Dodgers Minor League Affiliates Postseason Preview: AZL Team Wins Championship; Raptors, Loons,...

Dodgers Minor League Affiliates Postseason Preview: AZL Team Wins Championship; Raptors, Loons, Quakes, Drillers And OKC Reach Playoffs

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Freek Bouw-Phrake Photography

Monday was the final day of the regular season for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ four full season Minor League affiliates. However, all four will continue playing in the postseason.

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The rookie league schedule is different, as the Arizona League championship has been decided and the Pioneer League playoffs will begin this weekend. Here’s a look at where each club stands.

Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers

The OKC Dodgers finished the season at 75-65, winning the Northern division. Unfortunately, the team will be missing some of its top contributors during its playoff run. Alex Verdugo is back up with the big club, as are Andrew Toles, Kyle Farmer and Tim Locastro.

Furthermore, Brock Stewart saw his season come to an end because of an oblique strain. That severely depletes the offense and removes the team’s top pitcher from its rotation.

Oklahoma City will have to count on journeymen like Connor Joe, Travis Taijeron, Henry Ramos and Donovan Solano, as well as first base prospect Edwin Rios, to carry the load on offense. Daniel Corcino will lead the rotation, supplemented by Logan Bawcom, Justin DeFratus and Zach Neal.

They begin their quest for the Pacific Coast League title on Wednesday against the Memphis Redbirds.

Double-A Tulsa Drillers

Tulsa clinched their division in the second half by going 40-29. The Drillers were expected to compete for a Texas League title this season, as their roster was loaded with top prospects. However, underperformance and promotions have left the team unsteady as they approach their championship run.

The pitching staff featured three of the organization’s top arms heading into the season. Yadier Alvarez, Mitchell White and Dennis Santana all ranked among the Dodgers’ top 10 prospects entering 2018.

But White and Alvarez struggled early in the year, with the latter suffering and injury and returning to the bullpen in the final stretch. White has been better in the second half but is not as dominant as his 2017 campaign. Santana was promoted to the majors before suffering a shoulder injury.

Yusniel Diaz was the team’s hottest hitter before he went to Baltimore in the Manny Machado trade. Will Smith led the Drillers in home runs before his promotion to Triple-A. Joe was also promoted to OKC after producing a .979 on-base plus slugging percentage in 57 games.

However, reinforcements arrived by way of the Quakes. Gavin Lux has hit .324 with a .904 OPS in a month’s worth of games for Tulsa. Tony Gonsolin has been dominant in the rotation, posting a 2.44 ERA in nine starts.

Dustin May got roughed up early but has settled in to the tune of a 3.67 ERA in six starts for the Drillers. Zach Reks has been solid on offense and Ben Holmes has been a strong addition to the rotation.

The Drillers begin their postseason run on Wednesday as they take on the Arkansas Travelers in the division series.

High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Rancho Cucamonga had a historic season in 2018. Three years removed from winning the championship, the Quakes set a franchise record by winning 87 games. However, much like Tulsa, they’ll be without some key contributors for their playoff run.

California League MVP Rylan Bannon and right-hander Dean Kremer were traded to the Orioles in the Machado deal. Lux, who was third in the league with a .324 batting average, is now with the Drillers. Gonsolin and May, who led the pitching staff, are also in Tulsa.

However, the Quakes did get a huge boost at the end of the season. Outfielder Carlos Rincon, who had just a .689 OPS with Great Lakes this season, was promoted to Rancho and went off, clubbing 15 home runs in 29 games to the tune of a 1.246 OPS.

Cristian Santana tied for the league lead in home runs with 24. Cody Thomas and Connor Wong were tied for fifth with 19 a piece.

On the mound, Isaac Anderson was fourth (among only 13 qualified pitchers) with a 3.67 ERA. Leo Crawford re-joined the team in July and posted a 2.77 ERA. Parker Curry has been a mainstay in the bullpen, pitching 74 innings with a 3.41 ERA.

The Quakes take on the Lancaster Jethawks starting Wednesday.

Low-A Great Lakes Loons

Two years ago, the Loons won the Midwest League Championship. On Wednesday, they look to make it two out of three. Great Lakes clinched a playoff berth in the second half after going 36-33.

Great Lakes had the least amount of star power of the four full-season affiliates, but still managed a postseason run all the same. Former fifth-rounder Jared Walker led the offense with a .838 OPS and eight home runs.

This year’s 10th-rounder, Deacon Liput, slashed .280/.332/.446 in his professional debut. Infielders Marcus Chiu and Brandon Montgomery paced the offense with nine homers a piece.

On the mound, Edwin Uceta led the rotation before being promoted to Rancho. Alfredo Tavarez, all of 20 years old, becomes the club’s ace after posting a 3.30 ERA in 20 appearances. Gerardo Carrillo was stellar in his first taste of full season ball, with a 1.65 ERA in nine starts.

Great Lakes opens the wildcard round with West Michigan on Wednesday.

Rookie League Ogden Raptors

Ogden won the first half crown with a stellar 26-12 record. They dominated on offense, scoring a league-best 572 runs in 73 games. Unfortunately, they’ll be without two of their top bats this postseason, as Miguel Vargas and Jacob Amaya were promoted to Great Lakes.

Shortstop Ronny Brito and outfielder James Outman led the club with 11 homers each, with first baseman Dillon Paulson also reaching double-digits at 10. Outfielders Drew Avans and Chris Roller each OPS’d over 1.000.

On the mound, Joel Inoa will lead the pitching staff after posting a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts. Orlandy Navarro headlines the bullpen after posting a 2.35 ERA in 11 appearances.

The Raptors finish the regular season on Thursday and begin their postseason run on Friday.

Rookie League Arizona League Dodgers

Unlike the five clubs listed above, the Arizona League Dodgers’ season has already concluded. The AZL Dodgers finished the regular season with a 37-18 record, just a half game behind the AZL Cubs 1. The two teams met in the championship series.

In Game 1, the Dodgers fell behind early as the Cubs posted a run in the second. The Dodgers came back to tie in the 5th on a Sauryn Lao homer, only to fall behind by a run in the bottom of the frame.

But the offense scored six runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a bases-clearing triple by Juan Zabala, to put them ahead for good and take the opener 7-3.

Game 2 was more of a pitcher’s duel. The teams traded zeroes for seven innings before Jose Hernandez surrendered a sacrifice fly in the eighth. The Cubs added another run in the 9th on a groundout and held on to win 2-0.

The decisive Game 3 came down to the wire. The Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on a bases-clearing double. The Dodgers put a run on the board in the third, thanks to an RBI single by Sam McWilliams.

Then, in the fifth inning, with two outs, the Dodgers rallied for four runs, highlighted by a Sauryn Lao triple. He’d come around to score on a wild pitch. The Dodgers added a key insurance run in the eighth on a two-out single from Aldrich De Jong.

They stranded a leadoff double by the Cubs in the bottom of the inning, needing just three outs to secure the championship. But the ninth started off with a few key mistakes. After a leadoff single, Jair Carmago allowed a passed ball that sent the runner to second.

The next batter blooped a ball that couldn’t be corralled by second baseman Sam McWilliams and suddenly there were runners on the corners with no outs and the tying run coming to the plate.

The next batter hit a grounder to the shortstop that couldn’t be turned into a double play, but the out was recorded at second. The runner on third base didn’t score until the next batter singled, cutting the lead to 6-4. A balk brought the runners to second and third with 1 out, but Nelfri Contreras struck out Edmond Americaan to bring the Dodgers within one out of victory.

Manager Jairo Pacheco brought in Nathan Witt to record the final out. The 22-year-old righty posted a 3.46 ERA in 14 games with the AZL club this season, saving one game in two opportunities. Unfortunately, he uncorked a wild pitch that brought in another run and allowed the tying run to reach third base.

But Witt collected himself and got the job done, inducing a fly ball to center field that was caught by Ismael Alcantara to end the game and bring the AZL Dodgers the championship trophy.