kane County last year, and he threw out a-third of the runners trying to steal on him for the Midwest League champs. Remillard is considered a solid defensive catcher.
Trevor Clifton, pitcher
A prep-drafted pitcher, Clifton pitched for Boise in the Northwest League in 2014. His WHIP was a bit below 1.5, and he was over two years below the league's average age, fanning eight per nine innings. He figures to be in the South Bend rotation this season.