Short-season leagues began play this week just as many full-season leagues embarked on their second-half schedules. And with many teams having played 70 or more of their 140 games, the time is right to rank the best and worst minor league clubs at midseason. Records include results through games of Wednesday, June 24.
|TOP 10 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|1||Akron||47||23||.671||Eastern||AA||Indians||3.19 team ERA tops in EL|
|2||Birmingham||48||24||.667||Southern||AA||White Sox||Lead SL in runs, ERA|
|3||Lynchburg||45||24||.652||Carolina||HiA||Pirates||23-9 at home|
|4||Fort Wayne||45||25||.643||Midwest||LoA||Padres||Lead MWL in runs|
|5||Sacramento||46||26||.639||Pacific Coast||AAA||Athletics||28-14 at home, best ERA|
|6||Brevard County||40||24||.625||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||25-10 on road; best ERA|
|7||Fort Myers||43||26||.623||Florida State||HiA||Twins||24-9 at home|
|8||Lakewood||42||26||.618||South Atlantic||LoA||Phillies||13-6 in June|
|9||High Desert||43||27||.614||California||HiA||Mariners||1st in runs, last in allowed|
|West Michigan||43||27||.614||Midwest||LoA||Tigers||No standout attribute|
No organization placed multiple affiliates in the top 10, but four of them—the Pirates, Athletics, Twins, Mariners—did place (at least) one "evil twin" affiliate among the worst minor league clubs. A pair of Double-A teams have played the best baseball to this point, but the high Class A level had the most representatives: four. Throw in three low Class A clubs and a full seven of the 10 highest achieving clubs come from the low minors, where the talent level from team to team varies much more wildly.
• Akron has hovered near the top of this ranking all season on the strength of a roster that includes many of the Indians’ brightest prospects. Catcher Carlos Santana, left fielder Nick Weglarz, first baseman Beau Mills, shortstop Carlos Rivero and righthander Hector Rondon all rank among the organization’s top 13 prospects.
• Can Birmingham weather the promotions of Gordon Beckham, Aaron Poreda and Brandon Allen? Stay tuned.
• Sacramento continues its run of (unprecedented?) dominance in the Pacific Coast League, where the River Cats have won four of the league’s past six titles (’03, ’04, ’07, ’08). This year’s Cats have surrendered the fewest runs in the PCL, despite playing in the rugged Pacific Conference, where road trips frequently include stops in Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Reno and Salt Lake. The since-promoted duo of righthander Vin Mazzaro (2.38 ERA in nine starts) and lefthander Gio Gonzalez (2.51 ERA in 12 starts) provided steady work for Sacrmento, in contrast to righy James Simmons (5.54 ERA in 12 starts).
• Brevard County and High Desert have ranked highly on this list at various points, but both teams have fallen off the pace of late. Conversely, Lakewood has been the hard charger in these rankings. Since the BlueClaws play in a 16-team league, it’s harder for them to stand out in any one category—except wins. Lakewood leads all South Atlantic League teams with 42 victories, and they’ve been very consistent in both home and road games, going 21-14 in the former and 21-12 in the latter. Their top prospects include center fielder Anthony Gose (league-leading 44 stolen bases) and righthander Jason Knapp (86 strikeouts, ranking third), a pair of ’08 second-round picks.
|BOTTOM 10 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|1||Buffalo||24||45||.348||International||AAA||Mets||Rank last in IL in runs|
|2||Altoona||24||46||.343||Eastern||AA||Pirates||Rank last in EL in runs|
|3||Stockton||25||45||.357||California||HiA||Athletics||11-24 at home|
|4||West Tenn||27||46||.370||Southern||AA||Mariners||6-18 in June|
|5||Lancaster||26||44||.371||California||HiA||Astros||12-23 on road|
|6||Myrtle Beach||25||42||.373||Carolina||HiA||Braves||Last in CL in runs, ERA|
|7||Omaha||27||45||.375||Pacific Coast||AAA||Royals||11-21 at home|
|8||Asheville||26||43||.377||South Atlantic||LoA||Rockies||6-13 swoon in June|
|9||Lansing||26||43||.377||Midwest||LoA||Blue Jays||11-24 at home; worst ERA|
|10||Beloit||27||43||.386||Midwest||LoA||Twins||13-22 at home|
|Binghamton||27||43||.386||Eastern||AA||Mets||5.03 team ERA ranks last|
|West Virginia||27||43||.386||South Atlantic||LoA||Pirates||4.66 team ERA ranks last|
Both the Mets and Pirates double-dip in the shallow end of the wins pool, where you’ll find both of New York’s top two affiliates. Strangely enough, Buffalo (poor offense) and Binghamton (poor pitching) are bad for different reasons.
• Buffalo’s recent mediocre play may keep them out of the running for 100 losses, but their season already is a lost cause. As you can see, the offense has been horrific. But the pitching staff has been middle of the road in terms of strikeouts, home runs allowed and overall run prevention.
• Congratulations to Harrisburg (Double-A Eastern, Nationals), a club that has gone 14-9 in June, thus taking them out of the running for worst team honors . . . for now. Early in the year, they topped this list on multiple occasions.
• Despite favorable conditions at home, Myrtle Beach pitchers have struggled to the Carolina League’s worst ERA. Top prospect lefties Jeff Locke (since traded) and Cole Rohrbough have been big reasons for that. They contributed individual ERAs of 5.52 and 5.61, respectively.
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