By the end of the day tomorrow, the minor league season will have ended for all teams in the Cubs’ organization except for Myrtle Beach and maybe Eugene. Playoff coverage will continue on Bleacher Nation until there are no Cubs’ teams left standing. And after that, you will see minor league coverage be put on hold for the rest of the major league season and the playoffs.
After that, though, comes a winter worth of sorting through stats and video, breaking down the prospects you know and finding the ones you should know so that we will be prepared when spring training roles around. In depth analysis of the 2015 minor league seasons should be fairly plentiful around here once we get into the off season.
In the meantime, since the season is wrapping up, this seemed like a good opportunity to take a quick retrospective on each of the six teams.
Iowa : 79-63, 3rd place.
Despite sitting in third place in their own division, Iowa actually has a record good enough to lead two of the four divisions in the Pacific Coast League.
This endlessly shuffled mix of veterans, major league bench options, speculative reclamation project types, prospects, and rebounding recently former prospects turned into a pretty good team by the end of the season. While the Chicago roster remains Exhibit A, this Iowa team is a decent Exhibit B when making the case that this front office has a pretty good grasp on what to look for when scouring the waiver wire and lower tiers of the free agent market.
Iowa concludes their season on Monday in Round Rock.
Tennessee : 36-32, 2nd place.
It was not a smooth second half for the Smokies, but they righted the ship and will finish solidly over .500 for the later part of the season as well as for the entire season (75-62).
It has been a surprising year for the Smokies. We knew it was a prospect-laden roster when the season started, but it turns out we were watching the wrong prospects. Willson Contreras stole the show with a breakout season to end all breakout seasons, and Ryan Williams came close to matching him on the pitching side. And then in the second half, when it seemed like half of all Cubs’ fans had written Albert Almora off as a lost cause, the young outfielder suddenly started hitting at a very good clip and set the stage for some potential spring training intrigue in a few months.
But that is in a few (long, cold, dark, hopefully post-playoff celebratory) months. In the meantime, the Smokies conclude their season in Biloxi on Monday.
Myrtle Beach : 39-28, 2nd place.
The Pelicans did not win the second half in their division, but they still had the second best record in the league. And as far as the overall season record is concerned, Myrtle Beach (80-56) leads by a wide margin.
This talented roster, recently reinforced by the addition of Gleyber Torres and Jeffrey Baez from South Bend and headlined by a very deep group of pitchers, wraps up their regular season on Monday. Their playoffs begin on Wednesday in Winston Salem and continue the next day in Myrtle Beach.
The Pelicans’ rotation cruised through the Low-A playoffs a year ago, and I would not be surprised to see them do it again this year. The Cubs have a legitimately good bunch of arms in High A, and their emergence into Double A next year will be one of the bigger stories at the start of the 2016 season.
South Bend : 35-23, 3rd place
After a brutal first half and some shaky stretches in the second half, the South Bend Cubs finished strong to wind up with a chance at a better than .500 finish for the latter part of the season. For the whole season they will finish with the worst record in their division (64-71) and the fifth worst in the league.
Despite the weak season record, there was some intriguing talent on this team. Jake Stinnett, for example, has a very bright future if he can harness his stuff, and Trevor Clifton began to deliver on the promise he has flashed since he was drafted. Ian Happ had a solid first stint in professional ball, Kevin Encarnacion made it back to professional ball, and Charcer Burks established himself as a prospect worth watching. And those are just the headliners. There may yet be some surprises emerging from this roster over the next year or two (particularly in the bullpen).
Eugene : 21-16, 2nd place
Eugene has lost control of their own destiny. Their final game of the season is today, and their magic number for a playoff slot is still two. If Salem-Keizer does not lose, it doesn’t matter what Eugene does. They will be out. They can’t be thinking about that, though, because Eugene has to win for the Salem-Keizer game to matter at all.
It will be Carson Sands taking the mound for the Emeralds today, and the game will be on MiLB.tv if you want to watch how a very young team handles themselves with their playoff hopes on the line. Should things break the Emeralds’ way, their first playoff series starts Monday. The Emeralds have the pitching to make a playoff run (if they get there), led by Sands, Steele, Alzolay, and De La Cruz. They could be a tough team to beat in a short series.
Arizona : 31-22, 1st place
The Cubs finished with the best overall record in their division and the second best in the league (behind Kansas City). Even though they lost in a one game semi-final in the playoffs, this was a very promising team with plenty of names we will be hearing more from in the future.
Particularly the infield: Wladimir Galindo played particularly well when healthy, and fellow infielders Andruw Monasterio, Carlos Sepulveda, and Ho-young Son showed enough potential to hold my interest as we head into the off season and 2016.