The Cubs minor league baseball season has just nine days left. It will end on Wednesday September 28 and this looks like it’s going to be the final Breakdown post of the year. Today’s post, though, is all about the Tennessee Smokies playoff preview.
The Smokies got the wildcard berth in the Northern Division of the Southern League as they put up the second best overall record for the year behind Rocket City who won both halves of the season. The Smokies showed every night they possess the most potent offense in the entire league as they had the highest OPS, most home runs, and runs scored.
Most of the roster has changed over quite a bit this year. Mainstays Bryce ball and Bryce Wyndham along with Harrison Wenson have been there all year. Chase Strumpf is another guy who’s been a mainstay along with Yonathan Perlaza who really didn’t get consistent playing time until May when Nelson Maldonado went up to Iowa. Somewhere in the middle, we saw Matt Mervis and Alexander Canario both come up for a couple of months from South Bend before they went up to Iowa. And Jake Slaughter has been tearing it up since the beginning of June in the Southern League.
The hottest player on the Smokies right now is Cole Roederer who is launching home runs left and right the past week to 10 days. In that span, he’s cracked five dingers and, dare I say, he looks to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Heading into the playoffs, SS Andy Weber was recently put on the seven day injured list and Luis Vazquez is now back with the Smokies from Iowa to help out for the playoffs. They should have plenty of offensive fire power to get to Rocket City.
The question for the Smokies is whether or not the bullpen will hold up.
As for the starting pitching, there’s been some pretty good performances along the way. More than likely, Riley Thompson is going to start game one possibly followed by Jordan Wicks and then Ryan Jensen or Ben Brown. That looks a like pretty good group to start games for the Smokies.
The issue is when it gets to the bullpen. Bailey Horn has been outstanding while Zac Leigh had his moments. But there’s been a lot of inconsistency from almost everyone else. You never know how they’re going to pitch from game to game. They can come in and give up three runs in 2/3 of an inning or go three scoreless.
Luckily, Blake Whitney who had a dominant run in Tennessee earlier in the year, is back with the club for the playoffs as the bullpen got just a little thin at the end of the year. Chris Clarke could also pop up out of the pen and maybe DJ Herz or Dalton Stambaugh could piggyback if needed. There’s lots of options where a manager Michael Ryan could mix and match to get through a game. But those guys are gonna have to be lights out to get this done.
On the year, the two teams have played 30 times. Rocket City City won 18 times to Tennessee’s 12. It is going to be tough. But they key is that is a 3 game series which could limit Tennessee’s weakness and highlight their strengths and 3 starting pitchers who have been on a roll.
Greg Huss – I’ll admit that Rocket City is the most exciting team in minor league baseball right now, combining top prospects with draft picks from this year to go alongside some of my personal faves. But all it takes is a mini hot steak from Maldonado, Perlaza, Slaughter, & Co. and the Smokies can take this series in three games!
Todd Johnson – The bullpen is a huge concern for me. If the Smokies get this done, it is going to take three games and there will be a cascade of dingers to help them succeed.