With only a week left in the minor league regular seasons, let's take a look at the Pirates' affiliates and their performance. I'll look at the player performances after the season but right now the focus is on the teams and their playoff prospects. From best to worst...
The Rookie league Venezuelan Summer League Pirates finished a cool 48-20. In the three-game championship series, they split the first two and then took the clincher 21-2. The VSL Pirates have had the league's best record for five years in a row.
So here's a country with an oppressive dictatorship but which has successfully implemented government health care and possesses a first place Pirates team. It is enough to blow your mind.The AA Altoona Curve are 79-55, 6.5 games in front in their division, and will undoubtedly win the division. This is great news for an affiliate that had a downright terrible team last year. Good minor league records get overlooked but I think they do help in player development due to human nature. If you've ever worked for a company that is just terrible at what they do, it's hard to be a good employee or do your best in that atmosphere.
The Class A Bradenton Marauders are 34-26, 2.5 games in front in their division for the second half. After a string of rainouts the Marauders have won four in a row to take control of the race. The Marauders are also 73-57 overall and have featured the best home field advantage in the league. If they can hang on over the final eight games, they'll make the playoffs in their first year as an affiliate which would also give the rehabilitating Tony Sanchez an opportunity to get back on the field.
The season is over for the Rookie league Dominican Summer League Pirates who are 37-34 but missed the playoffs. There is so much talent in the Dominican that five teams now operate two DSL affiliates.
The AAA Indianapolis Indians who are 68-68 and one game away from being eliminated from the race. A .500 record with eight games to go looks like a great accomplishment to me for manager Frank Kremblas. The Indians' lineup was decimated throughout the year by Pirates call ups, and they also had to deal with a number of reclamation projects on the pitching staff. Some people have chalked up the Pirates' strong preference to develop players fully in Indianapolis before bringing them up to cheapness. To me that preference shows either the organization's high opinion of their AAA coaching staff or a low opinion of the major league one.
The Rookie league Gulf Coast League Pirates are 29-30. This league is purely developmental so I'm not too worried about their record.
The Class A State College Spikes are 32-36 overall and are eliminated from contention. State College featured some good pitching but never put it together for a pennant run.
Finally the Low A West Virginia Power are 28-33 in the second half, 59-72 overall, and obviously won't make the playoffs. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision but the Pirates haven't sent many top prospects to Charleston. Who needs prospects when your cable system carries FSN Pittsburgh?