The last two years, the Nationals have had minor-league affiliates crack the playoffs a couple times - Single-A Potomac won the Carolina League championship in 2008, and the Nationals' rookie-ball affiliate has been in the Gulf Coast League championship series each of the last two seasons. But this year, the Nationals head into the final weekend of the minor league season with a chance to put a couple more teams in the playoffs.
Potomac is within a win of a Carolina League playoff spot, having shut out Salem 5-0 on Friday night. Danny Rosenbaum (who's got an excellent shot to be the organizational pitcher of the year) threw six shutout innings and Tyler Moore (the Carolina League MVP, and a likely candidate for organizational player of the year) hit his 30th homer.
At Double-A Harrisburg, a number of players that carried Potomac to its 2008 championship are on the verge of getting back to the playoffs. The Senators swept Binghamton in a doubleheader on Friday, and are tied with Bowie for the league's second playoff spot with three games to play. Harrisburg manager Randy Knorr led the 2008 Potomac team, and pitching coach Randy Tomlin was at Potomac in 2008, as well. And Chris Marrero, who broke his leg sliding into home plate at Potomac during the 2008 season, could get a taste of the playoffs this year.
Triple-A Syracuse has an outside chance to reach the playoffs, as well; the Chiefs won on Friday night behind a strong start from Garrett Mock (who came off the 60-day DL on Friday) and are three games back of Louisville for the final playoff spot. If Syracuse wins out and Louisville loses out, the two teams would be tied.
Historically, Potomac has been the Nationals' strongest farm club, so it's not surprising to see the team on the verge of the playoffs. But the Nationals' group at Harrisburg is progressing, and it's another credit to Knorr, who left his role as the Nationals' big-league bullpen coach this year, and returned to minor league managing this year to burnish his resume for a major league managerial job down the road.
There's plenty to keep an eye on with the affiliates this weekend, and we'll keep you updated on all of it.