Jaime Garcia is going to face off against Bronson Arroyo tonight. I'm excited about that, but I don't want to talk much about it; we've rehashed the Cardinals' NL Central collapse time enough that I'm going to need some new inputs, like Jaime Garcia hurling a shutout here, for instance, before I can do it again.
But there's other pennant races—pennant races that are much closer to completion. For instance:
After smashing the Burlington squad 20-2 in their last regular season game, the rookie-level Johnson City Cardinals are going to the Appalachian League Championship Series. It's a best-of-three contest against the Elizabethton Twins, and if necessary it will go Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.
The Johnson City team went 42-24, the best record in the league, thanks mostly to some outstanding hitting; their OPS is .793, compared to second place's .755.
Phillip Cerreto doesn't have the at-bats to qualify for the league leaders due to injury, but he's hit .425/.460/.758 in 32 games, with 15 doubles, seven home runs, and six stolen bases. A third baseman who's played all around the corners, he was drafted in the 40th round by the Cardinals and is currently 22, so pummeling the Appalachian League doesn't give us a lot to go on re: future prospects. But he's been vital in the pennant race this year.
The best full season of hitting has come from Oscar Taveras, who's hitting .322/.362/.526 in 53 games. Just 18—he hit .257/.338/.392 in the DSL last year—he's definitely worth watching. They also saw solid stints from this year's polished hitting-catcher draftee, Cody Stanley, and last year's bloodlines pick, Virgil "Quicksilver, Jr." Hill. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention designated hitter Kleininger Teran, who has the best name ever and also hit .303.
The short-season Batavia Muckdogs also won their division title, with a 43-28 record. They've got the second highest OPS in their league, led by fifth-rounder Nicholas Longmire. He's hitting .287/.370/.481, with six triples, nine home runs, and 12 stolen bases. Jonathan Rodriguez, a 17th rounder from last season, leads the team in home runs with 12, good for third in the New York-Penn League.
The low-A Quad Cities River Bandits clinched a spot in the Midwest League playoffs thanks to their second-half pay—after finishing second in the first half of the split season format they pulled three games ahead of Cedar Rapids in the second half to finish 81-53. Like seemingly ever Cardinals minor league squad, they featured some dominant hitting—third in the Midwest League—but they also had a certain Shelby Miller on their side. Miller finished fourth in the league in strikeouts—three off the lead—despite finishing with 40 innings fewer than the leader.
The hitters were paced by Matthew Adams, the only River Bandit to play a full season with the club. He hit .310 with a league-leading 22 home runs and 88 RBI, though he did manage just 33 walks. The team also got excellent half-seasons from Niko Vasquez (.242/.381/.425) and center fielder D'Marcus Ingram (.324/.399/.497.)
Your Defending PCL Champion Memphis Redbirds have one last run to make the playoffs, which is why we won't see Tyler Greene and Allen Craig for another few days. If they win this weekend series against the Iowa Cubs, they'll clinch a playoff spot and a chance to defend their championship. If they don't, well, we'll see Allen Craig and Tyler Greene sooner, but they'll probably be depressed about it.