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Guest opinion: Why not two Cardinals Triple-A teams?

Brian Walton’s introduction: Now and then, one of our regular readers asks to use this forum to air an idea. Sometimes I agree, even if I don’t support the thought. This is one such case. I offer my comments at the bottom.

by blingboy

There has been some angst over the looming outfield logjam in Memphis, as well as some question about room to move up pitchers.  Perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals could consider fielding two Triple-A teams.

It has been done before, but not lately.  The last time a major league team fielded two Triple-A teams was in 1963.  That year the Milwaukee Braves had two Triple-A teams, the Denver Bears of the Pacific Coast League and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.

The Bears went 71-87 and featured Bob Uecker and Tommie Aaron, Hank’s brother, among many future major leaguers.  The Maple Leafs finished 76-75 and fielded players like Sparky Anderson and Rico Carty.

The reason to field two Triple-A teams would be to provide innings at the highest level for legitimate Major League prospects who are ready for the challenge, or who would benefit from additional experience.  So it is not just a matter of finding enough players.  The question is whether there are enough legitimate prospects at, or ready for, the highest level.

There is not a challenge to find enough outfielders.  It is probably not an issue with pitchers either, as it would relieve the necessity of moving pitchers to the Triple-A pen who would benefit from a slot in the rotation.  Even at middle infield, there have been examples of players being moved off their position to make way for another prospect.

There are other questions involved besides staffing the teams.  Perhaps others may want to raise those issues and fill in some detail.

Brian Walton’s comments:

I will start. I feel the narrowing of the player development pyramid as the major leagues near is a good thing. In other words, I don’t sense there is a problem that needs to be solved.

But, I will focus on this idea as proposed. I have several major concerns with it, any of which I see as a potential show-stopper.

First, the financial commitment involved in all aspects of the creation a second team would be huge, making it impractical from the start. I am primarily talking about the ongoing costs after the non-trivial tasks of locating a city and leasing a suitable facility in which to play have been solved. Expenses for the incremental 25-30 players, coaches, equipment, travel, etc. would be sky-high.

Second is the question of ongoing need. Even if a case could be made right now that a second competitive Triple-A team could be staffed – which I highly doubt is valid – who is to say the need would exist next year or ever again? This is not a light switch that could be turned on and off. There are huge entry and exit costs.

Third is the practical problem of finding a league in which to play. One of the existing Triple-A leagues would need to be willing to expand. For competitive reasons, it would probably have to be the International League. Unless another organization would follow suit, there would be an uneven number of teams, making scheduling a logistical nightmare.

I am sure there are other major inhibitors, but I will stop there, as my rebuttal is approaching the length of the original post.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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6 Responses to “Guest opinion: Why not two Cardinals Triple-A teams?”

  1. Oquendo11 says:

    Some teams use AA for the highest level for prospects and have limited number of prospects in AAA which is then filled mostly with minor league free agents and AAAA players. Since the Cardinals are now (mostly) filling both AA and AAA with prospects, in a way they are already using the equivalent of two AAA teams.

    • Brian Walton says:

      As you hint, in recent years, the Cards have jumped guys from Double-A to the majors much more often than ever before. No harm seems to have come from it. I think that is your key point.

      Another less important point, I am not so sure of. I agree that some organizations sign more minor league free agents for Triple-A than other organizations. I also imagine that some systems will promote from Double-A directly to MLB more often than others.

      Having said that, do you have any data or examples of systems keeping top prospects down at Double-A rather than moving them up to Triple-A? Do some Triple-A teams have more free agents and fringe guys than prospects for any reason other than the org simply not having enough good players in the player development pipeline? Your statements about other systems felt exaggerated to me – but then again, I don’t have the data, either! 😉

      • blingboy says:

        Hmmm, perhaps two AA teams would be better. Should I whip up a new article?

        As an aside, it seems certain the AAA roster won’t be so cluttered up with AAAA guys and total non-prospects this year.

        Another aside. Any guesses what role, if any, Scruggs and Swauger will have this year?

        • Brian Walton says:

          You can probably just take the same article, drop off one “A” and go for it!

          Yes, I agree. I already have on my to-do list to write about the roster differences.

          After two years at Double-A, Scruggs should be given every chance to earn a spot with Memphis. Swauger should make sure he doesn’t forget his first baseman’s mitt when he heads for Florida. I predict he will either be back in Springfield or have to prove he is versatile and valuable enough to remain in Memphis. Of course, “The Turk” is always in the shadows, and I don’t mean the GCL manager…

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Its good of bling to be optimistic about pumping out more talent with a second AAA squad.

    The Cards already have more minor leagues teams than most systems, given a third short season team.
    Grichuk and Ramsey both only averaged 250 at Springfield. They can start 2014 at the AA level and earn a promotion if they lift their batting averages.
    Folks like Swauger and Scruggs are good ballers for our system, yet not ML talent.

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