Columbus Clippers 83-61 (International League Champions)
A last-week surge propelled the Clippers level with their divisional rivals, the Indianapolis Indians, and they then saw off both the Norfolk Tides and the Indians (that just sounds wrong!) to collect their first International League Championship since they went back-to-back in 2010-11.
Here's a quick look at the key contributors in the Clippers' playoff run.
1B Jesus Aguilar wasn't able to match his stellar AAA performance from last year and only made three appearances for the Indians. He has just been called up again, but it doesn't really look like the 25yo fits in the Tribe's future plans and he may be vulnerable to being DFA (or traded) over the winter.
OF Michael Choice was acquired from the Rangers for cash considerations last month, and struggled through 14 regular season games. However, he sprung to life in the playoffs, hitting three homers in 11 games with a .417/.488/.833 line and winning the Governor's Cup MVP. Although he is on the 40-man, the 25yo wasn't called up after the playoffs, which presumably suggests that he may be vulnerable to being DFA.
SS Erik Gonzalez began the season in Akron, but was promoted to the Clippers when Lindor went up to the bigs. Defensively, the 24yo might well be good enough for MLB already, but he still needs work with the bat (.223/.277/.311) in 65 AAA games.
OF Tyler Holt wasn't able to follow up his solid rookie year with the Indians and only played in nine games. However, he was a fine contributor to the Clippers, hitting .302/.386/.370 with 25 steals. The 26yo was DFA after the playoffs and then claimed by the Reds on Sunday. A struggling NL team seems like an ideal spot for someone who can contribute both as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
C Adam Moore started out as the backup to Brett Hayes, but ended up as the No.1 catcher as he hit .282/.328/.725 in 92 games. The 31yo earned a "good-guy" promotion as third catcher for the Indians following the AAA playoffs and will presumably be DFA in November.
CF Tyler Naquin, like Erik Gonzalez, was a June promotion, but the 24yo missed around half the season (for the second year in a row) due to injuries. In July he collided with the CF wall and suffered a concussion that kept him out for two and a half weeks, and after just seven more games was shut down for the year with a hip injury. When he was healthy, he was very good, hitting .263/.353/.430 in 50 games at AAA, and he probably would have been called up in September were it not for the injury, especially since he will need to be added to the 40-man in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
OF James Ramsey was acquired at the 2014 trade deadline in the Justin Masterson deal and made a promising start last year. However, he never really got going this season and could only hit .243/.327/.709. The 25yo might well be left exposed in the Rule 5 draft.
UTIL Zach Walters suffered an oblique injury during spring training and, like Ramsey, never really got his season on track, hitting .249/.310/.416 and struggling in 12 MLB games. He did hit really well in September, both in six regular season games and in the playoffs, but missed the last few games after injuring his shoulder diving in to score in a key playoff game.
September promotions 3B Yandy Diaz and UTIL Ronny Rodriguez were both discussed in the Akron RubberDucks review, while SS Francisco Lindor, UTIL Jose Ramirez, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, 1B/OF Jerry Sands, 3B Giovanny Urshela and UTIL Michael Martinez were all up with the Indians by the start of the AAA playoffs.
RHP Jarrett Grube was a revelation after being picked up from the Mexican League in md-season. The 33yo (who made his only career MLB appearance last year with the Angels, as a reliever) went 9-0 with a 2.26 ERA/1.10 WHIP with 68 strikeouts in 79.2 IP. With all the SP prospects the Tribe have coming up from AAA, he probably won't be back, but he was a major factor in the Clippers' success.
RHP C.C.Lee did make one appearance for the Indians (and has just been given a late September call-up), but he's clearly way down the relievers depth chart nowadays. He did a solid job for the Clippers, however, striking out 65 in 58.1 IP for a 3.39 ERA/1.18 WHIP. Lee is out of options after this season and is highly vulnerable to being DFA, given that the Tribe will need to free up some roster spots to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Shaun Marcum made seven appearances for the Tribe, but wasn't effective and ended up spending mot of the year in AAA. It's highly unlikely that he will be back with the organization next year, and if he feels he can't make it back to MLB he may retire.
RHP Toru Murata was lit up on his MLB debut and is a long shot to ever make another appearance for the Indians. However, he had his best year at AAA, pitching to a 2.90 ERA/1.17 WHIP. With guys like Clevinger, Morimando and Plutko ready to come up, it's hard to see where he fits in next year's plans.
RHP Will Roberts really isn't much of a strikeout pitcher (just 39 Ks in 70.2 IP), but the 25yo's pitch-to-contact approach has been very successful in 12 regular season games at the AAA level (3.06 ERA/1.15 WHIP). He is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, so it will be interesting to see whether he is protected.
LHP Ryan Merritt, RHP Mike Clevinger, RHP Jeff Johnson and RHP Trey Haley were all discussed in the Akron RubberDucks review, while RHP Josh Tomlin, RHP Cody Anderson, RHP Shawn Armstrong, RHP Jeff Manship, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Austin Adams, LHP Kyle Crockett and LHP Soto were all promoted prior to the AAA playoffs.
Possible Clippers roster for 2016
C: Moore/Hayes (if they agree to return)
SS: Gonzalez/Ciriaco (if he agrees to return)
Rotation: (some combination of) Tomlin/Anderson/House/Merritt/Clevinger/Morimando/Roberts/Plutko
Akron RubberDucks 2015 season in review