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2008 season recap -- Gulf Coast League

For the most part, the 2008 minor league baseball season has finished.

The Bricktown Showdown, which features the Triple-A champions from the International League and the Pacific Coast League, will be played tonight in Oklahoma City. This year's game will be televised on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. and will include the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (International League champions) and the Sacramento River Cats (Pacific Coast League champions).

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The 2008 minor league baseball season will be in the books following the conclusion of the one-game playoff for the honor of being the top team in Triple-A.

Over the next few weeks, I'll give a summary of each league and discuss the champions, as well as players who made a significant impact. Like a traditional minor leaguer, I'll start with the rookie leagues and finish with Triple-A.

Let's begin with the Gulf Coast League because it's one of the two rookie-level leagues with an Orioles affiliate.

The GCL Orioles finished 14-41, which was the worst record in the league. The team started the season with a 1-13 record, lost its final six games and 15 of the last 16.

The team was led by 18-year-old shortstop Garabez Rosa, who hit .330 with four home runs, 29 RBIs and 24 runs scored in 49 games. Rosa was 5-for-20 in six games with the Aberdeen IronBirds after the Gulf Coast League ended. Edinho Meyer, a 20-year-old first baseman, hit .317 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 42 games for the Orioles.

The Orioles' second-round draft pick in 2008, Xavier Avery, hit .280 with 27 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. The 18-year-old center fielder struck out 51 times in 175 at-bats. L.J. Hoes, the team's third-round draft pick in this year's draft, hit .308 with 18 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 48 games. The 18-year-old second baseman finished tied for third in the league with 36 runs scored.

Right-handed pitcher Justin Moore, the Orioles' 26th-round draft pick in 2007, was 1-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). He finished with 51 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings, which was tied for sixth in the league.

Championship

The GCL Phillies defeated the GCL Nationals in both games of a doubleheader on Aug. 31 to win the championship. The Nationals won the first game of the best-of-three series on Aug. 29, so the Phillies needed to win both games in order to become champions.

Catcher Sebastian Valle led the Phillies with two RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader and a two-run home run in the first inning of the second game. Starting pitcher Reginal Simon pitched six scoreless innings in the second game to capture the championship for the Phillies. The 18-year-old pitcher was 4-4 with a 5.07 ERA in 11 starts during the regular season.

The Phillies won the GCL North Division with a 33-25 record and the Nationals were the champions of the GCL East Division with a 33-22 record. The GCL Pirates had the league's best record (37-19) and won the GCL South Division, but the Phillies knocked them out in the semifinals.

Top players

Esmailyn Gonzalez, GCL Nationals – Gonzalez led the Gulf Coast League with a .343 batting average in 51 games. The 18-year-old shortstop finished second in the league with 42 runs scored, tied for third in the league with 33 RBIs and tied for 10th in the league with 12 doubles.

Wilfred Pichardo, GCL Red Sox – The 18-year-old center fielder hit .297 with 36 runs scored in 52 games. Pichardo led the Gulf Coast League with 42 stolen bases and he was only caught stealing nine times. Adenson Chourio of the GCL Pirates finished in second place in stolen bases with 30. Only four players had more than 20 stolen bases in the league, so it was quite an accomplishment for Pichardo to have 42.

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Chris Curran, GCL Nationals – The 20-year-old center fielder led the Gulf Coast League with 55 runs scored in 55 games, which was 13 runs better than any other player in the league. Curran also led the league with 65 hits. He hit .311 with 22 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

Nelson Pereira, GCL Pirates – The 19-year-old pitcher was 6-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 13 games (six starts) this season. He had 46 strikeouts and allowed only nine earned runs in 50 innings. In his final six appearances of the regular season, Pereira was 5-0 and gave up five earned runs in 26 innings.

Jack McGeary, GCL Nationals – McGeary was 2-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 12 starts for the Nationals. That's not spectacular, but the 19-year-old left-hander led the league with 64 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. After the Gulf Coast League ended, he made one start for the Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League. McGeary allowed two runs and had five strikeouts in four innings during the start.

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