The second week of August is drawing to a close, and pennant races in the Minor Leagues are beginning to heat up. Here's a closer look at what the playoff picture looks like with just about four weeks left in the regular season.
The Division leaders, for the moment, have a solid hold on their positions with none of the front-running squads holding less than a 3 ½ game lead on the second-place team. Defending champion Toledo holds the biggest advantage at seven games over Indianapolis in the West and looks to be, barring a collapse, a lock to at least be in a position for an IL three-peat. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre holds a four-game lead over Rochester in the North while Richmond's lead over Durham in the South stands at 3 ½ games. The Wild Card battle seems to be down to Rochester and Durham -- both of who have a .542 winning percentage. Buffalo is 2 ½ games back of Rochester in the North.
Pacific Coast League
Unlike the IL, the races in the PCL are much tighter heading into the weekend. New Orleans holds a two-game lead over Oklahoma City and a 3 ½ game lead over Albuquerque in the American South Division while Salt Lake has a slim one-game advantage over Colorado Springs in the Pacific North. Sacramento has lost six of its last 10 games and has seen its lead in the Pacific South shrink to five games over defending-champion Tucson. Fresno sits six games back. Nashville, meanwhile, continues to have one of the best records in all of Minor League baseball. The Sounds are one of only seven teams with more than 70 wins, and they hold a 6 ½-game lead over Iowa in the American North.
Akron has been one of the more dominant teams in the EL for the better part of the decade, and this season has been no exception. The Aeros continue to ride atop the Southern Division, though their lead is a slim one -- a single game over Erie. Trenton, meanwhile, has had a stranglehold on the North for much of the season because of some outstanding pitching but most of those starters are either in Scranton or New York by now, leaving their five-game advantage over Portland looking a bit tenuous. The Sea Dogs have lost three straight themselves, however, and have to start looking at New Hampshire, which is only 3 ½ back of second place.
Springfield won the first-half North Division crown with 36 victories and continues to hold the top spot midway through the second half, holding a two-game advantage over Arkansas. Frisco was the first-half winner in the South Division, which is tied for the fourth-best half-season mark in league history. Like Springfield, the RoughRiders also remain atop the division, though heading into Friday's action, they share the top spot with San Antonio. Corpus Christi is a game back.
Mississippi squeaked out a first-half South Division title by a game over Jacksonville, but the Suns have been dominant in the second half. Jacksonville is also among the 70-win club and currently holds a four-game lead over Montgomery. The North Division belonged to Huntsville in the first-half, and the Stars have pretty much owned the second half as well. They are currently in first place by three games over Chattanooga and were riding an eight-game winning streak heading into Friday's action.
Lancaster will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 after edging Inland Empire for the first-half crown in the South. The JetHawks, who are closing in on the Cal League home-run record, will host the mini-series winner in the Divisional finals, but who that will be remains to be seen. Lake Elsinore is two games back in the second half while Inland Empire has fallen off the pace and is six games back in the second half. San Jose won the first-half crown in the North, but is currently third, four games back of front-running Modesto.
Kinston has the second-most wins (74) in all of Minor League Baseball. After winning the first-half Southern Division crown by a tidy four games, the Indians are up by six over second-place Myrtle Beach and have won eight of their last 10 heading into Friday. Wilmington has a comfortable six-game lead over Potomac in the Northern Division and a 9 ½-game bulge over first-half winner Frederick.
Florida State League
Brevard County coasted to a first-half title in the East, finishing with a 5 ½ game advantage over Palm Beach. The Manatees are at it again in the second half, holding a 3 ½-game advantage over St Lucie despite losing two straight heading into Friday. Sarasota edged Tampa by a game and a half in the first half in the West. The Yankees, whose 73 victories are third-most in the Minors, are holding the same advantage over Dunedin in the second half while Clearwater is 4 ½ back.
South Atlantic League
Augusta leads the Minor Leagues with 76 victories and has the first-half Southern Division title to rest on until the postseason begins. Asheville, however, has 71 victories and is currently tied with Charleston for the second-half lead, a game and a half ahead of Columbus. Hickory looks to be in line for a second-half Northern Division crown with a five-game bulge over Lakewood. First-half winner West Virginia is 10 games back.
Break out the slide rule as we look to figure out the MWL playoff picture. West Michigan won the first-half Wild Card in the East but now sits atop the Division in the second half, holding a four-game lead over Lansing. Dayton, which won the first half, is seven games back. Beloit was the first-half winner in the West but is three games back of Quad Cities and a half-game behind Peoria. First-half Wild Card winner Clinton is 9 ½ back.
New York-Penn League
Brooklyn owns the league's best mark and sits atop the McNamara Division with 33 victories and a 4 ½-game lead over Staten Island. Auburn is atop the Pinckney Division, though its lead over Mahoning Valley is only three games. Vermont, meanwhile, has the slimmest of leads, sitting only a half-game ahead of Oneonta in the Stedler Division heading into the weekend. Staten Island holds the Wild Card spot at the moment.
Salem-Keizer has been one of the most dominant teams in the Minor Leagues, playing at an .800 clip at 40-10. The Volcanoes hold a commanding 11-game lead over second-place Eugene in the West. The entire East Division is under .500 but Boise is on top at 23-27, a game-and-a-half ahead Spokane and two games ahead of Tri-City and Yakima.
Danville and Elizabethton have been nearly as dominant in the Appy League as Salem-Keizer has been in the Northwest League. The Braves are playing .739 ball and hold an eight-game lead over Burlington in the East while Twins are playing to a .735 winning percentage and hold an 8 ½-game lead over Kingsport.
Idaho Falls has picked up tight where it left off in the first half. After winning the South Division crown, the Chukars are 7-3 in the second half, two games ahead of Ogden and Orem. Great Falls is also off to a 7-3 start in the North, while first-half winner Helena is 3-7 and in last place.
The Mariners copped a first-half title by going 20-8 but are currently at 6-6, three games back of the Royals and a half-game back of both the Angels and the Padres.
Gulf Coast League
The Yankees have the best record in the league [31-13] and hold a 6 ½-game lead over the Blue Jays in the North. The Dodgers (29-13) are seven games ahead of the Cardinals in the East, while the Twins (28-12) are a game ahead of the Orioles, who have the best non-divisional leading record, in the South.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com.