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Cleveland Indians affiliate Columbus Clippers headed to International League playoffs

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What's happening down on the farm? The playoffs, that's what! The Clippers (Class AAA) and Hillcats (Class A+) start their postseason campaigns later today. As usual, we'll be providing daily game updates in the comments.

Zach Walters, who finished the regular season strongly with three homers in a week
Zach Walters, who finished the regular season strongly with three homers in a week
David Maxwell/Getty Images

It was a disappointing final week for the affiliates overall. Although the Clippers and Hillcats comfortably clinched their places in the postseason, the RubberDucks' late August/September 13 losses in 15 games led to elimination on the penultimate day of the season, as they ultimately missed out by just a single game.

Final regular season team records:
Columbus Clippers: 83-61 (individual 2015 stats)
Akron RubberDucks: 73-69 (individual 2015 stats)
Lynchburg Hillcats: 72-68 (individual 2015 stats)
Lake County Captains: 71-66 (individual 2015 stats)
Mahoning Valley Scrappers: 31-44 (individual 2015 stats)
Arizona Indians: 23-33 (individual 2015 stats)
DSL Indians: 40-32 (individual 2015 stats)

LGT will continuing to be roll out season reviews for each of the affiliate teams in the coming weeks (the DSL review is already available here, and the AZL one is here). For now, here is everything (OK, some things!) you might wish to know about the MiLB playoff semi-finals, which start this evening (Wednesday).

Columbus Clippers (83-61) vs. Norfolk Tides (78-66) — five-game semi-final series

Game 1 (Sep 9th, 6:35 PM): Columbus @ Norfolk — Columbus won 5-2
Game 2 (Sep 10th, 6:35 PM & Sep 11th, 4:05 PM) : Columbus @ Norfolk — Norfolk won 6-1
Game 3 (Sep 12th, 7:05 PM): Norfolk @ Columbus — Columbus won 6-2
Game 4 (Sep 13th, 6:05 PM): Norfolk @ Columbus — Norfolk won 6-5
Game 5 (Sep 14th, TBD): Norfolk @ Columbus — Columbus won 5-0

The Norfolk Tides are an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles and were champions of the South Division, with the Clippers taking the top seed from the West Division on tie-break from the Indianapolis Indians. During the regular season, the Tides won five of the nine games between the two teams. The winner of this series will play either Indianapolis or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the best of five International League championship series for the Governors Cup.

Offense

Despite the fact that many of the first-half regulars (Lindor, Chisenhall, Ramirez, Urshela and Sands) are now in Cleveland, the Clippers' offense still has a solid look about it. Aguilar (19 HRs), Ramsey (12 HRs) and Walters (10 HRs) all have some pop, while in the absence of Naquin (currently on the DL), Holt has been a pretty useful table-setter. Third baseman Yandy Diaz joined the team only last week, while Ronny Rodriguez was also promoted yesterday to bolster the squad for the playoffs.

Opening game lineup:
CF Tyler Holt
SS Erik Gonzalez
1B Jesus Aguilar

LF Zach Walters
C Adam Moore
3B Yandy Diaz
RF James Ramsey
2B Audy Ciriaco
DH Michael Choice

Bench: INF Ryan Rohlinger, INF Ronny Rodriguez, C Brett Hayes. (OF Anthony Gallas has been declared inactive for this series.)

Pitching

Jarrett Grube, Toru Murata, Will Roberts and Jordan Cooper are hardly household names, but in the last few months they have all done a fine job (along with recent addition, Ryan Merritt) of pitching the Clippers to the playoffs. Interestingly, Mike Clevinger has just been added to the roster in time for the playoffs, but it's not clear whether he would be used as a starter or as a reliever.

With Shawn Armstrong and Giovanni Soto having been called back up the bigs last week, former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol is the best remaining reliever from the AAA roster. However, he has just been joined as a late reliever by FTC ("Future Tribe Closer") Jeff Johnson, fresh from a 1.05 ERA/27-save campaign with the RubberDucks.

SPs: Ryan Merritt (Game 1), Jarrett Grube (Games 2 & 4), Toru Murata (Game 2 — "piggyback" start), Will Roberts (Game 3),  Mike Clevinger (Game 5). (Jordan Cooper has been declared inactive for this series.)

RPs: Carlos Marmol, Jeff Johnson, Trey Haley, Dustin Molleken, C.C.Lee, Joseph Colon, Tyler Sturdevant, Shaun Marcum, Michael Roth, Nick Maronde.

Columbus Clippers (83-61) vs. Indianapolis Indians (83-61) — five-game final series

Game 1 (Sep 15th, 6:35 PM): Indianapolis @ Columbus — Columbus won 6-5
Game 2 (Sep 16th, 6:35 PM): Indianapolis @ Columbus — Columbus won 5-4
Game 3 (Sep 17th, 7:05 PM): Columbus @ Indianapolis — Indianapolis won 6-5
Game 4 (Sep 18th, 7:15 PM): Columbus @ Indianapolis — Indianapolis won 5-4
Game 5 (Sep 19th, 7:05 PM): Columbus @ Indianapolis Columbus won 3-0

The Clippers' roster is identical to that of the semi-final series, except that INF Ryan Rohlinger and LHP Michael Roth have been dropped to bring it down to a 25-man roster.

SPs: LHP Ryan Merritt (Game 1), RHP Toru Murata (Game 2), RHP Will Roberts (Game 3),  RHP Jarrett Grube (Game 4), Mike Clevinger (Game 5).

Lynchburg Hillcats (72-68) vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (62-77) — three-game series

Game 1 (Sep 9th, 6:30 PM): Wilmington @ Lynchburg — Wilmington won 6-1
Game 2 (Sep 10th, 6:35 PM) : Lynchburg @ Wilmington — Wilmington won 4-3 (Lynchburg eliminated)

The Blue Rocks are an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. On paper this looks like a terrifix match-up for the Hillcats, since their opponents qualified for the playoffs by virtue of their performances in the first half and then collapsed to a 24-45 record in the second half. The two teams have met 20 times already this season, with Lynchburg holding a 13-7 advantage. The winner will play either Myrtle Beach or Winston-Salem in the best of five Carolina League championship series for the Mills Cup.

Offense

The Hillcats' offense has hardly missed a beat since they lost Bradley Zimmer and Nellie Rodriguez (to Akron) and Luigi Rodriguez (to suspension). Clint Frazier has franked his high prospect pedigree with a strong second half, while Dorssys Paulino has been a revelation after almost disappearing off the radar during a two and a half year hiatus with the Captains, and Eric Haase has quietly amassed a near .800 OPS. To bolster the lineup for the playoffs, Bobby Bradley, Greg Allen and Daniel Salters have all been brought up from the lower minors in the last few days, with Bobby Ison also returning after a week in Atkron.

Opening game lineup:
RF Greg Allen
2B Yhoxian Medina
CF Clint Frazier
DH Bobby Bradley
LF Dorssys Paulino
3B Joe Sever
1B Mike Papi
C Eric Haase
SS Ivan Castillo

Bench: INF Paul Hendrix, 2B Claudio Bautista, OF Bobby Ison, LF LeVon Washington, C Daniel Salters.

Pitching

At the start of the season, it looked like the Hillcats' rotation would be built around Adam Plutko, Mitch Brown and Luis Lugo. Plutko was rapidly promoted to Akron, but the other two have struggled, In fact, it has been recent acquisition Jayson Aquino and the unheralded Michael Peoples who have performed best in recent weeks. It looked like Rob Kaminsky would be a major addition when he arrived in the midseason Brandon Moss deal, but he was shut down with a back injury after just two games.

The Hillcats' bullpen has been much more solid since Grant Sides was demoted from Akron and Trevor Frank returned from injury. Both Sides and Antonio Romero are headed to the Arizona Fall League next month. LHP David Speer was a late addition to the team on Wednesday.

SP: Michael Peoples (Game 1), Jayson Aquino (Game 2), Luis Lugo. (Both Mitch Brown and Dace Kime have been declared inactive for this series.)

RP: Grant Sides, Trevor Frank, Justin Brantley, J.P.Feyereisen, Perci Garner, Antonio Romero, Robbie Aviles, David Speer.

Let's Go Clippers and Hillcats!

Minor league players of the week (as voted by LGT)

Week 1 (Apr 9-19): Bradley Zimmer (72% of the vote)

Week 2 (Apr 20-26): Dace Kime (33%)

Week 3 (Apr 27-May 3): Tyler Naquin (76%)

Week 4 (May 4-10): Shaun Marcum (45%)

Week 5 (May 11-17): Francisco Lindor (51%)

Week 6 (May 18-24): Bradley Zimmer (42%; the first repeat winner)

Week 7 (May 25-31): Cody Anderson (36%)

Week 8 (June 1-7): Nellie Rodriguez (45%)

Week 9 (June 8-14): Bobby Bradley (76%)

Week 10 (June 15-21): Ronny Rodriguez (46%)

Week 11 (June 22-28): Greg Allen (27%)

Week 12 (June 29-July 5): Jose Ramirez (51%)

Week 13 (July 6-12): Ryan Merritt (35%)

Week 14 (July 13-19): Clint Frazier (69%)

Week 15 (July 20-26): Ivan Castillo (60%)

Week 16 (July 27-Aug 2): Bobby Bradley (38%; the second repeat winner)

Week 17 (Aug 3-9): Yandy Diaz (39%)

Week 18 (Aug 10-16): Bobby Bradley (60%; the first three-peat winner)

Week 19 (Aug 17-23): Bobby Bradley (44%; yes, him again!)

Week 20 (Aug 24-30): Mike Clevinger (47%)

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2015 prospect write-ups: Bradley ZimmerMichael ClevingerBobby Bradley/Yu-Cheng Chang/Francisco Mejia/Justus Sheffield, Giovanni Soto, Clint Frazier, Rob Kaminsky, Bobby Bradley