As Major League Baseball prepares for its Midsummer Classic All-Star festivities beginning Monday, the teams in the farm system have their eyes set on the playoffs.
In minor league ball, the postseason is played in September, a month sooner than the highest level.
And in some leagues, seeding is determined by season halves. That is why Tyler Johnson, a former South Carolina Gamecock, is in the best place a player can be this deep into the baseball season: in playoff contention while other teams play catch up.
Johnson, the Chicago White Sox fifth round pick from last year’s draft, is moving quickly up the ladder. After a solid start to the season, the hard throwing reliever was promoted to Chicago’s Class A-Advanced team, the Winston-Salem Dash.
Through 26 appearances this year, the former Gamecock has a 6-0 with a 1.83 ERA and 55 punchouts.
Best of all, Johnson is beefing up the team’s bullpen as they transition into playoff mode.
By posting the best record of the first half of the season, John son and the Dash have punched their ticket to the postseason.
Still in the hunt
Other South Carolina natives and college stars are looking help their teams reach the playoffs this year. Here’s a few of those familiar faces:
Weston Wilson: Also in Class A-Advanced ball, Wilson played outfield for Clemson from 2014 to 2015 before the Milwaukee Brewers scooped him in the 2016 draft. Today, his Carolina Mudcats sit just a couple games behind Johnson’s team in the same league. Through 85 games, Wilson is batting .244 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs.
Josh Reagan: The Lexington native and fellow former Gamecock is having a strong season with the Beloit Snappers, the low-level Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The Snappers are in a virtual tie for first place in their division of the Midwest League, thanks in part to Reagan. The left-handed reliever has struck out 28 batters through 25 innings and has recorded four saves on the season.
Bailey Ober: Also playing low-level ball with the Minnesota Twins Class A squad, Ober, the former College of Charleston pitcher is tied with Reagan’s team in the Midwest League. But while Reagan is closing games, Ober is starting them. Through 12 starts this year, he’s posted a 6-1 record with 74 strikeouts.
Austin Mason: A Greer native and former pitcher at The Citadel, Mason plays Class A-Advanced ball for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hasn’t had the greatest season with the Visalia Rawhide; but his play has improved recently and his team has the best second half record. Mason’s ERA was at 5.64 on June 1. It has since dropped to 4.37.
Bruce Caldwell: Caldwell is a Sumter native who played third base for Spartanburg Methodist College before going pro in 2012. Now with the New York Yankees franchise, Caldwell’s bat has elevated New York’s double-A team to first place this season. He’s batting .249 with 7 long balls and 39 RBIs. Unlike other leagues, seeding in the Eastern League is only determined at the end of the season. So Caldwell’s squad will look to hold on through August.