It was go time. So they went.
Playoffs across the Minor Leagues came to a close Tuesday, when the Sacramento River Cats defeated the Columbus Clippers, 4-0, in the Triple-A National Championship Game in Memphis. Away from the complexes, 13 teams raised trophies after capturing 2019 league titles. (The Florida State League had its postseason canceled due to concerns about Hurricane Dorian.) Championships are the result of a true team effort and, surely, that phrase was mentioned over and over in champagne-and-beer-soaked locker rooms from Trenton to Idaho Falls.
But enough of all that talk. What about the standout individuals?
This week's Toolshed picks the top playoff performers from each of the Minor League non-complex postseasons. These are for league playoffs only -- the Triple-A National Championship didn't count toward either of those circuits -- and the chosen player's team did not necessarily have to win its league crown. The recognition below reflects only the merits of each player's individual postseason performance.
International LeagueKa'ai Tom, outfielder, Columbus:
The 2015 fifth-rounder had hits in all seven of his postseason games and especially turned on the power late, homering in three of his final four games. As the leadoff hitter in the Governors' Cup Finals clincher, he went 2-for-4 with a longball, a double and two RBIs, helping to seal a three-game sweep of Durham. Tom was the only International Leaguer with more than 20 total bases in the playoffs -- he had 25 -- and his six extra-base hits, 13 hits and eight runs scored all topped the circuit. Not a bad way to end a 2019 in which he set career highs with 23 homers, a .532 slugging percentage and a .912 OPS in 132 games between Columbus and Double-A Akron.
Pacific Coast LeagueCristhian Adames, third baseman, Sacramento:
A wild season came to a satisfying end for the 28-year-old infielder. Adames signed with the Cubs last offseason only to miss significant time with a hand injury and get released on July 5. He signed with the Giants a week later, played 43 games for Sacramento in the regular season, then took a starring role for the River Cats in the PCL playoffs. Adames, whose career high for home runs in a season is 11, tied Skye Bolt
and Ronnie Dawson
with three postseason jacks and led all PCL playoff performers with six extra-base hits. His .767 slugging percentage and 1.161 OPS over eight games each best among all sluggers who reached the PCL Finals. For that and his regular-season contributions, Adames was rewarded with a callup to San Francisco on Sept. 14. That caused him to miss the Triple-A National Championship, but he'll take the trade-off.
Eastern LeagueCedric Mullins, outfielder, Bowie:
This is where the, "It's best postseason performer, not best performer on the winning team" line comes in. Coming off a tough year that saw him open in the Majors and close two levels lower, Mullins certainly hit his stride at the right time for the Baysox. The 24-year-old outfielder went 12-for-34 (.353) with two homers, a triple and two doubles, leading the EL playoffs in hits, extra-base hits and runs scored (10) through eight games. Mullins also led the way with five stolen bases -- he was the only Eastern Leaguer with more than one theft in the playoffs -- and was tops among all players with a 1.083 OPS, beating even those that were eliminated in the semifinals and had much lower sample sizes. Most of that damage came against Harrisburg in the opening round, including his 5-for-6 performance that saw him hit for the cycle in the Game 4 clincher, but it's enough to carry him here, even though Bowie fell to Trenton with the title on the line.
Southern LeagueAlex Kirilloff, outfielder. Pensacola:
This takes the sentiments of the last blurb to the extreme, but for good reason. It's true that Pensacola didn't make it out of the Southern League semis, but that had little to do with Kirilloff's play. The Twins' No. 2 prospect
opened his playoffs with homers in four straight games against Biloxi, but his Blue Wahoos fell to the Shuckers in five. Only Jake Gatewood
hit as many dingers in the Southern League postseason, and he played five more games and had 20 more at-bats. Kirilloff collected 21 total bases, making him one of four SL performers to reach 20 in the category despite his limited playing time. He finished with a .381/.435/1.000 line, and his 1.435 OPS was tops in the circuit. The left-handed slugger's time in the playoffs may have been small. His production was anything but.
Texas LeagueTaylor Trammell, outfielder, Amarillo:
This selection veers slightly into anecdotal territory, but what is the postseason if not a time for stories? And, yes, Trammell was a good performer by most statistical measures in his first postseason as a Padres prospect. The left-handed slugger went 13-for-42 (.310) with three homers, two triples, a double, a league-best 11 RBIs and two stolen bases over 10 games for the eventual Texas League champs. But it's the way he made them the champs that pushed him over the edge here. Facing a 3-1 deficit in the ninth inning of the deciding Game 5 of the Finals against Tulsa, Trammell hit a go-ahead grand slam that led the Sod Poodles to an 8-3 victory and a title in their inaugural season. It was the perfect capper of a strong postseason for a No. 29 overall prospect who had taken his lumps during the regular season (finishing with 10 homers and a .689 OPS for the Reds' and Padres' Double-A affiliates).
California LeagueJacob Amaya, shortstop, Rancho Cucamonga:
It's tough to be more dominant than the Dodgers' No. 13 prospect was during the Quakes' four-game run. Amaya went 9-for-16 (.563) with two homers, a double, three stolen bases and only one strikeout in Rancho Cucamonga's semis loss to Lake Elsinore. He picked up multiple hits in each of the first three contests and homered twice in Game 3. The second homer that night was a walk-off shot in the ninth, allowing the Quakes to survive another day. In fact, despite the limited time, he was one of three Cal League hitters with multiple postseason homers -- the others being Gabriel Arias
and Jeren Kendall
-- and was the only non-Finals player to rank among the top 12 in total bases; he finished second with 16.
Carolina LeagueAustin Cox, left-handed pitcher, Wilmington:
Keep runs off the board. That's a pitcher's goal any time of the season, and it's both amplified and simplified in the playoffs: give your team a chance to win. Can't do that any better than the Royals' No. 21 prospect did to help the Blue Rocks capture the Carolina League championship. The 22-year-old southpaw didn't allow a run in either of his two starts during Wilmington's run. He fanned eight and scattered seven hits over six innings while keeping the Blue Rocks alive with a Game 4 semifinal win over Salem and turned in six one-hit frames in Game 4 of the Mills Cup Finals at Fayetteville. Cox finished with 14 strikeouts, three walks and eight hits allowed over 12 frames between the two gems. Among the nine players to make multiple starts in the Carolina League playoffs, Cox was the only one not to allow a run. This pick is as simple as that.
Midwest LeagueTyler Webb, outfielder, Cedar Rapids:
Webb was a 40th-round pick out of Memphis in 2018 and opened this season with Rookie Advanced Elizabethton. But with the way he performed when it mattered for Cedar Rapids, he might be a little bit better known in the Minnesota system heading into his second offseason. The 23-year-old outfielder went 10-for-17 (.588) with a homer, a triple, two doubles and five RBIs over six games for the Kernels, who dropped out of a crowded Midwest League postseason in the semifinals. He walked five times, struck out twice and tied for the league lead with 17 total bases in that span. With a .682 OBP and a 1.000 slugging percentage, Webb's 1.682 OPS was more than 400 points than his closest competition in the category (Leonel Valera
South Atlantic LeagueJeison Guzman, shortstop, Lexington:
Guzman was on the roster when Lexington won the Sally League title in 2018 but featured in only two games. He made a much bigger impact this time around. The 20-year-old shortstop led postseason batters in hits (nine), homers (two), extra-base hits (three), total bases (16), slugging (.667) and OPS (1.111). Guzman was especially effective early, going 8-for-15 in his first four games of the playoffs. He didn't exactly dominate during the regular season by hitting .253/.296/.373 over 121 games, but this strong finish could be a promising sign ahead of his potential first move to Wilmington in 2020.
New York-Penn LeagueRanfy Adon, outfielder, Brooklyn:
The Cyclones captured the first outright New York-Penn League title of their existence, and Adon played a large role. The 22-year-old outfielder picked up knocks in all six of Brooklyn's postseason games and also led NYPL hitters in hits (eight), extra-base hits (four), total bases (14), average (.421), slugging (.737) and OPS (1.187). Like Trammell, Adon also provided some dramatic heroics -- his were in the form of a ninth-inning, walk-off double in Game 3 against Hudson Valley, which pushed Brooklyn to the Championship Series. Stats, clutch moments -- those are what dominant postseason runs are made of.
Northwest LeagueTyler Holton, left-handed pitcher, Hillsboro:
Put it this way. There were only two Northwest League pitchers who finished the postseason with at least 10 strikeouts; Holton hit that mark in his first outing alone. The 2018 ninth-rounder out of Florida State fanned 10 Salem-Keizer hitters and allowed one earned run on one hit (a solo homer) over six innings in the Hops' semifinals Game 1 win. He followed that up with perhaps an even better performance at Tri-City in Game 3 of the Championship Series, punching out nine and scattering four hits over seven scoreless frames. Holton finished with a 0.69 ERA, 0.38 WHIP and 19 strikeouts without issuing a walk over those 13 innings. That's as close to 2014 Madison Bumgarner
as you'll find in the Northwest League.
Appalachian LeagueChandler Redmond, infielder, Johnson City:
There were 14 home runs hit during the Appalachian League postseason. Of that total, 21.4 percent came from one hitter. It shouldn't be too difficult to guess who. Redmond went deep three times over Johnson City's six-game title run to lead all Appy League playoff hitters. No one else had more than one. Redmond's came in consecutive contests -- Games 2-4 in the semifinals against Bristol. Even when he wasn't crushing dingers, he was reaching base in droves, walking six times in 27 playoff plate appearances. The 2019 32nd-rounder out of Gardner-Webb finished with a .316/.519/.842 line and was the clear leader with a 1.361 OPS.
Pioneer LeagueIsaiah Henry, outfielder, Idaho Falls:
After slugging .386 during the regular season, Henry might not have been the pick to rack up a ton of extra-base hits in the Pioneer League playoffs, but that's just what the 2017 14th-rounder did. The Royals prospect led Pioneer postseason batters with two homers, four doubles and six runs scored en route to help the Chukars claim the crown. He saved his best game for last, too, as he went 2-for-5 with a homer and a double in the 10-8 series-clinching win over Ogden.