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With Birmingham's win over Mobile to wrap up the Southern League title on Sunday night, we are down to final two (or three) games of the 2013 minor league season.
Idaho Falls and Helena will play in the Rookie-level Pioneer League championship series on Monday night, with Idaho Falls holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. On Tuesday, the International League champion Durham Bulls will face the Pacific Coast League champion Omaha Storm Chasers in the Triple-A National Championship game in Lehigh Valley, Pa.
Omaha's Pacific Coast League title is a great reminder of how championships can come down to improbable combinations of success and luck. The Storm Chasers only made the playoffs because on the second to last day of the season, Memphis blew a 4-0 lead against Oklahoma City after it had two outs and no one on in the bottom of the ninth. That Memphis loss, a further Memphis loss in the season finale combined with two Omaha wins got the Storm Chasers into the playoffs. Omaha had lost nine of 11 games heading into the final series of the regular season to puts itself in a predicament. From there on, the Storm Chasers went 9-2 over their final 11 games to earn the title.
If Idaho Falls can win one more game, it will make the Royals one of three organizations to finish the year with a pair of minor league titles. The Astros' low Class A Quad Cities club won the Midwest League title and its Tri-City squad earned a New York-Penn League crown. The Mariners' Pulaski team is being fitted for its Appalachian League championship rings as are the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League Mariners.
|2013 MINOR LEAGUE CHAMPIONS|
|Pacific Coast League||Omaha||Royals|
|Pioneer||TBD||Royals or Brewers|
|Gulf Coast||GCL Nationals||Nationals|
|Dominican Summer||DSL Tigers||Tigers|
|Venezuelan Summer||VSL Mariners||Mariners|
With that look at the playoff results, it’s fitting that we have a question about the most successful team in the minors this year.
The Gulf Coast League Nationals are 49-9 and are getting great seasons from many players. I’m wondering who on this team is a player to watch, someone who will emerge as a genuine prospect.
The Nationals not only went 49-9 for an .845 winning percentage that was best in baseball this year, but they also swept their way through the Rookie-level GCL playoffs, winning all three games to claim the league title. The Nationals’ dominance was total. They finished 24.5 games up on the second-placed GCL Marlins during the regular season. At one stretch during the season they won 25 out 26 games.
Ben Badler is currently writing our Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects list, which will be unveiled on the Website next week. The top 20 will have much more detail about the Nationals and the rest of the league's prospects, but Ben was willing to offer a sneak preview. The biggest prospect on the GCL Nationals this year as you would expect was Lucas Giolito, the Nationals' first-round pick in 2012, who was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. After a rocky start where four of the five baserunners he faced reached in his first start and another bout of wildness two starts later, Giolito showed the kind of plus stuff he possessed pre-surgery, earning a promotion up to the New York-Penn League. Third baseman Drew Ward, the Nationals' third-round pick in 2013, also impressed scouts and opposing managers as did 20-year-old Dominican center fielder Rafael Bautista.
Overall, the GCL Nationals impressed with a group of solid if not spectacular prospects having very good years. They had a deeper lineup and pitching staff than anyone else in the league. Many of these same players were on the Nationals' Dominican Summer League club that went 38-32 in 2012, failing to make the playoffs. Seven of the nine regulars in the lineup came from that club, as did six of the club's top nine pitchers. Given another chance to play together, they dominated the competition.
With all the big international signings by the Cubs this year, where do these guys, particularly Eloy Jimenez, rank, if at all, in the Cubs top 30? When will Eloy and company see minor league action?
Robert T. George
Arlington Heights, IL
Once again, we went to the bullpen for Ben Badler. Since he's the international expert, he’s the best one to answer this question. Here's his response:
The two international prospects the Cubs signed this year who should make their Top 30 are Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres. There wasn’t a clear-cut No. 1 prospect on the international market this year, but Jimenez and Torres were either at or near the top of the boards for several teams, and we ranked them as the top two international prospects available for July 2. Neither one of them should be Top 10 prospects in that organization, but they should both fit comfortably in the 11-30 range.
All of the players who become eligible to sign for the first time on July 2 are signing 2014 contracts, so they will make their pro debuts next season. Domincan righthander Jefferson Mejia signed when he was 18, so he was able to make a pair of starts this season in the Dominican Summer League. Jimenez and Torres are advanced enough that they should skip the DSL and head straight to the Rookie-level Arizona League next year.
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