Some of you may have noticed how we’ve keeping tabs on where the affiliates are in the standings with each recap. This, of course, has led to some snarkiness in certain lower levels (OK, the GCL) but the more holistic view is that for the second straight summer, we’re looking at the possibility of multiple teams making the playoffs.
Obviously, player development is the first and foremost goal of the farm, but there is something to be said about playing in the postseason, no matter what the level. Harrisburg, for example, has several players from the 2010 Carolina League championship team and we’d like to think that they’ve learned what it takes to grind out a pennant race. Potomac and Hagerstown have younger, more age-appropriate squads and making the playoffs can only help to instill a winning attitude that many accuse the organization of lacking.
In any case, here’s a look at each affiliates chances down the stretch…
On paper, this team should have done better via its pitching, with the likes of Yunesky Maya, Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin, and Ross Detwiler — all touted as possible #5 starters coming out of spring training. The lack of offensive prowess is not as surprising, as this system is indeed lacking with position player prospects at the upper levels. Last year’s roster-filling 4As (e.g. Jason Botts, Chase Lambin, Pete Orr) were simply a little better than this year’s. Maybe we’d be singing a different tune if there were a half system and we thought that Brad Peacock and Tom Milone would be sticking around, but neither seems to be the case.
Yes, they’re currently tied for first place, and have been there for all but one day since May 24. But the question is whether or not they can withstand the loss of their leadoff man (Steve Lombardozzi) their ace pitcher (Brad Peacock) and their cleanup hitter (Bill Rhinehart). They’ve gotten some decent replacements by way of buying Leonard Davis from the Can-Am League and taking Tim Pahuta off the
taxi squad disabled list, along with two new prospects (Erik Komatsu, Danny Rosenbaum). Tanner Roark has been pitching better of late, and Shairon Martis may very well be pitching below his true level, but Senators fans have to be holding their breath because further losses seem not only possible, but maybe even inevitable. I’ve heard their current left fielder’s pretty good.
It may be a bold statement in the midst of all this team’s problems, but this team will make the playoffs. That’s more because of the format than anything else. As long as they hold onto second place in the second half, they’re in. With a six-game lead and only three games left against the third-place team (Wilmington, at home 8/23-25), and a seven-game lead over the fourth-place team with four games left (in Lynchburg, 8/30-9/2), that seems like a decent chance. Whether or not they’ll do anything in the playoffs is another story entirely. Frederick would be their first-round opponent, and the two teams meet once more on August 26-28. They’ve split the six games played in the second half, both teams taking two-of-three on the road.
Something to consider is that a lot of these guys were on the 2010 Vermont squad that nosedived. Will they learn from that experience or repeat it? Another problem is that it’s questionable that Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole are going to be allowed to pitch for very much longer. If that’s the case, then this team is going to have to make like the 2002 Angels and mash their way to a title. It’s also a very tight race in the Sally League North, with four teams within three games of first place. Fortunately, the Suns still have five games apiece left against Hickory (tonight in NC, 8/22-25 in MD) and Lakewood (9/1-5 in MD) and four against Kannapolis (in NC, 8/18-21) and, thus, some control over their own destiny.
Like the Sally North, the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League is tightly bunched with four teams within two games of first. Unlike the Sally, there’s a wild card option, but five teams are within three games in that race. The good news is that they have 12 games against last or next-to-last place teams. The bad news is that they have no more games against Williamsport but seven against Mahoning Valley and four against Jamestown, which means the Crosscutters could ease past the Doubledays and let the other divisional foes beat up on each other. The Williamsport schedule is also quite favorable, with 19 games against sub-.500 foes still left to play.
Could be eliminated by the end of the weekend. Even with 28-year-olds pitching in middle relief. Just sayin’…
Like last year, they’ve been hovering near .500 for most of the season. They’re 5½ games behind with 17 games left, so mathematically they’re alive, but they’re 7½ games back in the wild-card race so unless they rip off a long winning streak against the teams in their own division, it’s over.