Mobile BayBears (79-60, South Division champion) vs.
Mississippi Braves (76-63, South Division Wild Card)
Mobile had the best overall record in the league thanks to an impressive pitching staff and will have the advantage of a potential four home games as it faces Wild Card entrant Mississippi in their best-of-5 series beginning Thursday.
The North series will match second-half winner Tennessee, the league's most potent offensive team, against first-half champ Birmingham.
Pitching ruled in the Southern League this season, and no pitcher was more dominant than Mobile's Archie Bradley, who ranked seventh on MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects.
The 21-year-old right-hander led the Double-A circuit with 12 victories, despite starting the season in the Class A Advanced California League, and posted a 1.97 ERA with 119 strikeout in 123 1/3 innings.
Bradley will try to get the BayBears off to a quick start in their quest for a third straight Southern League title, facing Mississippi on Thursday night in the opener of their semifinal series.
Bradley, 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two games against Mississippi, won his last six regular-season starts, including a combined no-hitter against Huntsville on Aug. 14. He posted a 1.24 ERA during the closing stretch and allowed just 23 hits in 36 1/3 innings.
It should be a pitching-dominated series as Mississippi was just behind Mobile with a 3.07 ERA and had a 2.73 ERA to Mobile's 2.82 in their 20 head-to-head meetings.
Gus Schlosser is the ace for Mississippi but won't be available to start until the third game as the Braves didn't secure a playoff spot until the final day of the regular season. His ERA of 2.39 ranked third in the league, and he was 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in four starts against Mobile.
Birmingham Barons (77-63, North Division first-half champion) vs.
Tennessee Smokies (76-62, North Division second-half champion)
The Smokies ran away with the SL North's second-half with a 9.0 game lead over second place Jackson. The Lookouts finished last, 18 games back
The Tennessee Smokies are led by the Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez. In the Lookouts' season series final, Baez hit two gigantic home runs. He drove in 54 runs in 54 games with Tennessee, and his 20 homers ranked fourth in the league despite his late arrival. His OPS was .983 thanks to a .638 slugging mark and he had a .294 batting average.
Those numbers over two months were impossible to ignore, which was why Baez was named to the season-ending All-Star Team in the Southern League, duplicating the honor he won in the Florida State League for his work the first three months of the season.
The Smokies already had the second-half lead in the North Division when Baez arrived, but he made sure they stayed there. Now he'll try to help lead Tennessee to its first Southern League title since being declared co-champion with Mississippi in 2004.
First-half North winner Birmingham certainly knows what Baez can do. He had five homers and 11 RBIs while batting .310 as the Smokies went 6-4 against the Barons in the second half.
Baez is ranked No. 9 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects.
---- Source: MiLB.com