There are still more than three weeks left in the Rockies season, and while the team hasn’t yet been eliminated from Wild Card contention, it’s a foregone conclusion that there won’t be any postseason baseball at 20th and Blake this year. Fortunately for Rockies fans, the minor league affiliates will offer playoff baseball this year, and hopefully a glimpse at the future in Rockies purple.
If you are grasping to remember playoff qualifying procedures in the minors these days and coming up blank, you can be forgiven. The 2020 season as a whole was canceled, and the 2021 season was abbreviated as the start was pushed back in the minors. But 2022 has been a return to somewhat normalcy, and with that, a return to postseason baseball for team’s prospects.
First, a primer on the minor league’s playoff qualifying procedures. Triple-A is the most straightforward - the top team in each division by regular season winning percentage in the Pacific Coast League qualify for a one game playoff. The winner will advance to one game, winner-take-all championship against the corresponding champion from the International League. The Isotopes are not in a position to qualify for these playoffs, currently 17 games back of the division leader with just 15 games left to play. The El Paso Chihuahuas (SDP) lead the PCL’s East Division, with the Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD) and Round Rock Express (TEX) both within two games. Whichever of those teams comes out on top will take on the Reno Aces (ARI) to represent the PCL at the Triple-A National Baseball Championship game.
The qualifying procedure for Double-A affiliates is less traditional, but the same as both Single-A levels (well, mostly..). Each division will send two teams to a best-of-three playoff series. The teams are the winner of the second half and the winner of the first half, both by winning percentage. The winner of that best-of-three series will take on the other division champ for the league championship in a best-of-five tilt. In the Eastern League, the Hartford Yard Goats are not benefit by this format. They finished second in the first half of the year, just one game back of the Somerset Patriots (NYY) but got nothing for it other than a clean slate to start the second half. They’ll finish the second half of the season in third behind Portland (BOS) and Somerset, and it will be those two teams that will advance to the playoffs - despite Hartford having the second best overall record.
For the Midwest and South Atlantic leagues, the playoff procedure is the same as Double-A and Low-A, as described above. However, that’s not the case for the Spokane Indians and the Northwest League. Since there are only six teams total and no divisions, the first and second half champs will immediately advance and play a best-of-five series to determine the NWL champion. Not that this matters for the Indians - they finished third overall in the yearly standings (second in the first half, third in the second half), so their season ended yesterday. Eugene (SFG) took both halves titles, so the second spot goes to the team with the second best overall winning percentage - in this case, the Vancouver Canadians (TOR). The Indians finished 3.5 games behind them.
Fresno, fortunately, has already punched their ticket to represent the organization in the next round of games. They won the first half of the California League North by just a game over San Jose (SFG), and for good measure they ran it back in the second half - defeating the Giants and the Modesto Nuts (SEA) to take another crown. As the team with the second-best overall season record, the Giants will face them in the final. Game 1 kicks off Tuesday at San Jose, then games 2 and 3 should be back in Fresno. The Championship series is scheduled to start a week from yesterday, on September 18th.
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In case you missed it, C.J. Cron is still doing C.J. Cron things. The 2022 All-Star is on pace to set career highs in RBIs and home runs, and although each one counts the same, this one is extra special. Cron took the first pitch he saw from Keynan Middleton and took it deep. Like into the Denver night deep. Like out of the stadium deep. Watch it again for yourself.
C.J. Cron's ft HR— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 10, 2022
-was the longest HR by a Rockie in the StatCast era
-tied the longest HR by any player in Coors Field history
-tied the second-longest HR measured in StatCast history
Oh yeah, and it was an absolute @FTX_Official x Rockies pic.twitter.com/wgtTPcLZKt
This is now the longest home run by a Rockie in the Statcast era, and ties the mammoth shot that Giancarlo Stanton hit at Coors in 2016.
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On the Farm
Back from his first big league call up, Wynton Bernard is continuing to show that he belongs higher than AAA. He had two doubles, a home run, and two singles - one being the walk-off winner - to lead the Isotopes over El Paso (SDP).
Ryan Vilade added three hits and an RBI of his own to help out Bernard and pace the offense. Next, the Isotopes will play host to the Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD) and try to play spoiler for their playoff hopes.
Hartford sent the home crowd home happy one last time in 2022 Sunday night, getting out hot and scoring eight runs in the first three innings then holding on to preserve the lead. Isaac Collins had four hits, three runs, and two RBIs. Willie Stovall, Grant Lavigne, and Aaron Schunk each had two hits themselves and had three RBIs and two runs scored between them. The bullpen combo of Dugan Darnell, Blair Calvo, and Stephen Jones provided four innings of scoreless relief to secure the win. Hartford will head out on the road for their final series of the year, visiting the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (NYM).
Spokane’s season ended up on the road Sunday with a loss to Tri-City (LAA). Bladimir Restituyo accounted for all of the Indian’s scoring offense, touching the plate three times to score all of Spokane’s runs, but his effort was not enough to take down the Dust Devils. Spokane ends the season two games under .500.
In a preview of the California League Championship series starting tomorrow, Fresno and San Jose (SFG) had a good old fashioned slugfest to wrap up the Low-A regular season. Adael Amador, Benny Montgomery, and Sterlin Thompson - the one, two, three batters in Fresno’s order - each had three hits and knocked in four runs and scored six between them. Game 1 of the League Championship series will be Tuesday at San Jose, followed by Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) back in Fresno.
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