For the Cubs’ organization, the final series of the 2018 minor league season begins tonight. And against all odds, it is the Eugene Emeralds who are the last team standing. After beating out Salem-Keizer in the final week of the season, then sweeping juggernaut Hillsboro in the first round of the playoffs, the Emeralds are ready to begin Northwest League Championship Series tonight against Spokane.
They’ll be at home for Game One. Actually, they’ll be at home for all five (if it goes that long). Spokane cannot use their stadium this week due to another event, so they’ll have to play the entire Championship Series on the road. The last time Spokane came to Eugne for five games was August 1-5. Eugene won that series three games to two.
Spokane has not yet announced their starting pitchers, but we do know how Eugene will begin the series. Riley Thompson, a 6’3″ righty drafted in the 11th round this year, gets game one. He’s appeared in nine games (eight starts) and 25.1 innings for Eugene this summer, and has an ERA of 2.84 and 25 strikeouts. He faced Spokane on the road in his professional debut (July 13) and allowed a run in two innings of work.
The Cubs have a pretty good track record with 11th round picks. These are often guys that teams need to spend a little extra on, and the Cubs have found some good prospects. In 2017 they drafted Rollie Lacy (now traded to Texas), and in 2015 it was Matt Rose (now traded to the White Sox). In between they took Michael Rucker; Rucker has already reached Tennessee and has one of the higher floors among the Cubs’ pitching prospects. Regardless of how he does tonight, the fact that Thompson was taken in the 11th means he is a guy we would be watching closely.
Game Two of the series will see Jack Patterson (6’0″, LHP) take the mound for Eugene. Patterson was selected in the 32nd round in June and spent most of the summer in Arizona. In his one Northwest League game he got the start against Boise, pitched five innings, and allowed two earned runs.
It is a bit of an earlier start time tonight. Since it is Sunday, the game will begin at 8:05 PM ET and should be watchable (with pretty good quality) on MiLB.tv.
And finally, just a reminder that the Cubs’ organization has produced at least one championship team in each of the last five straight seasons. AZL Cubs 1 got the tying run to third in the ninth in the final game of their Championship Series, but did not get the win. Now is Eugene’s chance to keep that streak alive.