It’s Opening Day for Minor League Baseball and the top four affiliates in the Cubs’ system play their first game of the season.
Ryan Williams, Rob Zastryzny, Jonathan Martinez and Preston Morrison received the honor of starting on Opening Day.
Here’s how Triple-A Iowa, Double-A Tennessee, High-A Myrtle Beach and Low-A South Bend are setup as the season begins down on the farm.
The Iowa Cubs begin the 2016 season at Principal Park against the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers). First pitch is scheduled for 3:08pm CDT.
Ryan Williams gets the ball on Opening Day against Nick Martinez.
Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. headline a talented I-Cubs roster that also features John Andreoli, Dan Vogelbach, Arismendy Alcantara, Carl Edwards Jr., Armando Rivero and Pierce Johnson.
Iowa is at home for the first eight games of the season. After the four-game series with Round Rock, the New Orleans Zephyrs (Miami Marlins) will be at Principal Park through April 14. The I-Cubs hit the road for eight games with Round Rock and New Orleans starting on April 15.
Mark Johnson and the Tennessee Smokies open the 2016 season under the lights Thursday night (6:05pm CDT) at Smokies Park. Rob Zastryzny takes the hill for the first game of the year against Mobile BayBears (Arizona Diamondbacks).
The Smokies hit the road Tuesday for a trip to Birmingham to face the Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Double-A Tennessee’s first roster of the season is also packed with top prospects.
Jeimer Candelario, Billy McKinney, Mark Zagunis and Chesny Young will begin their season with the Smokies. In Candelario’s case, he could be promoted rather quickly if he picks up with Double-A Tennessee where he left off in the spring.
Duane Underwood Jr. is preparing for the season in extended Spring Training and could report to Double-A Tennessee when he’s ready to compete, which could be in the not too distant future according to the Tribune.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Myrtle Beach kicks off the season at home Thursday night (6:05pm CDT) against the Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles).
The Pelicans unofficially began the season Wednesday with an impressive one-hit shutout over the Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees) in the Battle of the Beaches. Jake Stinnett and Tommy Thorpe struck out 15 in the exhibition game and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Thairo Estrada broke up the no-no with two outs in the eighth.
Jonathan Martinez gets the Opening Day start for the Pelicans. Zach Hedges, Trevor Clifton and Erick Leal follow Martinez in the rotation. Jake Stinnett is expected to pitch the first game of the series with Winston-Salem Dash on Monday and Tommy Thorpe is scheduled for Tuesday’s start.
The Pelicans will begin the season with a six-man rotation.
All eyes will be on the Pelicans middle infielders this season. Gleyber Torres and Ian Happ begin the year as Buddy Bailey’s double play combination. And the Pelicans’ talented roster also includes Jeffrey Baez, Shawon Dunston Jr. and David Berg.
South Bend Cubs
In terms of quality and quantity of prospects, the South Bend Cubs arguably have the most talented roster from top to bottom assembled at one affiliate under the current Cubs regime.
The South Bend Cubs roster is loaded with position players and pitchers and at some point Dylan Cease and Oscar De La Cruz will be added to the rotation this season.
The South Bend Cubs begin the 2016 season at Four Winds Field on Thursday night (6:05pm CDT) against the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit Tigers).
Preston Morrison takes the ball for Opening Night. South Bend has a home and home series against West Michigan. South Bend plays Saturday and Sunday at West Michigan.
Jimmy Gonzalez has not set his rotation beyond naming Morrison the Opening Day starter. Justin Steele and Carson Sands will fall in the rotation behind Morrison.
South Bend’s first roster includes Eloy Jimenez, Donnie Dewees, Eddy Julio Martinez, P.J. Higgins, Carlos Sepulveda and Matt Rose on the position-player side.