Despite the struggles of the Los Angeles Dodgers throughout the 2010 season, two teams in their farm system, the Ogden Raptors and the Great Lakes Loons, recently completed record-breaking years and continue to battle in the playoffs in their respective leagues.
In Game 1 of the first round in the Pioneer League Playoffs on Friday night, the Raptors found themselves trailing the Orem Owlz 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning. With one out and runners on second and third base, the Dodgers' 2010 third-round draft pick, outfielder Leon Landry, delivered a two-run single to center which put Ogden ahead to stay and take the early lead in the series.
Under the guidance of first-year manager Damon Berryhill, the Raptors finished their regular season at 44-31, setting a team record for wins in the process.
Just one step below Single-A, the Pioneer League is a Rookie League in the Rocky Mountain region, and is made up of eight teams with predominately first-year players who compete in a shortened season of usually 75 games.
In the regular season, the Raptors were led offensively by shortstop Jake Lemmerman, who was drafted by the Dodgers in the fifth round of this year's amateur draft. Lemmerman's season numbers were phenomenal—he posted a batting average of.363, and contributed 69 runs scored, 12 home runs, 24 doubles and 47 RBI with an OPS of 1.044 in only 66 games.
The Raptors' pitching staff was led by Red Patterson, who was drafted by Los Angeles in the 29th round in this year's draft out of Oklahoma State University. In 14 starts, Patterson went 6-1 with an ERA of 3.33. He yielded only 17 walks and struck out 66 batters in just over 67 innings pitched.
The Raptors fell to Orem in a slugfest 17-10 on Saturday night, tying the series at one game apiece. Ogden heads home to Lindquist Field for the series finale on Sunday.
Meanwhile, moving eastward, the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers' low Single-A affiliate, defeated the Fort Wayne TinCaps 6-4 in the final game of the first round of the Midwest League playoffs on Friday evening on their home field in Midland, Michigan.
The Midwest League consists of 16 teams in Class A—eight each in both Eastern and Western divisions. The league plays a 140-game schedule that begins on the first Thursday in April and ends in early September.
Loons' manager Juan Bustabad directed Great Lakes to a franchise-record 90 wins in 2010, breaking the previous record of 81 victories which was achieved in 2009. Coincidentally, in his nine-year minor league career, Bustabad played three years in the Dodgers' organization—two with the Double-A San Antonio Missions in 1986-1987, and one with Triple-A Albuquerque in 1988.
In the early part of the regular season, first baseman Jerry Sands had a tremendous year with his bat before being moved to Double-A Chattanooga. Sands, who was selected in the 25th round of the 2008 draft, hit .332 with 16 doubles, 18 home runs, 46 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 69 games while with the Loons.
Outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez was also a key contributor to the Loons' offense in 2010. In 121 games, he hit .318, while adding 43 doubles, 16 home runs, 77 RBI and 43 stolen bases. Cavazos-Galvez was selected by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of New Mexico.
Allen Webster was the ace of the Great Lakes' pitching staff for most of the 2010 season. In 23 starts, Webster went 12-9 with a 2.88 ERA. The tall, lanky righty struck out 114 hitters while walking 53 in just over 131 innings of work.
The Loons were set to start the Eastern Division Championship Series against the Lake County Captains on Saturday, however rain forced the postponement of the first game. The series now will begin Sunday at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio.
Fans everywhere will be keeping a close eye on both of the series, as several stars from Ogden and Great Lakes may have the opportunity to appear in Dodger Blue as early as the 2012 or 2013 season.