The Chicago Cubs have built from within over the past few years, developing players in their minor league system that have helped the big league club reach three straight National League Championship Series and win a World Series title.
The call-ups of several players and trades of a few other top prospects have taken much of the talent from the farm system.
But a lot of what talent remains in the system will start the season at the Cubs Advanced-A level with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
According to MLB.com, six of the Chicago Cubs’ top 26 prospects will begin the season in Myrtle Beach, led by 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan of the Dominican Republic, who is ranked second in the organization.
The others include right-handed pitcher Alex Lange, a 2017 first round draft pick out of LSU (ranked fifth), outfielder D.J. Wilson (ninth), right-handed pitcher Keegan Thompson (19th), left-handed pitcher Bryan Hudson (25th) and infielder Wladimir Galindo (26th).
Ademan batted .267 in 68 games split between Eugene and Low-A South Bend last season, the speedy Wilson swiped 15 bases last season in South Bend, and Galindo hit .290 and slugged .432 in 44 games with South Bend before suffering a season-ending broken leg in June 2017.
With the promotion of so many position players in recent years, the majority of the Cubs’ top prospects are pitchers.
The opening day roster also includes 10 players who return from last season’s Pelicans playoff squad.
Baseball America has Ademan, Wilson, Lange, Thompson and Hudson all ranked among the top 15 Cubs prospects.
In addition, ESPN’s Keith Law has Ademan ranked as the top Cubs prospect and has Lange, Wilson and Thompson ranked among his top 21 team prospects. He has just two Cubs prospects ranked among his top 100 in minor league baseball, however, including Ademan.
The Cubs farm system has been ranked 28th this season by Baseball America and 25th by Law.
The Cubs farm system was ranked among the top systems in baseball for several years with an abundance of talented position players including Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber, who are all now helping the Cubs win.
Much of what the Cubs had left in the system was traded – included former Pelicans Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres – in deals for Aroldis Chapman, Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.
Pelicans fans can get their first glimpse of the club's 2018 opening day squad with the annual Meet the Team party from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Broadway Louie's at Broadway at the Beach.
The event will include team introductions, an autograph session and karaoke, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own items for players and coaches to autograph.
The Pelicans will welcome three returning pitchers this season. Ryan Kellogg, who finished second on the team in innings pitched a year ago with 103.2, and Casey Bloomquist (28 appearances, nine starts) each return as an option out of the bullpen or in the starting rotation. Jordan Minch provides bullpen experience after 29 appearances last season.
Chad Hockin, Tyson Miller, Jose Paulino, Tyler Peyton, Jhon Romero, Matt Swarmer and Wyatt Short round out the newcomers on the mound.
Hockin and Short both spent all of 2017 in the South Bend bullpen, with Hockin going 3-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 38 games and Short adding 40 appearances with a 4-3 record and a 3.19 ERA. Romero posted a 0.35 ERA in 13 appearances for South Bend late in the season.
Peyton went 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 18 games (four starts), while Paulino and Miller finished 2017 third and fourth, respectively, in both starts (22 and 20) and innings pitched (123.2 and 120.2) for South Bend. Swarmer pitched in Eugene, South Bend, Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.
At catcher, P.J. Higgins and Tyler Pearson return. Higgins posted a .327 on-base percentage in 98 games while throwing out 35 percent of base runners, and Pearson battled through an injury to bat .257 over 35 games. Jhonny Pereda batted .249 in 92 games with South Bend in 2017.
On the infield, Tyler Alamo, Vimael Machin and Andruw Monasterio all return to Myrtle Beach. Alamo batted .281 with 24 doubles and 12 home runs, and Machin batted .274 over 45 games. Austin Upshaw joins the Pelicans after batting .292 in South Bend.
In the outfield, Daniel Spingola and Connor Myers return. Spingola hit .267 in 107 games between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee a season ago and will be in a Pelicans uniform for the third straight year, and Myers made several outstanding catches over 95 games. Newcomers in addition to Wilson are Kevonte Mitchell (.713 OPS and 11 home runs in 115 games with South Bend last season) and Chris Pieters (.254 in 86 games with the Low-A Cubs.
Buddy Bailey, who enters his 30th year as a minor league skipper, will serve as the Pelicans manager for the third consecutive season. Pitching coach Anderson Tavarez also returns for his third year in Myrtle Beach and Ty Wright rejoins the Pelicans as the hitting coach after serving as the assistant coach in 2017.
The Pelicans are in their 20th season as a franchise and fourth with the Cubs, and made the playoffs last season after winning the Carolina League championship in both 2015 and 2016.
The Pelicans begin the season with seven consecutive home games from Thursday through next Wednesday against the Frederick Keys, a Baltimore Orioles affiliate, and Winston-Salem Dash, a Chicago White Sox affiliate. For tickets visit MyrtleBeachPelicans.com, call 843-918-6000 or visit the Pelicans box office.
The CW21 (WWMB) will televise every Pelicans weekend home game. The first of 22 broadcasts is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.