Almost six years ago, out of curiosity, I calculated just how far each Major League team was from its minor league affiliates, on average. I don’t think I expected to update it every offseason when affiliates moved or Player Development Contracts were renegotiated biennially, but in hindsight, that wouldn’t have been too hard to do — and would’ve made this post a little easier.
So now here we are, following a season with no minor league ball that saw a planned affiliation between the Marlins and new Wichita Wind Surge never materialize and the final season of the Pawtucket Red Sox vanish without so much as a last first pitch. The reorganization of the minor leagues was essentially finalized this week, with organizations extending invitations to farm clubs to be an affiliate, pending the finalization of the new Player Development Licenses.
Now, then: Let’s see how this reshuffling and consolidation affects the affiliates’ proximity to the parent clubs. First, though, we have to look at how the farm teams would’ve been set up in 2020, had there been a season.
2020 Affiliate ArrangementsHow the 30 MLB organizations would've aligned their farm systems in 2020 if there had been a minor league season
|Org.||Average||Triple-A||Miles||Double-A||Miles||High A||Miles||Low A||Miles||SS/Rookie||Miles||Rookie||Miles|
|Angels||1041.44||Salt Lake||681||Rocket City (Madison, AL)||1993||Inland Empire||47.2||Burlington||1842||Orem||644|
|Astros||948.2||Round Rock||164||Corpus Christi||209||Fayetteville||1568||Quad Cities||1045||Tri-City||1755|
|Blue Jays||928.3||Buffalo||98.8||New Hampshire||539||Dunedin||1350||Lansing||296||Vancouver||2685||Bluefield||601|
|Brewers||872.6||San Antonio||1286||Biloxi||995||Carolina||921||Wisconsin||103||Rocky Mountain||1058|
|Cardinals||519.7||Memphis||284||Springfield||215||Palm Beach||1136||Peoria||168||State College||740||Johnson City||575|
|Cubs||813.02||Iowa||340||Tennessee||564||Myrtle Beach||925||South Bend||96.1||Eugene||2140|
|Dodgers||1165.82||Oklahoma City||1330||Tulsa||1439||Rancho Cucamonga||45.1||Great Lakes||2289||Ogden||726|
|Indians||148.34||Columbus||142||Akron||38.6||Lynchburg||480||Lake County||17.5||Mahoning Valley||63.6|
|Padres||1036||El Paso||723||Amarillo||1041||Lake Elsinore||74||Fort Wayne||2174||Tri-City||1168|
|Rays||673.12||Durham||696||Montgomery||492||Charlotte||74.7||Bowling Green||791||Hudson Valley||1211||Princeton||774|
|Royals||590.17||Omaha||195||NW Arkansas||225||Wilmington||1112||Lexington||575||Burlington||281||Idaho Falls||1153|
|Twins||1042.6||Rochester||1009||Pensacola||1230||Fort Myers||1696||Cedar Rapids||251||Elizabethton||1027|
|White Sox||841.8||Charlotte||752||Birmingham||629||Winston-Salem||706||Kannapolis||744||Great Falls||1378|
The biggest change coming, of course, is what was presented in the coverage and discussion of this plan from the beginning: The elimination of some 20 teams, bringing the number of affiliated clubs from 140 down to 120. As you can see in the table above, not every Major League club had a sixth affiliate, and as in 2015, I did not include short-season teams that were based at Spring Training sites (i.e., the Gulf Coast League).
Now let’s look at the setup for 2021.
2021 Affiliate DistancesA sortable listing of all 30 organizations and their farm clubs
|Orginazation||Average||Triple-A||Miles||Double-A||Miles||High A||Miles||Low A||Miles|
|Angels||955.3||Salt Lake||681||Rocket City||1993||Tri-City||1100||Inland Empire||47.2|
|Astros||697.575||Sugar Land||22.3||Corpus Christi||209||Asheville||991||Fayetteville||1568|
|Blue Jays||1168.2||Buffalo||98.8||New Hampshire||539||Vancouver||2685||Dunedin||1350|
|Cubs||481.275||Iowa||340||Tennessee||564||South Bend||96.1||Myrtle Beach||925|
|Dodgers||1275.775||Oklahoma City||1330||Tulsa||1439||Great Lakes||2289||Rancho Cucamonga||45.1|
|Padres||1063||El Paso||723||San Antonio||1281||Fort Wayne||2174||Lake Elsinore||74|
|Rangers||634.65||Round Rock||187||Frisco||34.6||Hickory||1050||Down East||1267|
|Royals||440.5||Omaha||195||NW Arkansas||225||Quad Cities||364||Columbia||978|
|Twins||648.875||St. Paul||12.5||Wichita||636||Cedar Rapids||251||Fort Myers||1696|
Some notable differences:
- In 2020, eight organizations averaged more than 1,000 miles to their affiliates. In 2021, five will. In 2020, there were 20 organizations averaging at least 500 miles; in ’21 that will be down to 16.
- The number of teams averaging fewer than 200 miles will double from two to four.
- Triple-A teams within 100 miles of the parent club will go from eight to 10, with the two new ones also now the two closest: Sugar Land to Houston (22.3 miles) and St. Paul to Minneapolis (12.5). The Red Sox also saw their Triple-A franchise move from Pawtucket, R.I., to Worcester, Mass. — cutting just three-tenths of a mile off the distance to Boston.
2021 Classification ProximityA breakdown of how far, on average, the affiliates are from their parent clubs by level
|Triple-A||213.68||12.5 (Twins/St. Paul, AAA)||1,330 (Dodgers/Oklahoma City, AAA)|
|Double-A||519.85||27.5 (Orioles/Bowie, AA)||2,871 (Giants/Richmond, AA)|
|A-Advanced||452.7||17.5 (Indians/Lake County, A-Adv.)||2,685 (Blue Jays/Vancouver, A-Adv.)|
|Class A||1054.38||45.1 (Dodgers/Rancho Cucamonga, A)||1,696 (Twins/Fort Myers, A)|
Now let’s compare the averages from 2016-20 and again from ’20 to ’21.
Affiliate Distance Changes 2020-21Negative numbers indicate an increase in average distance to a club's affiliates; positive numbers show a decrease in distance
|Team||2016 Avg.||2020 Avg.||2021 Avg.||2016-20 change||2020-21 change|
From ’16 to ’20, eight teams saw their average distance grow and eight more saw it shrink. But from ’20 to ’21, every team has a change, with two-thirds of the teams seeing an improvement vs. only 10 seeing the distance, on average, get longer. What’s more, the 20 teams that brought their affiliates closer did so by an average of 232.4 miles, while those that had the average distance grow only saw it extended by 77.9 miles, on average.
There’s a bit more behind those numbers, too. The worst negative change was the Blue Jays seeing their average distance grow by 239.9 miles, yet their four affiliates for 2021 were all part of the organization in 2020. What gives? Well, the relatively nearby relationships with Lansing, Mich., (296 miles from Toronto) and Bluefield, W. Va., (601 miles) were eliminated, and the Jays wanted to maintain their ties with the Vancouver franchise (the only affiliated minor league club in Canada) and the one based at their Dunedin, Fla., Spring Training base. Those clubs are 2,685 and 1,350 miles away, respectively. Remove the Blue Jays from the average distance lost, and the other nine organizations only saw the distance increase by 59.9 miles.
Near ... Far ...Each Major League club's nearest and farthest affiliate
|Angels||955.3||47.2, Inland Empire (A)||1993, Rocket City (AA)|
|A's||1106.15||67.6, Stockton (A)||2331, Lansing (A-Adv.)|
|Astros||697.58||22.3, Sugar Land (AAA)||1568, Fayetteville (A)|
|Blue Jays||1168.2||98.8, Buffalo (AAA)||2685, Vancouver (A-Adv.)|
|Braves||161.58||36.1, Gwinnett (AA)||377, Mississippi (AA)|
|Brewers||638.5||103, Wisconsin (A-Adv.)||995, Biloxi (AA)|
|Cardinals||450.75||168, Peoria (A-Adv.)||1136, Palm Beach (A)|
|Cubs||481.28||96.1, South Bend (A-Adv.)||925, Myrtle Beach (A)|
|D-backs||820.75||554, Visalia (A)||1281, Hillsboro (A-Adv.)|
|Dodgers||1275.78||45.1, Rancho Cucamonga (A)||2289, Great Lakes (A-Adv.)|
|Giants||883.58||50.8, San Jose (A)||2871, Richmond (AA)|
|Indians||169.58||17.5, Lake County (A-Adv.)||480, Lynchburg (A)|
|Mariners||786.78||29.4, Everett (A-Adv.)||2255, Arkansas (AA)|
|Marlins||646.33||82.3, Jupiter (A)||1483, Beloit (A-Adv.)|
|Mets||413.8||22.2, Brooklyn (A-Adv.)||1185, St. Lucie (A)|
|Nationals||166.18||54.7, Fredricksburg (A)||383, Rochester (AAA)|
|Orioles||103.53||27.5, Bowie (AA)||233, Norfolk (AAA)|
|Padres||1063||74, Lake Elsinore (A)||2174, Fort Wayne (A-Adv.)|
|Phillies||311.08||60.8, Lakewood (A-Adv.)||1054, Clearwater (A)|
|Pirates||487.43||96.7, Altoona (AA)||1064, Bradenton (A)|
|Rangers||634.65||34.6, Frisco (AA)||1267, Down East (A)|
|Rays||608.75||456, Charleston (A)||791, Bowling Green (A-Adv.)|
|Red Sox||440.1||41.4, Worcester (AAA)||936, Greenville (A-Adv.)|
|Reds||351.68||55.3, Dayton (A-Adv.)||892, Daytona (A)|
|Rockies||1132||422, Albuquerque (AAA)||1878, Hartford (AA)|
|Royals||440.5||195, Omaha (AAA)||978, Columbia (A)|
|Tigers||413.78||58.1, Toledo (AAA)||1167, Lakeland (A)|
|Twins||648.88||12.5, St. Paul (AAA)||1696, Fort Myers (A)|
|White Sox||707.75||629, Birmingham (AA)||752, Charlotte (AAA)|
|Yankees||346.53||53.8, Somerset (AA)||1140, Tampa (A)|
On the other side, the Nationals saw the greatest improvement from 2020 to ’21, gaining 511.6 miles, on average. Most of that will come from their Triple-A franchise being based in Rochester, N.Y., instead of Fresno, Calif. But if you took out the Nationals’ figure from the average of the 20 teams that improved, those teams will still see an average gain of 217.7 miles.
Furthermore, of the 10 teams that will have an increase in average distance, only three (the Blue Jays, Rockies and Dodgers) saw the average increase more than 100 miles. Los Angeles, like Toronto, does not have any new affiliates among its four; the increase comes from eliminating the relatively close team (Ogden, Utah, 726 miles) and keeping one that’s far away (Great Lakes, in Michigan, 2,289 miles). And Colorado no longer has Mountain Time Zone affiliates in Boise, Id., (819 miles) or Grand Junction, Colo., (246 miles) but did exchange Lancaster, Calif., for Spokane, Wash. (an increase of 88 miles) and Asheville, N.C., for Fresno (a decrease of 305 miles).
Meanwhile, of the 20 organizations that drew their affiliates closer, 14 saw the distances cut by more than 100 miles, with 11 seeing improvements of more than 200 miles and nine tightening the circle by more than 300 miles.
It remains to be seen how these now-unaffiliated clubs will fare without the ties to Major League organizations — or how the MLB-affiliated Draft League and now-college summer circuit Appalachian League will do — but it’s clear why this revamping of the minor leagues was done.