The full-season minor leagues concluded yesterday, so we can unveil our final ranking of the best and worst teams. While we don't have a 94-win juggernaut like last year's Fort Wayne club, it was another Midwest League team that finished with the best record. The Dodgers' low Class A Great Lakes club shot to the front of the line around the all-star break and never relinquished its advantage, finishing with a minors league-leading 90 wins.
DNP = Did Not Play (scheduled games that got canceled)
|TOP 10 FULL-SEASON TEAMS
|1||Great Lakes Loons||90||49||.647||Midwest||LoA||Dodgers||1|
|4||NW Arkansas Naturals||86||54||.614||Texas||AA||Royals||0|
|6||Lakewood BlueClaws||84||55||.604||South Atlantic||LoA||Phillies||1|
|7||Quad Cities River Bandits||83||55||.601||Midwest||LoA||Cardinals||2|
|8||Cedar Rapids Kernels||82||56||.594||Midwest||LoA||Angels||2|
|10||Winston-Salem Dash||81||58||.583||Carolina||HiA||White Sox||1|
Best Of The Best: Durham (AAA), Tennessee (AA), Winston-Salem (HiA) and Great Lakes (LoA)
Great Lakes powered its way to the top with the oldest group of position players in the Midwest League, thanks to a lineup overflowing with college players drafted in 2009. The Loons led the Midwest League in slugging (.431) and finished just eight homers shy of Clinton. They had slugger Jerry Sands long enough for him to hit 18 homers and drive in 46 runs in 69 games.
• Primary center fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez (12th round, New Mexico) followed up his MVP turn in the Rookie-level Pioneer League with a strong full season with Great Lakes. While he managed just a 12-to-60 walk-to-strikeout ratio over 121 games, Cavazos-Galvez showed tremendous bat speed and power, batting .318/.343/.520 with 16 homers, 43 doubles and four triples in 490 at-bats. He ran well enough to steal a team-high 43 bases in 56 attempts—a 77 percent success rate—while leading the MWL in average, doubles and extra-base hits.
• Catcher J.T. Wise (fifth round, Oklahoma), last year's Big 12 Conference player of the year, batted .309/.363/.505 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs in 301 at-bats. He threw out 32 percent of basestealers.
• Right fielder Blake Smith (second round, California) put to rest talk of him moving to the mound with a solid offensive campaign. He batted .281/.363/.488 with 19 homers and 28 doubles in 430 at-bats. He did not pass Sands for the team lead in home runs until Aug. 30.
• Left fielder Angelo Songco (fourth round, Loyola Marymount) smacked 15 home runs, 30 doubles and six triples over 507 at-bats, batting .274/.344/.446 and drawing a team-leading 51 walks.
The Dodgers traded away Great Lakes rotation anchors Elisaul Pimentel (9-3, 3.49 in 16 starts) and Brett Wallach (6-0, 3.72 in 17 starts) to acquire Scott Podsednik and Ted Lilly at the deadline. But the Loons managed to get by with the other three-fifths of their rotation, which included promising righthander Allen Webster, who went 12-9, 2.88 in 23 starts to finish third in the ERA race.
|BOTTOM 10 FULL-SEASON TEAMS
|1||New Britain Rock Cats||44||98||.310||Eastern||AA||Twins||0|
|2||Jupiter Hammerheads||46||92||.333||Florida State||HiA||Marlins||2|
|4||Rochester Red Wings||49||95||.340||International||AAA||Twins||0|
|5||Inland Empire 66ers||50||90||.357||California||HiA||Dodgers||0|
|6||Birmingham Barons||53||87||.379||Southern||AA||White Sox||0|
|10||Round Rock Express||57||87||.396||Pacific Coast||AAA||Astros||0|
Worst Of The Worst: Rochester (AAA), New Britain (AA), Jupiter (HiA) and Burlington (LoA)
We've written a lot about New Britain and their pursuit of 100 losses. They didn't get there, of course, as they finished the year by going 5-5 in their last 10. From Aug. 1 to the end of the season, they went 13-21 (.382) to get out of the gutter somewhat.
The Rock Cats offense finished last in the Eastern League in average, on-base percentage and slugging, but they avoided a last-place finish in home runs (86), hitting six more than Altoona and 15 more than Richmond. They also scored more runs per game than the Flying Squirrels, but the margin was razor thin at 3.89 to 3.88.
Led by a porous bullpen, New Britain allowed an EL-leading 5.66 runs per game, while also allowing the most baserunners per inning (1.57 WHIP). The ERAs for the eight most frequently used Rock Cats relievers, starting with the busiest relievers: Chris Province, 5.58; Cole DeVries, 5.80; Billy Bullock, 3.44; Matt Williams, 5.23; Tony Davis, 2.68; Loek Van Mil, 6.37; Joe Testa, 8.25; and Santos Arias, 4.82. All made at least 21 relief appearances for New Britain, while Province and DeVries led the way 41 and 37 relief outings.
But what's most interesting is that for the third year in a row one organization has had both the worst Triple-A and the worst Double-A affiliate in the game. This year, the Twins feature the 95-loss Red Wings (Triple-A) and the 98-loss Rock Cats (Double-A). Last season, the Mets pulled double duty with 82-loss Binghamton (Double-A) and 81-loss Buffalo (Triple-A). In 2008, the Phillies' Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading affiliates each lost 89 games.
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