AAALed by almost big leaguers Ruben Tejada and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and earlier Lucas Duda and Ike Davis and Wilmer Flores on the position side and Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero and friends on the hill, the Las Vegas 51s are 76-58 and two games ahead of the Sacramento River Cats for first place in the PCL Southern Division with 10 games to play in the next eight days thanks to a pair of doubleheaders with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
There is no wild card in the PCL, so it's Division Title or bust for the 51s.
Prospects you care most about: Zack Wheeler, Travis d'Arnaud and Wilmer Flores have all graduated. That leaves Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in the starting rotation, both of whom could make their MLB debuts in 2014. John Church is not sexy, but he's had decent results out of the Vegas bullpen with a fastball in the low 90s. Jack Leathersich is still walking a batter an inning in AAA (25 BB in 27 IP) on his way to a 6.00 ERA.
AAThe Binghamton Mets have clinched the Eastern League's Eastern Division and have tied a franchise record for 82 wins.
In related news, the B-Mets lead the EL in walks drawn and are second in OBP (.343). Also, the team's pitching staff is one one hundredth of a point from the league lead in ERA.
Prospects you care most about: THOR. Noah Syndergaard, who throws tonight, is the only Top 15 guy in the system on this team right now with Rafael Montero promoted to AAA and Cesar Puello suspended. Jeff Walters, a sinker slider guy, has had a nice season out of the Binghamton bullpen (57 K/16 BB in 51 IP) and is a good bet to earn a 40-man spot this winter.
A+St. Lucie is six games back with seven to play in the second half and staring at an elimination of 1. This is the one full-season affiliate likely to miss the playoffs.
The Savannah Sand Gnats won the first half in the SAL Southern Division to clinch their playoff berth and likely headed toward a first round date with the Augusta GreenJackets (SF).
Prospects you care most about: CF Brandon Nimmo, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Luis Cessa and RHP Gabriel Ynoa.
With his bruised thumb finally healed, and after a couple of tweaks to his swing, Nimmo has taken off in August at .354/.514/.456 with 24 walks against 24 strikeouts in 25 games to push his season line at age 20 to .279/.402/.369 while playing CF at a level that makes me think he can stay there.
Ynoa and Cessa are in the Top 10 in the league in ERA and Matz (2.59 ERA) would be there if he had enough innings. Barring rainouts that cancel games, Matz will need to throw 8.1 innings in his final start to qualify for the SAL leaderboard. He's been 92-96 with his fastball, sitting 92-94 with the makings of a plus changeup. Oddly, in his last start on Saturday, he had better feel for his breaking ball than his changeup, the reverse of the usual order. He's back to calling his breaker a curve instead of a slider as he works to get more depth on the pitch.
Cessa and Ynoa both have the potential to be rotation members in a few years. Cessa's fastball has held up a little better over the course of the summer, as he's touched 95, and sat around 92 to go along with a changeup and slider that has more depth than sweep. The 20-year-old Ynoa has been 90-92 more recently after touching higher earlier in the season, and complements that with a slider and a changeup that scouts think have the makings of MLB average offerings.