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Farmers Only: A Minor League Championship

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Plus other news and notes.

Billings Mustangs

The Reds minor league season officially wrapped up on Thursday night with the Billings Mustangs being crowned champions of the Pioneer League.  This was the 9th championship the Mustangs have won since becoming an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds in 1974.  The Mustangs went undefeated in the playoffs, sweeping Great Falls in two games before winning two nail-biters against the Orem Owlz in the finals.

Game One was an 11 inning affair that saw the Mustangs edge out the Owlz 4-3.  Luke Moran gave up a pair of runs over 5 innings, striking out 6 and walking 2 while allowing 5 hits.  Conor Krauss picked up the win out of the bullpen, holding Orem scoreless over the final 3 innings while fanning 6 and walking just 1 batter.  Taylor Sparks went 3-5 with a triple, scoring 2 of the Mustang runs.  The winning run was scored in the bottom of the 11th by Shederic Long thanks to a throwing error from the Owlz third baseman.  Better to be lucky than good, and all that.

The Mustangs barely held on to a 6-0 lead that they established in the top of the 3rd inning to beat the Owlz 6-5 in Game Two.  Kevin Franklin came alive, going 2-5 with a double and a 2-run dinger.  Brian "Beef" O'Grady and Aristides Aquino both rapped out a pair of hits, each going 2-4 with a walk.  Wyatt Strahan got the start, but struggled with his command, walking 5 batters in 3.2 innings, giving up 2 runs while striking out only 1.  It was all hands on deck after that as four relievers combined to cover the remaining five-plus innings with Brennan Bernadino notching the 4-out save.

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Bakersfield saw their season come to a close on Wednesday, as they lost 3 games to 1 to Visalia in the five-game California League semi-finals.  The Blaze made the postseason as the first half champions, though the team they brought to the playoffs was a much different squad that they started the season with back in April.

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Doug over at RedsMinorLeagues.com has scouting reports on the two players to be named later the Reds received as compensation for Jonathan Broxton.  Both are fringey right handed pitchers, but neither of which are without a bit of upside.  Here's what Doug has to say:

Kevin Shackleford, RHP, 25

The right handed reliever spent most of his season in Double-A with Huntsville where he posted a 4.86 ERA in 50.0 innings with 17 walks and 25 strikeouts. He did get toss 20.2 innings in the Florida State League where he posted a 0.87 ERA, four walks and 16 strikeouts. He showed a low strikeout rate on the season, particularly for a guy who throws in the 92-95 MPH range that can top out around 97 MPH. Where he was successful was generating a very high rate of ground ball with 60% of the balls put in play being on the ground. He reportedly has a solid slider as well according to reports from before the season began.

Barrett Astin, RHP, 22

The Brewers 3rd round selection in the 2013 draft spent his entire season in the Midwest League playing for Wisconsin (Low-A; the same league that Dayton plays in). He made 18 starts and nine relief appearances that covered 121.2 innings with 36 walks and 81 strikeouts to go with a 4.96 ERA. In the past he could reportedly touch the mid-90′s but is now more in the 88-91 MPH range with his fastball. He mixes in a cutter/slider and a curveball. Like Shackelford, he is also a big ground ball pitcher where he had 56% grounders on the season.