The best-of-three semifinals of the Florida State League playoffs came to quick conclusions Wednesday, as Fort Myers eliminated Bradenton in two games and Daytona cruised to a sweep of Dunedin.
Now, Fort Myers and Daytona will meet in the league's best-of-five championship game series, beginning on Thursday in Fort Myers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Fort Myers will also host Game 2 on Friday, before the series shifts to Daytona on Saturday. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played Sunday and Monday.
The Cubs won last year's Florida State League championship, defeating Charlotte, 3-1, in the finals. While many of those players have moved on, there are a few holdovers, including first baseman Dan Vogelbach, the Cubs' No. 11 prospect.
This year's championship series is a rematch of the 1995 and 2006 finals, both of which were won by the Cubs. The Miracle have not returned to the championship series since '06.
As Fort Myers looks to avoid another championship series loss to Daytona, it will do so with the help of several players ranked among the Twins' Top 20 Prospects. Closer Nick Burdi (No. 12) was selected in the second round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and he has quickly found success as a professional. He hasn't allowed a run in his past 16 1/3 innings, a streak that dates back to July 17, when he was pitching for Class A Cedar Rapids. That streak includes 8 1/3 innings Burdi has thrown since he was promoted to Fort Myers last month.
The Miracle's offense features outfielders Adam Brett Walker, Travis Harrison and Max Kepler, the Twins' Nos. 13, 16 and 19 prospects. Walker led the Florida State League with 25 home runs this season.
The Cubs also have a prospect-laden team. Like Burdi, outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber, ranked No. 75 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, has sped through the Minor Leagues since the Cubs drafted him fourth overall in June. Since joining Daytona in July, Schwarber has combined with Vogelbach to form a powerful middle of the order. The Cubs' No. 7 prospect hit .302/.393/.560 with 10 home runs in 44 games for Daytona. Vogelbach hit .268/.357/.429 with 16 home runs in 132 games this season.
Daytona also features outfielder Billy McKinney, the Cubs' No. 8 prospect. He joined Daytona in July after the Cubs acquired him as a part of the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's. McKinney celebrated his 20th birthday last month, making him one of the younger players in the Florida State League. Still, he hit .301/.390/.432 in 51 games with the Cubs.
Thursday's Minor League playoff schedule is also highlighted by Game 2 of the Appalachian League championship series. Johnson City defeated Danville, 2-1, on Wednesday, holding the Braves to just one hit. The Cardinals can clinch the best-of-three series and their first title since 2011 with another victory Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Johnson City's Cardinal Park.
Top prospect probables
Tyler Anderson (Rockies' No. 12), Tulsa vs. Arkansas
Matt Barnes (Red Sox's No. 12), Pawtucket vs. Syracuse
Drew Gagnon (Brewers' No. 19), Huntsville vs. Chattanooga
John Lamb (Royals' No. 20), Omaha vs. Memphis
Zach Petrick (Cardinals' No. 15), Memphis at Omaha
Enny Romero (Rays' No. 6), Durham at Columbus
Jose Urena (Marlins' No. 9), Jacksonville at Mobile
Kevin Ziomek (Tigers' No. 5), West Michigan vs. Fort Wayne