While driving to Virginia last weekend to hang with some college buddies, my thoughts turned to baseball. This often happens on I-95 as I pass the exits to various minor league cities — first Wilmington, then Aberdeen … Bowie … Frederick …
It’s Aberdeen that usually triggers more thorough contemplation, because the IronBirds’ Ripken Stadium sits right on the edge of the highway off Exit 85. Some 30 miles later, as you exit the Fort McHenry tunnel, off to the right you can see Oriole Park in downtown Baltimore. The Orioles also have their Double-A club just down the road in Bowie, their advanced Class A club in Frederick to the west, the full-season Class A franchise Delmarva on the Eastern Shore, and Triple-A down in Norfolk, Va. That’s a pretty compact radius for a franchise to have its five minor league affiliates.
And so I wondered: Do the Orioles have the closest collection of affiliates?
Determining the answer first requires some parameters. Do we measure direct distance, “as the crow flies”? That could be done if measuring the distance, say, from Flushing to Las Vegas, but wouldn’t be as accurate in determining how far Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park is from Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Besides, if someone in the front office is going from his desk at the Major League park to see a prospect in action in Double-A, he’s not taking a helicopter from parking lot to parking lot.
To be consistent — but let’s face it, not scientific — I settled on driving distances between ballparks according to Google Maps. If multiple routes were offered (which they were in nearly all cases), I went with the shortest by mileage (converted from kilometers for the distances out of Toronto). Anything within 100 miles returned a distance to the tenth of a mile (99.4 miles from Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park to Louisville Slugger Field) but anything more than 100 miles was listed as whole miles. Granted, Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman isn’t driving the 1,330 miles from Dodger Stadium to Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Ballpark, but at least we’re getting an idea of the distance he has to travel, minus the drive to and from each airport.
The answer to my question? Yes, the Orioles have the most compact farm system in Major League Baseball, with their five affiliates an average of 92.56 miles from Oriole Park. The most spread out? The A’s, whose farm clubs are an average of 1,789.92 miles from the East Bay. Oakland also has the single farthest affiliate in the Short-Season Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League: The University of Vermont’s Centennial Field is 3,021 miles away. The closest affiliate to its parent club is the Indians’ Lake County Captains, just 17.1 miles northeast in Eastlake, Ohio. The average for all affiliates is 760.73 miles away.
Does any of this matter? In some cases, yes. A nearby affiliate makes it easier to send a player out on a rehab assignment and to allow the GM to drop in to evaluate that veteran’s progress — or to see a top prospect in person. On the flip side, the farm teams can benefit from an All-Star making a rehab visit and from its alumni reaching the big leagues just up the road. And having a Triple-A club in relatively close proximity makes it easier to call up a replacement when a player goes on the disabled list — at least when the affiliate is at home. But I don’t know how much this plays into the negotiations over Player Development Contracts when the affiliation shuffle occurs every two years. Would the Mets rather have their Triple-A club in the International League than the Pacific Coast League? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the case for every club. I’m sure the quality of the facilities and other factors come into play, too.
Below is the list of organizations, listed from most compact to least, and including each franchise’s closest and farthest affiliates. I used these listings on MiLB.com, so the only Rookie level affiliates listed are those in the Appalachian and Pioneer leagues — no “complex leagues” (Gulf Coast, Arizona, Caribbean). As you can see, some franchises have five affiliates listed, some have six.
Farm system proximityThe proximity of Major League organizations to their minor league affiliates. All distances in miles.
|Orioles||92.56||27.5 (Bowie, Double-A)||233 (Norfolk, Triple-A)|
|Indians||148.34||17.5 (Lake County, A)||480 (Lynchburg, A-Adv.)|
|Nationals||191.02||29.7 (Potomac, A-Adv.)||376 (Syracuse, Triple-A)|
|Braves||258.26||36.1 (Gwinnett, Triple-A)||431 (Carolina, A-Adv.)|
|Phillies||285.65||60.8 (Lakewood, A)||1,054 (Clearwater, A-Adv.)|
|Red Sox||358.82||33.4 (Lowell, Short-A)||936 (Greenville, A)|
|Pirates||365.18||71.4 (West Virginia, A)||1,064 (Bradenton, A-Adv.)|
|Yankees||441.56||24.3 (Staten Island, Short-A)||1,140 (Tampa, A-Adv.)|
|Tigers||468.62||58.1 (Toledo, Triple-A)||1,167 (Lakeland, A-Adv.)|
|Cardinals||519.66||168 (Peoria, A)||1,136 (Palm Beach, A-Adv.)|
|Royals||590.16||195 (Omaha, Triple-A)||1,153 (Idaho Falls, Rookie)|
|Reds||654.74||55.3 (Dayton, A)||1,511 (Billings, Rookie)|
|Rays||673.11||74.7 (Charlotte, A-Adv.)||1,211 (Hudson Valley, Short-A)|
|Marlins||702.46||82.3 (Jupiter, A-Adv.)||1,414 (Batavia, Short-A)|
|Cubs||813.02||96.1 (South Bend, A)||2,140 (Eugene, Short-A)|
|White Sox||841.8||629 (Birmingham, Double-A)||1,378 (Great Falls, Rookie)|
|Rangers||896.92||34.6 (Frisco, Double-A)||1,868 (Spokane, Short-A)|
|Mets||898.69||22.2 (Brooklyn, Short-A)||2,536 (Las Vegas, Triple-A)|
|Blue Jays||928.30||98.8 (Buffalo, Triple-A)||2,685 (Vancouver, Short-A)|
|Brewers||963.2||103 (Wisconsin, A)||1,388 (Helena, Rookie)|
|Angels||974.24||47.2 (Inland Empire, A-Adv.)||1,842 (Burlington, Iowa, A)|
|Twins||996.2||251 (Cedar Rapids, A)||1,696 (Fort Myers, A-Adv.)|
|Rockies||1004.33||246 (Grand Junction, Rookie)||1,870 (New Britain, Double-A)|
|Mariners||1069.02||29.4 (Everett, Short-A)||2,339 (Jackson, Double-A)|
|Padres||1084||74 (Lake Elsinore, A-Adv.)||2,174 (Fort Wayne, A)|
|Dodgers||1165.82||45.1 (Rancho Cucamonga (A-Adv.)||2,289 (Great Lakes, A)|
|D-backs||1183.16||544 (Visalia, A-Adv.)||1,702 (Kane County, A)|
|Astros||1220.66||209 (Corpus Christi, Double-A)||1,755 (Tri-City, N.Y., Short-A)|
|Giants||1242.46||50.8 (San Jose, A-Adv.)||2,871 (Richmond, Double-A)|
|A's||1789.92||67.6 (Stockton, A-Adv.)||3,021 (Vermont, Short-A)|
A few other things that popped out to me:
- The 10 teams in West divisions all fall into the bottom 13 overall, including the last eight slots. The Northeast has the nine or 10 most compact footprints, depending on if you want to call Detroit in the Northeast (since it is definitely north and somewhat east).
- The White Sox are the greatest distance from their closest team, in Birmingham, Ala. The Orioles are the closest to their farthest team.
- The Orioles’ farthest affiliate, 233 miles away in Norfolk, is closer than the closest farm club for four organizations: the Rockies (246), Twins (251), D-backs (544) and White Sox (629).
- And below, the average distances by classification grow longer the further you get from the Major Leagues. Triple-A, the closest to the big leagues, is also the closest geographically, on average. Double-A is next, and so on.
Classification proximityThe proximity of Major League organizations to their minor league affiliates, grouped by level. All distances in miles.
|Triple-A||587.59||35.7 (Mariners/Tacoma)||2,536 (Mets/Las Vegas)|
|Double-A||729.38||34.6 (Rangers/Frisco)||2,871 (Giants/Richmond)|
|A-Advanced||750.73||29.7 (Nationals/Potomac)||1,696 (Twins/Fort Myers)|
|Class A||843.57||17.5 (Indians/Lake County)||2,616 (Giants/Augusta)|
|Short-A/Rookie||864.89||22.2 (Mets/Brooklyn)||3,021 (A's/Vermont)|
And finally, to close it out we have the full, sortable listing of all organizations and affiliates. For a version that doesn’t require scrolling, click here.
Full listing of distances from MLB organizations to their affiliatesA sortable listing of parent clubs to their farm teams.
|Organization||Average||Triple-A||Miles||Double-A||Miles||High A||Miles||Low A||Miles||SS/Rookie||Miles||Rookie||Miles|
|Cubs||813.02||Iowa||340||Tennessee||564||Myrtle Beach||925||South Bend||96.1||Eugene||2140|
|White Sox||841.8||Charlotte||752||Birmingham||629||Winston-Salem||706||Kannapolis||744||Great Falls||1378|
|Indians||148.34||Columbus||142||Akron||38.6||Lynchburg||480||Lake County||17.5||Mahoning Valley||63.6|
|Rockies||1004.33||Albuquerque||422||New Britain||1870||Modesto||1222||Asheville||1447||Boise||819||Grand Junction||246|
|Astros||1220.66||Fresno||1752||Corpus Christi||209||Lancaster||1568||Quad Cities||1045||Tri-City||1755||Greeneville||995|
|Royals||590.16||Omaha||195||Northwest Arkansas||225||Wilmington||1112||Lexington||575||Burlington||281||Idaho Falls||1153|
|Angels||974.24||Salt Lake||681||Arkansas||1657||Inland Empire||47.2||Burlington||1842||Orem||644|
|Dodgers||1165.82||Oklahoma City||1330||Tulsa||1439||Rancho Cucamonga||45.1||Great Lakes||2289||Ogden||726|
|Brewers||963.2||Colorado Springs||1059||Biloxi||995||Brevard County||1271||Wisconsin||103||Helena||1388|
|Twins||996.2||Rochester||1009||Chattanooga||998||Fort Myers||1696||Cedar Rapids||251||Elizabethton||1027|
|Mets||898.69||Las Vegas||2536||Binghamton||187||St. Lucie||1185||Savannah||824||Brooklyn||22.2||Kingsport||638|
|Pirates||365.18||Indianapolis||360||Altoona||96.7||Bradenton||1064||West Virginia||218||West Virginia||71.40||Bristol||381|
|Padres||1084||El Paso||723||San Antonio||1281||Lake Elsinore||74||Fort Wayne||2174||Tri-City||1168|
|Cardinals||519.66||Memphis||284||Springfield||215||Palm Beach||1136||Peoria||168||State College||740||Johnson City||575|
|Rays||673.11||Durham||696||Montgomery||492||Charlotte||74.7||Bowling Green||791||Hudson Valley||1211||Princeton||774|
|Rangers||896.92||Round Rock||187||Frisco||34.6||High Desert||1345||Hickory||1050||Spokane||1868|
|Blue Jays||928.30||Buffalo||98.8||New Hampshire||539||Dunedin||1350||Lansing||296||Vancouver||2685||Bluefield||601|