With the regular seasons in AAA down to A- leagues finishing in a handful of days, we take a quick look at the final week of the MiLB Pro season.
The Indianapolis Indians (PIT) have clinched a AAA playoff berth by winning the west after the Mud Hens (DET) fell off the pace to an 11-17 July and a .500 August and find themselves eliminated from both the division race and the wildcard.
In the north, Rochester (MIN), Pawtucket (BOS) and Lehigh Valley (PHI) are all within 2.5 games of the title, with the second placed team guaranteed a wildcard (because only one non-first placed team in the other divisions still has a mathematical chance). The entire division still technically has a chance here, though the elimination number for Scranton (NYY), Buffalo (TOR) and Syracuse (WAS) is alarmingly small.
In the south, Durham (TB) and Gwinnett (ATL) are battling, with Durham having a 2.5 game lead. The second-placed team in this division look certain to be the other wildcard team, as Gwinnett currently have a four game lead on the north leaders (5 on the north 2nd place), but stranger things have happened.
Pacific Coast League
The PCL is wide open. No wildcards here as there are four divisions already, but the Pacific Conference especially is far from over. In the north, Reno (ARI) have a one game lead over Fresno (SFG). In the south, nobody is technically eliminated (though it’s only a matter of time for El Paso (SD)). Las Vegas (NYM) have a one game lead over Salt Lake (LAA), who have a one game lead over Albuquerque (COL) – anyone could win it!
The American Conference is more settled, with Omaha (KC) enjoying a six game lead over Colorado Springs (MIL) in the north. The Dodgers aren’t out of it yet, but like El Paso, are basically just waiting for confirmation. In the south, Memphis (STL) have a commanding 9-game lead over Nashville (OAK), needing just five wins to secure their fourth division title in the MLB Pro era.
The entire Eastern League is decided already, with the New Britain Rock Cats (COL) and Bowie Baysox (BAL) playing late-September ball. The two teams have won five of the 9 Eastern League titles between them since 2012.
The Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU) will be in the TEX playoffs for the fourth year running. Now, I’m going to be honest, I’ve got no idea how the playoffs work here, but I *think* that the first-half winners play the second-half winners of each division in a division series, and the winners play the championship series. Assuming that’s correct, we’re not likely to have a division series this year, because Corpus Christi dominated both halves of the season. Arkansas (LAA) took the first-half title in the north, and unless something crazy happens in Springfield (STL) very soon, are going to take the second half too.
In the Southern League, the Montgomery Biscuits (TB) have sewn up the north in both halves. In the south, the first half winners were the Mississippi Braves, though they currently find themselves behind Mobile (ARI) over the second half, with Pensacola (CIN) breathing down both of their necks.
Florida State League
The FSL is over, with the Daytona Torguas (CIN) and the reigning four-time champs (including the last three in a row) Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) securing the second-half titles. The first half was won by the Stone Crabs in the south so they’re through to the championship game, but the Flying Tigers (DET) edged out Daytona over the first 70 games in the north, so we’ll have a Daytona vs. Lakeland playoff to decide the FLO North winners (I think?), who’ll then play the Crabs for the league title.
The first half winners were Visalia (ARI), who have also locked up the second half in the north, and Lancaster (HOU) in the south. It’s far from plain sailing for Lancaster though, as Inland Empire (LAA) currently hold the second-half lead and High Desert (TEX) are within striking distance
Frederick Keys (BAL) took the CAR North in both halves, navigating to their 10th playoff appearance in 11 years (only missing in 2013). They’ll be looking to win their fourth title in September against either Carolina (ATL) or Myrtle Beach (CHC). The Mudcats won the first half, but the Pelicans currently enjoy a very narrow lead in the second half standings in search of their 8th playoff appearance and 5th championship.
South Atlantic League
The Asheville Tourists (COL) have wrapped up the south, winning both halves comfortably. The north is still up for grabs between Hickory (TEX) (winners of the first half) and Delmarva (BAL), who have an outside chance of forcing a division series game.
The Quad Cities (HOU) have won the MID west resoundingly, having already secured a 100-win season and their 6th consecutive playoff birth. They’re 10-0 over their last 10 games, 18-2 in their last 20. They’re also only the 9th-oldest A-ball team on average, so you can’t just say they’re all AA players being held down (I mean, they have just one guy under the age of 22 – but you can’t say that).
In the east Bowling Green have been almost as effective, and have an almost sure shot at a 100-win season themselves (94-38, 8 to play, and those are against two poor teams in the bottom three who they’ve just beaten 3-1 in consecutive series). Having said what I did about Houston’s A-ball team I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention that Bowling Green’s roster features a 34 year old catcher with two World Series rings and no less than 9 other players 24 or older, two of whom also have MLB service time. Only Toronto have an older A ball team, and Tampa’s own AAA team is younger. I’m not saying that’s wrong, just reporting facts here! Bowling Green secure their fourth straight playoff berth, and are going for their fourth straight championship. I’m sure Ryan Jenkins can’t sleep with excitement.
New York-Penn League
Finally, a break from first-half/second-half splits… The NYPL is one of the few divisions where nothing is yet set in stone. In fact, only four of the 14 teams are eliminated. In the McNamara division, Brooklyn (NYM) leads Hudson Valley (TB) by two games, and Aberdeen by four. At ten back, Staten Island (NYY) are probably done for.
Over in Pinckney, Williamsport (PHI) hold a two game lead over West Virginia (PIT) and Mahoning Valley (CLE), but don’t count Batavia (MIA) out yet either at only four back.
Tri-City (HOU) leads the Stedler division, and are the most comfortable, with a six game lead over Norwich (DET).
The wildcards will presumably be Hudson Valley and one of either Norwich, Aberdeen, Mahoning Valley or West Virginia, though Hudson Valley are 5-5 over their last ten, on a two game skid, and in danger of making this closer than it needs to be. Not enough World Series rings on the roster, that’s their problem.
With no wildcard in the Northwestern, it’s a straight fight between four teams. In the north, it’s Tri-City (SD) vs. Spokane (CLE), with Spokane five games back but Tri-City only .500 over their last ten – will they be able to hold on and go to the playoffs to defend their only league title?
The south is not as close (which is why I tried to build some jeopardy over a five game lead just now), as Boise (COL) lead Eugene (CHC) by 10, and need only two wins to claim a postseason berth. Boise have been to the postseason in every odd year since 2015 and look set to continue that trend.
With Rookie ball extended to late September due to the late start, we’ll cover them separately in a few weeks’ time.