6 Takeaways from Cubs Affiliates’ Opening Night Games

After a layoff of more than a year and a half, Minor League Baseball finally returned Tuesday night. All four of the Cubs’ major affiliates we slated to play, though Tennessee was forced to postpone the start of their season due to rain. Myrtle Beach and South Bend saw several debuts and gave us our first looks at how many more players were able to develop since 2019.

Here are six of my biggest takeaways from last night’s action.

1. Ed Howard looked good
It’s pretty impressive for a 19-year-old to make his professional debut as a professional in low-A rather than sticking around in Mesa for more seasoning. This shows how highly the Cubs think of their top draft pick from last summer. Howard went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and was very impressive in the field.

2. Chase Strumpf is a professional hitter
I was a little surprised to see Strumpf assigned to South Bend to start the year, but the Cubs are probably just being cautious in his advancement since he would basically be skipping two levels if he went to Double-A Tennessee. The young second baseman went 2-for-4 with a very professional hitting approach that tells you he may not be long for this level.

3. Yohendrick Pinango‘s full-season debut
The youngster out of the Dominican drew rave reviews in instructs last fall and again in spring training for his ability to square up the baseball. Last night he went 1 for 4 while playing some left field.

4. Cam Balego should be a fast-mover
Balego will not be at South Bend very long if he keeps hitting the ball with authority. Take a look at this interesting play.

5. Suprise performances
One game can’t tell us much, but it sure feels significant when you see something overwhelmingly positive from an unexpected source. The opening night’s surprise performance on the mound went to Jose Albertos, who only needed 11 pitches to get through an inning. He could really use some confidence after struggling with command and injury issues the past two seasons. At the plate, Delvin Zinn had three RBI and drove in the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the 8th as he went 1-for-3.

6. Several players MIA
I was hoping to see Kohl Franklin and Brailyn Márquez on opening night, but 13 of the Cubs’ top 30 prospects are still back in Mesa. They should be along shortly, so no need to start worrying just yet. We did get some good news this week that Riley Thompson, who left a spring training game early 10 days ago, is considered to have a “minor” ailment.

This was just one day and a lot more is going to happen between now and the middle of September, but it was much bigger for the players, staff, and MiLB communities that have gone far too long without baseball. In addition to the tiny sample, that’s part of the reason it’s so difficult to do much in the way of evaluation at this point.

Cubs Insider will be covering the system in great detail this year, with weekly posts on Mondays to recap the happenings. The Growing Cubs podcast will drop every week as well, along with affiliate updates, stock watches, and various interviews with players, broadcasters, and team personnel. We will even have our own video and pictures of the action.

Get ready, it’s going to be a very fun summer.

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