08/27/2007 10:27 AM ET
Gulf Coast League playoff preview
Unique playoff format pits play-in winner against team with best record
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
One of three hot Yankees pitchers, Manuel Barreda was 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA August. (Jerry Hale/MLB.com)
The complex Gulf Coast League, which features 16 teams, handles its playoffs in a slightly different manner than most leagues in the Minors. It features three divisions that play exclusively among themselves during the regular season. The division champion with the best record gets a bye into the best-of-three finals, with the other two squaring off in a one-game playoff.
The league finishes regular-season play on Monday, Aug. 27 and starts playoffs the next day. Stats and records in this package are through Sunday's games.
Twins (36-19) vs. Yankees (42-17)
The Twins edged out the Orioles to win the South Division title in the final weekend of the season. They cut things close despite leading the 16-team league with a .283 batting average and finishing second only to the Yankees with a 2.92 ERA. The club features an array of international talent that includes Czechoslovakian pitcher Jakub Toufar, Netherlands-born hurler Tom Stuifbergen and Taiwanese outfielder Wang-Wei Lin, as well as the other players listed below.
The Yankees were nosed out of the bye and home-field advantage when the Dodgers won their game Monday. The Yankees' composite 2.72 ERA led the league, however, thanks in large part to the scorching August put together by three of their pitchers. The club's .275 average ranked third, close behind the other two playoff participants.
ON THE MOUND
RHP Daniel Berlind, a seventh-round pick this June, was sixth in the league in ERA at 1.93 with a 6-2 record and 52 strikeouts in 56 innings while walking 20. League batters were hitting .186 against the 19-year-old. ... Australian-born RHP Liam Hendriks was right behind Berlind in the ERA standings at 2.05 and had fanned 52 in 44 innings. ... Closer Danny Rondon is leading the league with 12 saves and has a 1.14 ERA. The Venezuelan-born Rondon posted a 2.48 ERA last year as a starter in the Dominican Summer League.
Who's Hot: Hendriks has gone 3-1 in August with a 2.16 ERA, walking six and striking out 34 in 25 innings, including a league-best 11-strikeout game on Aug. 19.
RHP Noel Castillo was 6-3 with a 1.88 ERA, fifth in the league, and had struck out 51 batters while walking just seven in 52 2/3 innings. ... RHP Jairo Heredia was 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. Batters were hitting just .228 against him. ... LHP Brandon Thomson, the club's closer, was 7-for-7 in save opportunities and had a 1.02 ERA. The 23rd-round pick from 2006 had struck out 14 in 17 2/3 innings and was limiting the league to a .153 average.
Who's Hot: A trio of pitchers really turned it on in August. Castillo was 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA this month. Manuel Barreda was 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in the same span, while Dickson Marquez was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA.
AT THE PLATE
OF Ben Revere, the Twins' No. 1 draft pick this past June, has been one of the stars of the league, hitting .323 with 20 steals, the latter good for a second-place tie in the loop. The 19-year-old is leading the league in runs (44) and triples (10), and his .460 slugging percentage leads the team despite not including any homers. ... Switch-hitting 2B/3B/OF Yangevis Solarte is hitting .302 with 31 RBIs, second on the squad to 3B Juan Richardson. The 20-year-old Venezuelan has made just three errors in 51 games in his first season stateside. ... OF Andrew Schmiesing, an 11th-round pick this spring out of St. Olaf College, was hitting .321 with a team-best .421 on-base percentage.
Who's Hot: Solarte was hitting .349 in August with 10 RBIs.
3B Brandon Laird, a 27th-round steal out of Cypress College this spring, was hitting .339 with eight homers and 29 RBIs to lead the club. The 19-year-old had a .577 slugging percentage, good for second in the league. ... 1B/DH Wady Rufino was hitting .345 with six homers and 24 RBIs. ... 1B Austin Romine, the club's second-round pick this spring, was just activated on Saturday and went 1-for-2 in his debut. The son of former Major Leaguer Kevin Romine could be key in the postseason lineup.
Who's Hot: Laird was hitting .377 with a league-best five homers and 19 RBIs for the month. Rufino was batting a torrid .393 in August, second in the league.
Twins/Yankees winner vs. Dodgers (39-15)
The winner of the play-in game between the Twins and the Yankees will face the East Division-champion Dodgers in a best-of-three series.
The Dodgers had the best record in the league (39-15) to earn the right to wait out the winner of the play-in and enjoy home-field advantage for the finals (though since the GCL does not actually sell tickets or have "fans in the stands," home-field advantage doesn't have quite the impact it does in the other leagues). They wrapped up their East Division title early, with a .281 team average and a 3.67 ERA. The club featured two of the organization's top picks this spring in first-rounder Christopher Withrow, who was taken with the 20th overall pick in June, and southpaw Michael Watt, the Dodgers' second-round pick.
ON THE MOUND
RHP Christopher Withrow, the club's top pick in the 2007 draft, was just getting his feet wet with a 5.00 ERA in nine innings so far, but the 18-year-old had struck out 13 batters and allowed just a .167 average. ... LHP Michael Watt, the club's second-round pick, had a 3.00 ERA in the early going. The 18-year-old had struck out 18 in 21 innings and walked just six. ... The ace this season has been 19-year-old RHP Daigoro Rondon (no relation to Twins' closer Danny) who is in his third pro season and first in the U.S. was 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA. He'd walked a remarkable four batters in 65 innings while striking out 59.
Who's Hot: RHP Johnathan Dutton was moving up in the ranks thanks to a fine August which saw him go 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings, walking just four.
AT THE PLATE
OF Alfredo Silverio was the leading candidate for league MVP as he ranked a comfortable first in the batting race with a .378 average to go with six homers and a league-high 46 RBIs. He also led the league with 71 hits and was third with a .553 slugging percentage. ... 1B/OF Andrew Lambo, the Dodgers' fourth-round pick this spring, was hitting a robust .343 with five homers and 31 RBIs to go with a .439 on-base average, .522 slugging percentage and 15 doubles. ... 3B Pedro Baez was among the league leaders in RBIs with 39, hitting .268.
Who's Hot: Silverio was batting .382 with 17 RBIs in August. ... Lambo was hitting .369 this month. ... Baez had 19 of his RBIs in August.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.