If the Boston Red Sox need another testimonial to the talent in their organization, the International League postseason All-Star team showed the Pawtucket Red Sox (81-56) are the undisputed heavyweight of the league, earning four bids and two individual awards on Tuesday.
With his league-leading .967 OPS, outfielder Jeff Bailey was not just an All-Star but also the IL's Most Valuable Player. This is Bailey's fifth season with Pawtucket and unquestionably his most productive: he ranks third in the league with 25 home runs, 11th with 75 RBIs and 11th with a .301 batting average. Bailey was called up to the Major League squad on three different occasions, playing 10 total games with Boston.
Pawtucket knuckleballer Charlie Zink was honored as the league's Most Valuable Pitcher. Zink's 14 wins are tied for the league lead and his ERA is second only to Syracuse's David Purcey. Zink made his Major League debut, albeit in lackluster fashion, with Boston earlier this month.
Pawtucket was the only team in the six-club North Division to be represented on the league All-Star team -- not even the first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (84-52) had a player named. The third-place Rochester Red Wings (70-68) saw star first baseman Randy Ruiz earn Rookie of the Year honors. Ruiz has had a 10-year Minor League career, but 2008 was his first extended stay in Triple-A. The 30-year-old is hitting a league-leading .320 with 17 home runs through 111 games.
With four bids, Pawtucket also earned more than the entire West Division. In total, seven of the league's 14 teams were unrepresented on the All-Star squad.
The South Division displayed some parity as each of its four teams feature at least one All-Star. The Charlotte Knights (61-76) are the only club of the four that's represented by two players. Charlotte slugger Brad Eldred, whose 35 home runs and 100 RBIs give him the lead in two Triple Crown categories, earned the designated hitter spot on the team. Chris Getz, the Knights' usual second baseman, played three other positions admirably and was named the IL All-Star utility player. His .306 average ranks sixth in the International League.
Elsewhere in the South Division, the first-place Durham Bulls (70-67) had high-profile Rays prospect Reid Brignac named the league's All-Star shortstop. Brignac is on the disabled list and hasn't played with the Bulls since Aug. 6. The 22-year-old made just 12 errors in 97 games at shortstop this year, though his .250 average and .711 OPS mark a below-average season at the plate for a talent that features heavily in Tampa Bay's future plans.
Norfolk Tides (63-73) first baseman Oscar Salazar beat out stiff IL competition at first base and Josh Anderson of the Richmond Braves (58-78) joined the All-Star outfield. Salazar beat out Rookie of the Year Ruiz, among others, thanks to his .316 average (third-best in the IL) and league-leading 42 doubles. Anderson was the league's top leadoff hitter with 41 steals and a .360 on-base percentage.
The final individual award went to the league's best team, the West Division-leading Louisville Bats. For leading his team to an 85-52 record, manager Rick Sweet was named IL Manager of the Year. Sweet has been managing in the Minor Leagues for 20 years and surpassed the 1,300 win mark as a skipper in 2008. Sweet's everyday catcher this season, Ryan Hanigan, represents the Bats behind the plate. Hanigan's .324 batting average would lead the league had he earned the requisite number of plate appearances, but the Cincinnati Reds called him to the Majors earlier this month.
Apart from Hanigan and the Bats, only the Toledo Mud Hens (71-66) were represented in the West Division. Toledo closer Blaine Neal and third baseman Mike Hessman were both named to the All-Star roster. Neal's 25 saves rank third in the league, but he's unquestionably been the top reliever, with a 1.27 ERA in 36 games with Toledo. Hessman's 32 home runs for Toledo rank second in the league behind Elbert and his .594 slugging percentage is tops in the league.
Back in the North, Pawtucket's Bailey and Zink are joined on the roster by Red Sox second baseman Joe Thurston and outfielder Chris Carter. Thurston is fifth in the league with a .314 batting average in his seventh consecutive season in Triple-A. Carter was acquired by the Red Sox from Arizona in 2007, and he paid dividends for Pawtucket, hitting 24 home runs and plating 78 runs in his first extended tour with the Red Sox.
Pawtucket enters the second-to-last week of regular-season play just 3 1/2 behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the North Division, but the Red Sox have already clinched a playoff spot. With their four All-Stars, they will surely be a force to be reckoned with in the IL playoffs.
Bryan Smith is a contributor to MLB.com.