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Checking in on the minor league affiliates playoff hunts

Baseball - An Inside Look at the Vancouver Canadians Photo by Christopher Morris/Corbis via Getty Images

A brutal April and May ended any glimmer of hope the Blue Jays might have had for postseason contention, but for that there’s still the minor league affiliates. As those season enter the home stretch with two weeks left, let’s take a look at where things stand for each starting at the bottom and working up with a couple in particular potentially in line for an exciting finish.

DSL/GCL Blue Jays

I hardly consider the complex leagues teams as minor league affiliates to begin with, but in any event neither will be participating in the playoffs. With one week left in their season, the DSL Jays have long been dead in the water at 31-35 and 14 games out. The GCL season started late this year, so there’s two weeks left there. At 19-20, they’re nominally alive with a division elimination number of seven. But with two teams ahead of team at .600 or better in both the division and wild card races, they will not be playing in September. Quel dommage.

Bluefield Blue Jays

It’s been a thoroughly middling season in Bluefield, as they’ve stayed within four games either way of .500 the entire season. Putting up runs hasn’t been a problem, but the pitching just hasn’t been there and that’s been the key factor in the inconsistency that prevented them from stringing together an extended stretch of winning to make a run.

Former affiliate Pulaski separated themselves from the pack early in the season, but Bluefield was very much in the hunt until a couple weeks ago. But after a slow 6-10 start (including a sweep by Bluefield), Burlington has been white hot with a 29-13 record to overcome that and are now closer to first place Pulaski than third place Bluefield.

At 28-29, Bluefield would need to play very well and have Burlington stumble over the next week just for the season ending series between the two to matter. But if they can make up four games in the next seven, they’d control their destiny albeit with no margin for error. They’re just in the wrong division this year, as four teams are bunched within 1.5 games in the West for two playoff spots with the best one at .500, so Bluefield would be right in it if not slight favourites.

Vancouver Canadians

It’s been a completely dismal year in Vancouver results-wise, as the C’s limped out to a slow 6-20 start that quickly eliminated them from the first half race. However, after the first off day of the season they turned the ship around, ripping off a 9-3 run to finish the first half. It didn’t matter in terms of playoffs, but it was a bullish indicator for the second half.

Alas, as soon as they slate was wiped clean they resumed their losing ways, dropping their first two of the second half to dig a quick hole. They are now at 10-14, again in the cellar, but only three games out. So if they build on their two game winning streak and get hot for a couple weeks, they’re still alive especially with most of those against the teams ahead of them. If that doesn’t happen, it wouldn’t be surprising if Alek Manoah and/or Adam Kloffenstein were promoted because...

Lansing Lugnuts

Lansing didn’t qualify for either of the first half playoff berths, leaving them competing with six others for two second half spots. Lansing currently sits fourth in the second half with a 29-26 record. However, since Great Lakes was one of the first half qualifiers (as well as Lake County a game behind the Lugnuts and the only one close), it’s effectively a three team race for two spots.

Lansing is on the outside looking in, three games behind division leader Bowling Green and two behind South Bend. Bowling Green was running away with things and it looked like the only viable path was to catch South Bend, but the former has stumbled the last month. Critically, those two have seven games left against each other. Given the zero sum nature of those outcomes, if the Lugnuts finish strong they should get one of the two spots regardless of how that goes. If not, it’s best if one of the two dominates and sends the other spiraling. The Lugnuts also have a series against South Bend which isn’t absolutely must-win, but losing it would be a big setback and a sweep potentially season-ending.

Dunedin Blue Jays

Dunedin already qualified for the postseason in posting a 41-24 (.631) first half record that was (relatively easily) the best in the Florida State League. Ripping off an 11-game winning streak early in the second half offset a month-long stretch of poor play, leaving them in first place for the second half as well at a more pedestrian 32-27 in a weak FSL North.

The only drama here is who they’ll play. Tampa and Lakeland are within striking range at two and three games back. If neither catches Dunedin though, then it defaults to the next best full season record, where Daytona (61-63) and Clearwater (61-65) have the advantage. All four have similarly mediocre records, but the better matchup for Dunedin is probably one of the weaker second half teams with a slightly better full season record (given intra-season promotions).

New Hampshire Fisher Cats

The defending Eastern League champions will not be repeating. For the first time, a split season schedule was adopted in the Eastern League with the best teams in the first and second half in each division advancing rather than the best two teams at the end of the year. That midseason reset worked to the advantage of the Fisher Cats after they finished the first half at 31-36 in fifth place, but they failed to take advantage with an even worse 25-33 record.

It’s actually quite strange, with a full season record of 56-69 (.448), New Hampshire has the worst record other than Vancouver. But even following it day by day, it hasn’t felt like a very dismal season. But then, they haven’t ever lost more than five in row, and have only given up double digit runs a handful of times, so they’ve been mostly competitive.

Buffalo Bisons

Given that Buffalo was 24-33 on June 5th and is not the only full season affiliate that doesn’t have a split season playoff procedure, I’m surprised to be even discussing this. At that point they were 9.5 games behind the division lead, but nine games out of the wild card (with three very strong teams bunched at the top of the South division).

But (not coincidentally) right around the time they got Bo Bichette back, the Herd then ripped off a 15-4 run with continued strong play after that. They’ve briefly pulled equal with Charlotte (the current wild-card co-leader), but never really got in that chase and remain five games behind there. But Scranton Wilkes-Barre was stumbled, losing six a row (and 10 of 11) before winning yesterday. That made a race of the division, with Buffalo pulling within a game before losing yesterday. The Syracuse Mets are now also two games out after a five game win streak of their own, with Rochester a game behind them.

So Buffalo is right there in a suddenly tightly crowded pack trying to end a long playoff drought. To a large extent, they will control their own destiny, with eight games left against Rochester. Then to end the season, a four game series in Scranton that could very well decide the division. The Blue Jays won’t be catching or spoiling the Yankees season this year, but doing it at the triple-A level would be the next best thing, especially with Nate Pearson promoted to bolster their rotation.