Pawtucket used a late-season push to reach the playoffs as the Wild Card. Once there, it swept Syracuse in the best-of-five semifinals last week.
Pawtucket is led by a prospect-laden rotation that includes left-handers Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Edwin Escobar, the Red Sox's No. 2, 8 and 9 prospects. As was the case in the semifinals, Escobar will get the start in Game 1. The 22-year-old was acquired by the Red Sox from the Giants in July as a part of the Jake Peavy trade. In five starts with Pawtucket after the trade, Escobar went 0-2 with a 4.28 ERA and struck out 20 batters in 27 1/3 innings.
In his playoff start against Syracuse, Escobar came within one out of throwing a shutout. But with two outs in the ninth inning, Brandon Laird hit a game-tying home run and Escobar had to settle for a no-decision. He struck out seven batters, walked none and held the Chiefs to six hits.
In the regular season, Durham cruised to a South Division title, topping Gwinnett by nine games. It defeated Columbus in four games in the semifinals to set up the rematch with Pawtucket. The Bulls will be looking to repeat last year's success, when they won the Governors' Cup in four games.
To do so, the Bulls will look to their pitching staff. Alex Colome, Enny Romero and Nathan Karns, the Rays' No. 5, 6 and 15 prospects, all started a game against Columbus in the semifinals. Like Escobar, Colome is also slated to start Game 1 of the finals after starting Game 1 of the semifinals.
In the Pacific Coast League, Omaha is playing in its fourth straight championship series. The Storm Chasers have won two titles during that streak, including last year when they went on to defeat the Bulls in the National Championship Game. Omaha claimed the American Conference North Division on the last weekend of the season, and it went on to defeat Memphis in four games in the best-of-five semifinals last week.
Omaha's roster features right-handers Kyle Zimmerman and Christian Binford, the Royals' No. 2 and 8 prospects. Both are starters by trade, but the Royals moved both to relief late in the season, in case they would be needed out of the bullpen during Kansas City's playoff push. Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, the club's No. 7 prospect, only moved up to Triple-A for the playoffs, but during the semifinals, he looked like he had been there all season. In three games, Bonifacio hit .455/.500/.545.
Reno won the Pacific Conference North Division, tying Las Vegas for the best record in the league. The Aces then defeated the 51s in four games in the semifinals, to earn their second trip to the finals in three years. They defeated the Storm Chasers in four games in 2012, before going on to defeat Pawtucket in the National Championship Game.
The Aces are led by shortstop Nick Ahmed, the D-backs' No. 9 prospect. After hitting .312/.373/.425 with four home runs and 14 stolen bases in 104 games during the regular season, the 24-year-old went 8-for-18 and scored six runs in the semifinals.
Reno is attempting to become the second D-backs affiliate to win its league championship. Class A short-season Hillsboro won the Northwest League title Sunday, sweeping three-time defending champion Vancouver in the best-of-three finals.
The two Triple-A leagues aren't the only circuits starting their finals Tuesday night. In Double-A, the Eastern League and the Texas League both will begin their best-of-five series, as will the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The Eastern League finals begin with Binghamton visiting Richmond at 6:35 p.m. ET, while the Texas League finals pit Midland against Tulsa. Right-hander Eddie Butler, the Rockies' No. 2 prospect and No. 28 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, is slated to start for Tulsa. The game, which begins at 8:05 p.m. ET, can be seen on MiLB.TV. Billings will host Orem in Game 1 of the Pioneer League finals at 9:05 p.m. ET.
Tuesday's Minor League slate will also be highlighted by a decisive third game between State College and Tri-City in the best-of-three New York-Penn League finals. State College won Game 1 on Sunday and Tri-City took Game 2, 3-0, on Monday to set up Tuesday's showdown. Tri-City is trying to beat State College in the championship series for the second year in a row. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Tri-City's Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
Top prospect probables
Clayton Blackburn (Giants' No. 7), Richmond vs. Binghamton
Butler (Rockies' No. 2), Tulsa vs. Midland
Colome (Rays' No. 5), Durham at Pawtucket
Escobar (Red Sox's No. 9), Pawtucket vs. Durham