Popular Top 10 Stars from the Minor League Playoffs

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The 2012 minor league regular season concluded on Tuesday evening, as the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox), 10-3, in the Triple-A National Championship Game.

Reno’s victory concluded what has been a spectacular minor league season. For the first time, draft picks logged significant experience at their respective levels thanks to the new accelerated July 13 signing deadline as implemented by the latest collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, we have seen an unexpected amount of top prospects reach the major leagues, many of whom contributed immediately.

But now that the postseason is in the books, it’s time to both look at and rank the best minor league playoff performances from this season.

10. Bryce Brentz, OF, Boston Red Sox

Triple-A: .333/.385/.792, 6 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, 19 TB, 7 K/2 BB (7 G)

After posting an .833 OPS with 17 home runs and 130 strikeouts at Double-A, Brentz was promoted to Triple-A at the end of the regular season and ultimately batted .118 in five games. Brentz’s powerful bat came alive at the right time, though, as he guided Pawtucket to its first International League title since 1984.

9. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

High-A: .357/.514/.393, 10 H, 4 RBI, 7 K/9 BB (8 G)

One of the purest hitters in the minor leagues, the highly regarded outfielder continued his assault on Florida State League pitching in the postseason, amassing 10 hits and nine walks over eight games.

8. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

Low-A: .333/.391/.667, 5 R, 7 H, 4 XBH, 14 TB, 6 K/1 BB (5 G)

One of the more impressive players across all Low-A levels this season, the 18-year-old shortstop thrived as a younger player in the Midwest League. Known more for his defense than bat, four of the switch-hitter’s seven hits in the postseason went for extra bases.

7. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins

Low-A: 1-0, 11.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 17 K/2 BB (2 GS)

After a rough start to his professional career, the 2012 first-rounder found his groove in the playoffs. The 6’3” left-hander fanned 17 batters in his two starts while only issuing two walks. He could be in store for an aggressive promotion to begin the 2013

6. Renato Nunez, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Rookie: .444/.444/1.333, 3 XBH (2 HR), 6 RBI, 12 TB (2 G)

Only 18 years old, Nunez posted a .953 OPS this season in 42 games in the rookie-level Arizona League. His bat is advanced well beyond his years, as evidenced by his impressive two-game performance in the league playoffs. After hitting only four home runs during the regular season, the right-handed hitter launched two in the postseason.

5. Tyler Anderson, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Low-A: 2-0, 0.69 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 12 K/0 BB (2 GS)

Anderson turned in a highly impressive professional debut, at a full-season level nonetheless. After posting a 6-1 record and 1.61 ERA over his final 10 regular season starts, the left-hander’s success carried over into the postseason, as he did not issue a walk in either of his two starts.

4. David Goforth, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Low-A: 2-0, 15 IP, 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 19 K/5 BB (2 GS)

Despite a mediocre professional debut this season in the Midwest League, Goforth saved his best performances for the postseason. The right-hander dominated too, fanning 19 batters in 15 innings.

3. A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Triple-A: .333/.326/.595, 14 H, 6 XBH, 25 TB (9 G)

After reaching the major leagues earlier in the season, Pollock’s strong postseason performance ultimately earned him the Triple-A National Championship Game MVP award and a return to Arizona. The athletic outfielder collected 14 hits in nine games, six of which went for extra bases.

2. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

James Paxton, Double-A: 2-0, 13.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 19 K/3 BB (2 G)

Taijuan Walker, Double-A: 0-1, 12.2 IP, 0.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13 K/4 B (2 GS)

As you can see, both Paxton and Walker—season-long teammates at Double-A Jackson—dominated throughout the Southern League playoffs, respectively.

Walker’s performance was especially good to see after he finished the regular season by posting a 4.92 ERA over his final 10 starts.

Paxton, on the other hand, was excellent over the second half of the season and capped his season with two phenomenal postseason starts.

1. Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners

Double-A: .379/.471/.828, 11 H, 6 XBH (3 HR), 8 RBI, 24 TB, 7 K/4 BB (8 G)

The No. 3 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Zunino had as strong of a professional debut (at least for a hitter) that I can recall. After posting a 1.210 OPS with 10 home runs in 29 games for the Mariners’ Class-A Short Season affiliate, he received an aggressive promotion to Double-A. However, the three-level jump didn’t slow him down, as Zunino posted a .974 OPS in 15 games before erupting at the plate in the postseason.

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