Admittedly, this is a week or two late — perhaps even unnecessary as the only drama is mostly how they’ll make it, not who — but with two weeks to go in the regular season, let’s take a look at the playoff chances for all seven affiliates anyways and continue the annual tradition.
For the fourth straight summer, the Nats will have multiple teams make the postseason. This is a far cry from the summer of 2009, when just three teams had winning records (G-Nats, P-Nats, Chiefs) and none made the playoffs. This year, five of seven should break the .500 mark, three are already in the postseason and a fourth is just a half-game out of first place.
Let’s take a look…
Unfortunately, 2009 was the last winning season for the Chiefs, which should come as no surprise to those in the know as AAA nowadays is more of a taxi squad than the last rung on the ladder. The pitching, to be kind, has been spotty. The offense has been too reliant on the long ball and drives to the mailbox (unwilling to walk). There’s still chance to finish at or above .500, but that will require an especially strong finish (11-3 or 12-2).
For fans of the big club, the narrative is awfully familiar. This team can pitch and prevent runs. They have real difficulty scoring on a consistent basis. They’ve been in or near 1st place since mid-June, but the gap between 2nd and 3rd is just two games. Guess who the Senators play seven times over the next two weeks? The third-place Richmond Flying Squirrels. There’s always hope that Jimmy Van Ostrand and Steve Souza Jr. can get healthy and return to the lineup, but even with them, the team has struggled. This is the pennant race to watch because it’s all-or-nothing, in-or-out.
This is perhaps the most complete Potomac team ever, with one rather notable exception — the bullpen. Over the course of season, as they’ve proven, it’s irritating but not fatal. In a short series, it can be devastating — especially in the first round, though it would take a near miracle to lose the second half with a magic number of eight with 14 to play. In the finals, Potomac wouldn’t have home-field advantage, which could be problematic as they’re much better at home vs. the road (45-19 vs. 32-28). That’s not presuming an upset in the first round isn’t possible, either.
The past couple of Suns teams could really hit, but they didn’t have the pitching to match. This year, they do. Like the P-Nats, they’re already in as the first-half winner. Unlike Potomac, Hagerstown is battling to win the second half (currently tied with West Virginia, their most likely opponent in the first round) but has proven it can win on the road (35-26) as well as at home (38-26). The Suns and Power don’t play each other the rest of the way, and the Suns have a much more favorable schedule (eight at home, seven on the road; .411 opp. W%) than the Power (four at home, eleven on the road; .495 opp. W%), but stranger things have happened.
After two 45+ win seasons in 2011 and 2012, the 2013 edition may not win 30 and could very well end up with the New York-Penn League’s worst record. Is this significant? Probably not. The previous two editions were older and drafted from higher rounds. Aside from a select few (e.g. Jake Johansen, Austin Voth, David Napoli), the pitching has been atrocious and the hitting has only been marginally better. They’ll be eliminated by week’s end. Most folks are interested to see if anyone gets the bump from the juggernaut in…
…Viera. They clinched a playoff berth 10 days ago, so the only drama is whether or not they’ll not set the record for the best winning percentage in GCL history (1994 Kansas City, 47-12). The playoffs are short — basically a one-game play-in between the top division winner versus the fourth-best, with #2 playing #3 and then a best-of-three between the two winners. Quick: Who won the 2012 GCL title? If you knew the answer without Googling, please wear sunscreen and make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
They were eliminated this weekend (just six of 35 teams make the playoffs), but as noted in this morning’s News & Notes, they have a chance to surpass last year’s 38-32 record and barring a collapse, will post a winning record for the second consecutive season. It’ll be discussed more in the season reviews, but that’s really, really not bad when you consider where the Nats’ Dominican operations were just four years ago.