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Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means

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Offline  Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#1

Posted: September 19, 2016, 1:25 AM Post
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NOTE: Our forum thread detailing the status of the future of the Brevard County Manatees goes back to 2013 and was getting cumbersome with recent developments at over seven pages long, so it has been locked. As you'll read below, the latest news warrants a new focus with the start of this new thread.

***

My oh my, this is likely not going to end up well for the Brewers, at least not at the High-A level. Maybe there is still hope for a last-minute longshot AAA switch to Toledo, as mentioned in our Sky Sox affiliation saga thread on Friday (link here, please discuss the AAA team status in that thread).

Ballpark Digest reports (via this tweet), and this post enhances with more detail, that Steve Bryant, who has owned the Carolina Mudcats for 27 years, since 1989, wants to sell his team, or at least the majority ownership, to an MLB franchise. It is the Colorado Rockies, who had a Carolina League affiliate in Salem from 1995-2002, and not the Brewers, who are apparently in the lead to do so.

As the Ballpark Digest tweet refers to, the Rockies were squeezed out of Modesto in the California League this offseason, where they had played since 2005. Modesto's ballpark plays very pitcher-friendly and is one of the more desirable locations among the now-eight team Cal League. The Mariners, seeking to maintain a permanent West Coast affiliate at the High-A level, and having lost the Bakersfield location (which migrates to the Carolina League for 2017), stepped up and purchased a majority share in the Modesto club, as detailed here by Ballpark Digest.

Initially it seemed the Rockies would settle for Lancaster in the California League, which would ensure that the Brewers would not have to move their former Brevard County affiliation to one of the most offensively-skewed ballparks on the planet (the aptly-named Hangar). This latest development means the Rockies' aggressiveness (and Brewers' passiveness?) could see Milwaukee with the sole remaining seat in the musical chairs roulette, in Lancaster.

Do you know what the Red Sox did after their 2007-2008 stint in Lancaster? They bought their High-A team in Salem (Carolina League) and escaped for good.

Boy, did the Brewers pick the wrong year to place a 40-97 team in Brevard County! Shades of Nashville, right?

Let's agree the Brewers can salvage this Player Development Contract offseason with a AAA move from Colorado Springs to Toledo. (There had better be a full-court press on there...).

But barring that Hail Mary completion, not only will the Brewers have to occasionally avoid sending pitchers to Colorado Springs (as they have hinted at doing in print and on-air reports this summer), but this will be shades of the Brewers' High-A affiliation with the (like Bakersfield, now defunct) High Desert Mavericks, circa 2001-2004.

Our Brewerfan website (and the daily Minor League Link Reports) originated in 2001, and our longtime readers will recollect similar quotes from that era regarding the Brewers' best pitching prospects and that High Desert (Adelanto, CA) location. The Brewers had four managers give High Desert a shot (Frank Kremblas, Mike Caldwell, Tim Blackwell, and Mel Queen). Stan Kyles and John Curtis had pitching coach stints there before escaping the desert (excuse me, before getting promoted).

In what was a combination of the state of the Brewers' weak system in those years (but moreso a nod that top pitching prospects were bumped to AA Huntsville in those days as quickly as possible, or skipped High Desert altogether), the Brewers posted records of 60-80, 42-98, and 49-91 in the final three years of the relationship, before thankfully, Brevard County became available.

Does the Biloxi roster allow for 30 pitchers? Heck, we can't have Taylor Jungmann and others who will be ill-affected by Colorado Springs pitch for the Sky Sox. And as for this wonderful group of 2016 Timber Rattlers and Manatee pitchers? Wow, welcome to Lancaster, where Astros' pitchers surrendered 161 home runs in 140 games with a 4.99 ERA this season (that's home and away, perhaps someone can locate the home/road breakdown for us).

And let's not overlook what an environment like Lancaster does to developing hitters.

This article at SB Nation's Crawfish Boxes site is a fine read which includes the opening text just below --

Is Lancaster Teaching Houston Astros Prospects Bad Habits?
The Astros are looking to move their High-A affiliate to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for "efficiency reasons and development reasons," which prompts the question: Is Lancaster hurting the development of young hitters?
By Anthony Boyer ( @EephusTosser)

Lancaster, home to the Astros' High-A team since the 2009 season, has a reputation as an extreme hitters' park. A combination of altitude, aridity, and fierce winds that usually blow out to right field all adds up to offense, and a lot of it. Because of that, there has been some speculation - including by yours truly - that when hitters are knocking every other ball over the fence, it may be hard to teach them good habits, like pitch selection, that will make them more-effective professionals in the long run.

***

The player development implications of the Brewers' High-A affiliate landing in Lancaster are almost too numerous to mention. Others will dig deeper into the numbers than I have done here, but the Milwaukee analytical staff will be put to the test to properly assess and place youngsters at this level for the next two years, and possibly beyond. It's one thing to assess 26-29 year-old's at AAA Colorado Springs, it's even more impactful to developing 21-23 year-old's at High-A.

The convenient shuttle for players and coaching rovers between Brevard County and Biloxi, that'll be gone.

The Hangar is not a natural grass park, but has "a high grade sports turf artificial playing surface".

From our own minor league fandom perspective (yes, hardly important in the big picture), only one of the eight California League teams (San Jose) is on MiLB.TV, but at least there would be audio coverage, something we didn't have with the Manatees in 2016. And for you night owls, late-night audio entertainment, as we had with the oddly fantastic Mike Lindskog in his young High Desert days (and look, Mike is back in the Cal League!).

And nothing personal, Lancaster staff, you're all fine folks, you're just used to being the last kids picked on the playground.

***

Sidenote: This is not the first time Mudcats owner Steve Bryant has sold his team. Bryant sold the AA Carolina club to an ownership group that moved the team to Pensacola as the Blue Yahoos in 2012. Bryant then acquired the Kinston Indians Carolina League franchise and moved that club in-state to the still-home of the Carolina Mudcats. That's how Carolina made the unique move from a AA to High-A affiliate.

Let's remember that the Rockies' purchase of the Mudcats is not official as of yet.

***

And finally, obviously what will be big topics of discussion here --

- When will Mark Attanasio and the Brewers join the ever-growing trend of MLB teams making significant financial ownership investments in favorable minor league teams and/or ballparks, to ensure the best and most convenient player development situations?

- Is there still time for the Brewers to sweep in on a Carolina purchase in this case? Did the Brewers know that it would take an ownership attempt in order to set up their High-A affiliation there, and if so, when did they realize this? Why are the Rockies in the lead here and not the Brewers?

- If the Brewers don't land in Toledo at AAA nor Carolina, does that mean that VP of Special Projects Gord Ash's summer didn't go so well? It had been reported earlier that Ash was tasked with working on the 2017-18 affiliation situations.

***

I'm not sure what the most-forsaken, least-desirable AA location is, but at this pace, when the Biloxi contract is up after 2020, somehow Milwaukee will end up there. At least we can count on the Timber Rattlers, right? The Brewers might want to buy out Wisconsin ownership just to make sure.

Yikes, maybe we'll learn prior to the September 30th deadline this was all wasted text and the Brewers will be in both Toledo and Carolina next April, or at least one. Otherwise, not good. Not good. Opposite of good.

-- Jim G.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#2

Posted: September 19, 2016, 4:26 AM Post
Posts: 525
[angry] [angry] [angry] [angry] [angry] [angry]
Initial (extremely) hot take...
Nice job Attanasio. What'd we get for fielding the lowest payroll by far in the majors? Gord Ash? That's right we'll spend money when we are ready to compete again [rolling eyes]
At least they will be within a 90 minute drive for our owner to watch Diplan, Medeiros, Peralta, Burnes, Yamamoto, Ponce get lit up, loose confidence, and gain bad habits.
The commitment you've demonstrated to the Brewers, I assure you, is equaled by my own commitment to doing better


Unless it involves spending more than the slotted amount on player development because that isn't going to happen.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#3

Posted: September 19, 2016, 5:51 AM Post
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The potential of being left with two of the least desirable and most offensively skewed environments in minor league baseball is tough to swallow. With the collection of projectable talent now amassed it seems as important as ever to find suitable affiliates with which to align.

I tend to believe that an investment across the board in minor leaguer welfare and development is going to be a significant trend over the next decade. Finding a ballpark that is a good fit for developing and evaluating talent is important, but there are also many additional aspects of the minor league experience that can be improved with increased financial resources invested (i.e. nutrition, lodging/housing, travel, strength and conditioning, one-on-one instruction, video, etc.). A team willing to make a significant investment in their minor league system can seemingly separate themselves from the pack. In some cases players go from college baseball where they have resources at their disposal such as nutritionists, catered meals, housing, strength & conditioning coaches, training facilities, chartered flights, etc. to professional baseball where the experience seems prone to varying greatly by organization and its affiliates.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#4

Posted: September 19, 2016, 7:51 AM Post
Posts: 9609
Unacceptable. The Brewers rely almost exclusively on developing talent, so having the right locations for minor league teams is sort of...I don't know....critical? Add that this is happening at the worst possible time. During a re-build where they actually have a lot of talent to actually develop.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#5

Posted: September 19, 2016, 8:05 AM Post
Posts: 525
It was unacceptable when Nashville, but when it happens again 2 years later? There is either systematic incompetence or apathy and likely both. Maybe we'll get a nice public comment about how we were duped by the Brevard/Kissamee after fielding a 97 loss team. That'll be fun.

Its not that Lancaster should be a prohibitive excuse. The Astros have developed a great collection of organizational talent, but...

I can accept the Brewers' place as a runt at the dinner bowl, but why does this organization chose be a passive, reactive runt? A bad spring training home, a bad AAA home, a bad A+ home, limited international scouting, investment, and development, it is hard not to be depressed.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#6

Posted: September 19, 2016, 8:29 AM Post
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I can't say this is about winning, I think a logical argument that the brewers can make is that since low A made the playoffs the brewers high A team should be decent, no matter what happened over the last few years in BC. I am not sure what more the brewers can do to avoid being the last person at the table every time a PDC expires, besides as others have suggested buying a stake in these teams.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#7

Posted: September 19, 2016, 10:37 AM Post
Posts: 235
I wonder what Stearns feels about all of this. As was pointed out the Brewers are last in line when it comes to the affiliation dance, are in one of the worst ST facilities (at least based on the surrounding area) and very low on the totem pole for international FA.

Is he:
1) feeling like Mark A. is unwilling to invest in these areas that you would think are very important to Stearns
2) feeling like he and Mark A. has not been well served by Ash (or are still paying the reputational price of the Melvin/Ash regime)
3) disappointed but understanding that the kind of organizational changes were looking for (affiliations/ST Facility/Instructional support system) is like turning a ship around in the ocean and takes a long time to get it right

I hope it is #2 but fear it is #1. No matter what, publically Stearns will say it is #3.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#8

Posted: September 19, 2016, 10:46 AM Post
Posts: 9609
Well, publicly they'll say it's a good test for their young players. That's what they've said already about CS.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#9

Posted: September 19, 2016, 11:06 AM Post
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Gord, you had one job to do. One job.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#10

Posted: September 19, 2016, 11:25 AM Post
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Who is more responsible for affiliations, the farm team or the parent club? I don't know but reading about our situation it seems that the minor league team has the most say in who they join up with. It sucks that we're getting stuck in crappy places but it seems to me like it's more bad luck than any fault of the Brewers. It's not like the Brewers have 30 options to chose from at each level every year. There are only so many teams available every year and when you figure half of those are almost guaranteed to just reup with their current club you're left with 2 or 3 choices. Like I said, it sucks, but we'll get through it.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#11

Posted: September 19, 2016, 11:28 AM Post
Posts: 16239
And That said:
Gord, you had one job to do. One job.


Not like he was given a lot to work with.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#12

Posted: September 19, 2016, 11:37 AM Post
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jerichoholicninja said:
Who is more responsible for affiliations, the farm team or the parent club? I don't know but reading about our situation it seems that the minor league team has the most say in who they join up with. It sucks that we're getting stuck in crappy places but it seems to me like it's more bad luck than any fault of the Brewers. It's not like the Brewers have 30 options to chose from at each level every year. There are only so many teams available every year and when you figure half of those are almost guaranteed to just reup with their current club you're left with 2 or 3 choices. Like I said, it sucks, but we'll get through it.

I believe its a 2 way street.

For example, it was Nashville that ended the relationship with the brewers, while it was Colorado that ended the relationship with Colorado Springs in 2014


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#13

Posted: September 19, 2016, 12:04 PM Post
Posts: 525
jerichoholicninja said:
it's more bad luck than any fault of the Brewers.

The Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Braves and apparently the Rockies were able to be proactive in improving less than desirable their A+ situation or recognize they were being squeezed out and invest in a solution.

It's 100% the fault of the Brewers.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#14

Posted: September 19, 2016, 12:11 PM Post
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This is a truly awful development for the Brewers minor league system.

On the bright side, Isan Diaz and Lucas Erceg are going to mash again next year.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#15

Posted: September 19, 2016, 12:51 PM Post
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And That said:
Gord, you had one job to do. One job.


This. And this is also on ownership. Shell out some money and buy a good affiliate in a good league. We need to rely on development. Having your affiliates in desirable places and knowing you aren't going to be squeezed out to an undesirable location is hugely important.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#16

Posted: September 19, 2016, 1:54 PM Post
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trwi7 said:
And That said:
Gord, you had one job to do. One job.


This. And this is also on ownership. Shell out some money and buy a good affiliate in a good league. We need to rely on development. Having your affiliates in desirable places and knowing you aren't going to be squeezed out to an undesirable location is hugely important.


An affiliate like Carolina wouldn't even be a terrible investment. It could be had for a fraction of what they've previously committed to for multi-year contracts to aging pitchers who performed poorly, they're in one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country and on the other side of Raleigh so not really competing with AAA-Durham for attendance. Add in some consideration of the difference between another "worst at its level" affiliate and one in a good league that you can control, and it doesn't seem like a terrible drop in the pond for Attanasio.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#17

Posted: September 19, 2016, 2:59 PM Post
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I'm obviously disappointed, but I've already said everything I have to say about MILB affiliates between the AAA and A+ threads.

/sigh

Casey that was a pretty sweet chart at the end of the BC thread, that was much better than me just listing out the populations in the AAA thread. I may steal that concept for future use!

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."
- Plato
"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."
- Plato


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#18

Posted: September 19, 2016, 4:31 PM Post
Posts: 26765
How much would it cost to buy out the Carolina High A franchise, ballpark figure?


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#19

Posted: September 19, 2016, 5:14 PM Post
Posts: 16239
adambr2 said:
How much would it cost to buy out the Carolina High A franchise, ballpark figure?


Depends a lot on the quality of stadium, but you'd expect to pay $10mil-$20mil for an A+ team. Some can go for single digits.

If you want a AAA team they run $20mil-$30mil.


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Offline  Re: Brewers High-A Affiliation -- Oh My, Hello Lancaster, and All That Means
#20

Posted: September 19, 2016, 5:25 PM Post
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I just hope we get a decent team and in two years out of Colorado Springs


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