How far down on the farm?

Ripken Stadium is just 34.6 miles from Oriole Park.

Ripken Stadium is just 34.6 miles from Oriole Park.

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 proximity

The proximity of Major League organizations to their minor league affiliates. All distances in miles.
OrganizationAverageClosestFarthest
Orioles92.5627.5 (Bowie, Double-A)233 (Norfolk, Triple-A)
Indians148.3417.5 (Lake County, A)480 (Lynchburg, A-Adv.)
Nationals191.0229.7 (Potomac, A-Adv.)376 (Syracuse, Triple-A)
Braves258.2636.1 (Gwinnett, Triple-A)431 (Carolina, A-Adv.)
Phillies285.6560.8 (Lakewood, A)1,054 (Clearwater, A-Adv.)
Red Sox358.8233.4 (Lowell, Short-A)936 (Greenville, A)
Pirates365.1871.4 (West Virginia, A)1,064 (Bradenton, A-Adv.)
Yankees441.5624.3 (Staten Island, Short-A)1,140 (Tampa, A-Adv.)
Tigers468.6258.1 (Toledo, Triple-A)1,167 (Lakeland, A-Adv.)
Cardinals519.66168 (Peoria, A)1,136 (Palm Beach, A-Adv.)
Royals590.16195 (Omaha, Triple-A)1,153 (Idaho Falls, Rookie)
Reds654.7455.3 (Dayton, A)1,511 (Billings, Rookie)
Rays673.1174.7 (Charlotte, A-Adv.)1,211 (Hudson Valley, Short-A)
Marlins702.4682.3 (Jupiter, A-Adv.)1,414 (Batavia, Short-A)
Cubs813.0296.1 (South Bend, A)2,140 (Eugene, Short-A)
White Sox841.8629 (Birmingham, Double-A)1,378 (Great Falls, Rookie)
Rangers896.9234.6 (Frisco, Double-A)1,868 (Spokane, Short-A)
Mets898.6922.2 (Brooklyn, Short-A)2,536 (Las Vegas, Triple-A)
Blue Jays928.3098.8 (Buffalo, Triple-A)2,685 (Vancouver, Short-A)
Brewers963.2103 (Wisconsin, A)1,388 (Helena, Rookie)
Angels974.2447.2 (Inland Empire, A-Adv.)1,842 (Burlington, Iowa, A)
Twins996.2251 (Cedar Rapids, A)1,696 (Fort Myers, A-Adv.)
Rockies1004.33246 (Grand Junction, Rookie)1,870 (New Britain, Double-A)
Mariners1069.0229.4 (Everett, Short-A)2,339 (Jackson, Double-A)
Padres108474 (Lake Elsinore, A-Adv.)2,174 (Fort Wayne, A)
Dodgers1165.8245.1 (Rancho Cucamonga (A-Adv.)2,289 (Great Lakes, A)
D-backs1183.16544 (Visalia, A-Adv.)1,702 (Kane County, A)
Astros1220.66209 (Corpus Christi, Double-A)1,755 (Tri-City, N.Y., Short-A)
Giants1242.4650.8 (San Jose, A-Adv.)2,871 (Richmond, Double-A)
A's1789.9267.6 (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 proximity

The proximity of Major League organizations to their minor league affiliates, grouped by level. All distances in miles.
ClassificationAverageClosestFarthest
Triple-A587.5935.7 (Mariners/Tacoma)2,536 (Mets/Las Vegas)
Double-A729.3834.6 (Rangers/Frisco)2,871 (Giants/Richmond)
A-Advanced750.7329.7 (Nationals/Potomac)1,696 (Twins/Fort Myers)
Class A843.5717.5 (Indians/Lake County)2,616 (Giants/Augusta)
Short-A/Rookie864.8922.2 (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 affiliates

A sortable listing of parent clubs to their farm teams.
OrganizationAverageTriple-AMilesDouble-AMilesHigh AMilesLow AMilesSS/RookieMilesRookieMiles
D-backs1183.16Reno745Mobile1635Visalia554Kane County1702Hillsboro1281Missoula1182
Braves258.26Gwinnett36.1Mississippi377Carolina431Rome68.2Danville379
Orioles92.56Norfolk233Bowie27.5Frederick48.7Delmarva119Aberdeen34.6
Red Sox358.82Pawtucket41.7Portland107Salem676Greenville936Lowell33.4
Cubs813.02Iowa340Tennessee564Myrtle Beach925South Bend96.1Eugene2140
White Sox841.8Charlotte752Birmingham629Winston-Salem706Kannapolis744Great Falls1378
Reds654.74Louisville99.4Pensacola716Daytona892Dayton55.3Billings1511
Indians148.34Columbus142Akron38.6Lynchburg480Lake County17.5Mahoning Valley63.6
Rockies1004.33Albuquerque422New Britain1870Modesto1222Asheville1447Boise819Grand Junction246
Tigers468.62Toledo58.1Erie270Lakeland1167West Michigan160Connecticut688
Astros1220.66Fresno1752Corpus Christi209Lancaster1568Quad Cities1045Tri-City1755Greeneville995
Royals590.16Omaha195Northwest Arkansas225Wilmington1112Lexington575Burlington281Idaho Falls1153
Angels974.24Salt Lake681Arkansas1657Inland Empire47.2Burlington1842Orem644
Dodgers1165.82Oklahoma City1330Tulsa1439Rancho Cucamonga45.1Great Lakes2289Ogden726
Marlins702.46New Orleans870Jacksonville345Jupiter82.3Greensboro801Batavia1414
Brewers963.2Colorado Springs1059Biloxi995Brevard County1271Wisconsin103Helena1388
Twins996.2Rochester1009Chattanooga998Fort Myers1696Cedar Rapids251Elizabethton1027
Mets898.69Las Vegas2536Binghamton187St. Lucie1185Savannah824Brooklyn22.2Kingsport638
Yankees441.56Scranton/Wilkes-Barre129Trenton71.09Tampa1140Charleston768Staten Island24.3Pulaski517
A's1789.92Nashville2289Midland1468Stockton67.59Beloit2104Vermont3021
Phillies285.65Lehigh Valley63.4Reading66.09Clearwater1054Lakewood60.8Williamsport184
Pirates365.18Indianapolis360Altoona96.7Bradenton1064West Virginia218West Virginia71.40Bristol381
Padres1084El Paso723San Antonio1281Lake Elsinore74Fort Wayne2174Tri-City1168
Giants1242.46Sacramento84.5Richmond2871San Jose50.8Augusta2616Salem-Keizer590
Mariners1069.02Tacoma35.70Jackson2339Bakersfield1028Clinton1913Everett29.4
Cardinals519.66Memphis284Springfield215Palm Beach1136Peoria168State College740Johnson City575
Rays673.11Durham696Montgomery492Charlotte74.7Bowling Green791Hudson Valley1211Princeton774
Rangers896.92Round Rock187Frisco34.6High Desert1345Hickory1050Spokane1868
Blue Jays928.30Buffalo98.8New Hampshire539Dunedin1350Lansing296Vancouver2685Bluefield601
Nationals191.02Syracuse376Harrisburg119Potomac29.7Hagerstown73.40Auburn357

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