Indians hoping for multiple minor league playoff berths

Three of five top affiliates fighting for playoffs, one already in

Alex Hooper
August 28, 2018 - 7:29 pm
Apr 1, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8) is greeted in the dugout after scoring a run against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Safeco Field.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians’ playoff chances may depend on the Columbus Clippers, or the Akron Rubber Ducks. Perhaps the Lynchburg Hillcats, or even the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

OK, so ‘depend’ may be an overstatement, but the year-long production of their minor league affiliates may prove to be greatly beneficial to the parent club. By extending their seasons, the minor league squads would provide the seeming roster of injured Indians to play meaningful, competitive games while rehabbing.

While the Indians are much less barreling towards a playoff berth as they are moonwalking across the finish line, three of their top-five affiliates are on the cusp of extending their season. The Akron RubberDucks have already clinched, while the Lake County Captains have been eliminated.

Meanwhile, Trevor Bauer’s timetable is ever-evolving depending on who you talk to, and the righty is beckoning to get back on the mound. Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall could feasibly contribute to the underwhelming outfield should his rehab take a step forward, but there is no way that would happen without the benefit of an extended minor league year.

Outfielder Tyler Naquin could see rehab-game action soon, as he is currently running on the Alter-G non-weight bearing treadmill.

Manager Terry Francona seemed to not think Bauer would be afforded the luxury.

“If his arm is in shape, maybe he only pitches for us,” the skipper said. “That would be the best, I think, if he pitches for us couple-three times before the season is over. That would be terrific. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case or not.”

It may be a stretch for any of the ailing major leaguers to get into a minor league game, as most affiliates will have single-digits on their calendar starting Wednesday.

Triple-A Columbus entered Tuesday tied with the Indianapolis Indians for the International League West lead at 70-63 with seven to play. The loser of that race would be in the driver’s seat to secure the Wild Card spot, though the lead over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the final spot sits at just one game. Norfolk and Toledo are just 1.5 games back.

If the Clippers and Indy Indians finished the year tied, the head-to-head season series would determine the division winner. The Clippers won the season series, 13-12, with no games remaining.

A simple playoff berth would extend the Clippers’ season at least three games, giving Bauer, Chisenhall and others until around September 7 to get into a game.

Because the RubberDucks have already clinched the Eastern League West, their final guaranteed game is currently set for September 7.

Low-A Lynchburg could also be a destination, as the Hillcats sit 3.5 games ahead of the Wilmington Blue Rocks for the second berth out of the Carolina League’s Northern Division. Labor Day will also be the final regular season game for the Hillcats, with the Division Series running through at least September 6.

Short-Season A Mahoning Valley sits 2.5 games up in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division, leading the Auburn Doubledays, who are staring down an elimination number of five. The NYPL’s division series is a best-of-three.