April 26, 2009 at 1:28 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Farm System, Minor Leagues
Building a successful organization starts with scouting and player development. The player development part takes place in the farm system. The evolution of farm systems is one of the most important developments in the history of MLB and having a strong farm system is crucial to the long-term success of any MLB club. The Braves have always had a strong foundation of scouting and player development and it could be argued that the farm system has never been stronger. Let’s take a look at the minor league affiliates of the Atlanta Braves.
The GCL Braves play in the Gulf Coast League. I bet you can guess what GCL stands for. The GCL teams are all named “GCL <Parent Club’s Mascot>” and they all operate out of their parent club’s spring training facility. The Braves’ facility is currently located in Lake Buena Vista, FL at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports. The GCL is classified as a Rookie league, meaning it a) operates for a shortened season (around late-June to September) and b) is generally a destination for 1st year players only, usually recent draftees or international signings. Like most of the Braves’ Minor League Affiliates, they own the GCL Braves. In fact, no GCL team operates independently of a MLB organization, they’re all directly owned by their parent club.
The Danville Braves play in the Appalachian League, also know as the “Appy League” for short. The league is based in the Appalacian Mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Again, like the GCL, the Appy League teams are all owned and operated by their parent club and they’re named “<Home City> <Parent Club’s Mascot>”. The Appy League is classified as a Rookie Advanced league. They also play a shortened season and Danville is generally the destination for college draftees, 2nd year players who had a lost rookie season, or more advanced rookies. It is a stiffer competition and a more prestigious league than the GCL, but the stadium is crappy compared to the beautiful stadium at the Braves’ Spring Training facility. Not that anyone really comes to either teams’ games.
The Rome Braves compete in the South Atlantaic League (Sally League for short), the least competitive full-season league the Braves have a stake in. The Sally League is a Class A league and players are generally sent here for their first full season, usually their 2nd or 3rd year in professional baseball, though it is not un-heard of for a more experienced rookie to begin his professional career at Class A. Unlike the Braves’ rookie ball leagues, in the Sally League, the Braves are the only team that directly owns the minor league affiliate. The rest of the teams are linked to their parent club through a Player Development Contract, but the actual minor league club is owned and operated by a separate party. After a full season at Class A, a players’ minor league numbers start to become statistically meaningful.
They Myrtle Beach Pelicans compete in the Carolina League, a Class A Advanced league. Class A Advanced represents the highest rung of the “lower minor leagues”. A promotion to Class A Advanced generally happens for a players’ second full season. Because the Carolina League is always loaded with pitching prospects and the Myrtle Beach stadium is such a pitchers’ park, Myrtle Beach is regarded as a very difficult place to hit and a very easy place to pitch, which should be taken into account when looking at numbers from Myrtle Beach. Most position player prospects have their statistically least impressive season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are the only minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves that the parent club does not directly own.
The Mississippi Braves play in the Southern League, a very competitive league loaded with nearly MLB-ready prospects. The Southern League is a Class AA league and the Braves use it as a bridge to the majors. It is the first rung of the “upper minor leagues” and players are assigned to Class AA Mississippi usually after they’ve completed at least a full season in the lower minor leagues (generally more). Having a productive season at Class AA Mississippi is key to earning a promotion to the big club. Like all of the affiliates apart from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Mississippi Braves are directly owned and operated by the Atlanta Braves.
The Gwinnett Braves play in the International League, one of the three Class AAA leagues. The Braves treat their Class AAA team as sort of a “holding tank” for MLB-ready players. A lot of the players on the Gwinnett Braves’ roster will also be on the Atlanta Braves’ 40-man roster and will also have previous big-league experience. From 1966 to 2008 this team was located in Richmond, Virginia and was named the Richmond Braves. 2009 represents the inagural season of the Gwinnett Braves. Players are assigned to AAA if they don’t make the big-league club out of camp or they’ve played a complete season at AA but there’s no place for them on the big club. It is also used to season players before their mid-season call-ups.