Six deserving teams for six playoff spots

Funny how these things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

Six teams with winning records. All six make the playoffs.

Nine teams with losing records. All nine miss the playoffs.

Two teams from each division are in. Three teams from each division are out.

Six quality teams qualified for the postseason, with Chatfield (103 wins), Applegate (97) and Springfield (94) winning their divisions, and Bushwood (97), Bismarck (89) and Savannah (87) earning wild-card spots.

The playoff pairings feature fourth-seeded Bushwood against fifth-seeded Bismarck, with the winner challenging Chatfield; and third-seeded Springfield squaring off against division rival and sixth-seeded Savannah, with the winner invading Applegate.

When your sixth seed heads into the playoffs with 87 wins, you know you have a strong field. (In recent years, teams have made the playoffs with as few as 83.) But not all six clubs come into the playoffs with the same head of steam.

Stock up: Applegate, 17-3 in October and owner of the league’s best record in the second half at 59-21, and a 28-12 record in one-run games. …  Bismarck, with 15 wins in October after 11 and 13 in its two previous months. Continue reading

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Mega-prospect rookies dominate updated non-mock draft

We’ve had exciting drafts in the past, but it’s hard to identify one where there is as much first-year talent available as the draft we’ll enjoy in 2016. Since our midseason analysis, even more young stars have come on the scene. Our updated projections below, based on season-ending stats, anticipate that the first nine players taken in the draft will all be rookies. Most of those names were also in our midseason non-mock draft, but later in the round, there’s also been a big shakeup, with previously unranked players filling seven of the last eight slots.

A fun debate looms for the first overall pick too. Shortstops Carlos Correa (Houston) and Francisco Lindor (Cleveland) are the probable 1-2 choices, but in what order? Both are 21, with similar at-bat totals. Correa represents the rare chance to land a power-hitting shortstop; Lindor hits for average from both sides of the plate and is rated as the better fielder.

And that presumes the top two teams decide to pass on the likely NL Rookie of the Year in Kris Bryant, the best available starting pitcher who happens to be a rookie in Noah Syndergaard, and a five-tool outfielder who’s been rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball by many rating services for the last two years in Byron Buxton.

For comparison to previous years, there are 16 rookies available who had an OPS of .800 or more in 2015. That compares to five in 2014, eight in 2013, eight in 2012 and five in 2011.

It’s a deep draft for shortstops and third basemen; a shallow one for second basemen, catchers and starting pitchers. But every team should come away happy with their first-round pick. Will some team do a major talent dump to accumulate as many high draft picks as possible, and start building a dynasty?

1. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston, 21, bats R: Correa finished the season as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup for a team that made the playoffs, with a stunning 22 homers in 387 ABs. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft. His MLB.com scouting grades (scale of 20 to 80) shake out impressively as Hit: 60 | Power: 70 | Run: 50 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 70. Previous ranking: 1.

2. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland, 21, bats S: Ended up hitting a lot better than expected, including .370 in August and .362 in September to finish at .313 with an .835 OPS. Chosen eighth overall in the 2011 draft.  Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 70 | Overall: 65. PR: 5

3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs, 23, bats R: Slugged 26 homers, got on base to the tune of .369, and slugged .857. Was the overall No. 2 pick of the 2013 MLB Draft. Hit: 55 | Power: 75 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 70. PR: 2 Continue reading

What’s at stake in final month?

Is there drama to be had in the final month of our 36th season?

Not an awful lot, to be truthful.

Division races: Chatfield has an insurmountable 11-game lead in the West, Applegate has stretched its lead to six in the North, and Springfield has padded its margin over Savannah to four.

Wild-card race: Bushwood has a lock on one spot, up by 11, and Savannah looks pretty good with a four-win advantage. That leaves Bismarck hoping to fend off Superior for the third wild-card spot, with a three-win advantage going into October.

First-round bye: Chatfield also has effectively wrapped up one spot, and Springfield pulled two games ahead of Applegate with its 14-win September.

No. 1 overall draft choice: Hickory is in danger of blowing its shot at having the most balls in the draft lottery, recording just 10 losses in September. Margaritaville is making a late charge with a whopping 17 losses in September, and thanks to that forfeit loss earlier in the season, is now tied with Wisconsin with 84 losses, just two behind Hickory’s 86.

October means intradivisional play, so anything can still happen, but there will be lots of scoreboard-watching, so managers are urged to update the “Input Results” file (responsibility of the Game Five home team manager) as soon as series conclude.

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
CHATFIELD 94 46 .671
SPRINGFIELD 82 58 .586
APPLEGATE 80 60 .571
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
BUSHWOOD 83 57 .593 +11
SAVANNAH 78 62 .557 +4
BISMARCK 74 66 .529
SUPERIOR 71 69 .507 3