Thursday, August 21, 2008

Minor League Shuffle

Some of the Rays lower minor league affiliates will be making moves in 2009. As we've known for a couple of years, spring training will move from Vero Beach to Port Charlotte on the west coast of Florida. But that is just the beginning.

The Columbus Catfish (A, South Atlantic League) will move to Bowling Green, KY. What is not known is whether they will also move from the South Atlantic League to the Midwest League. The Cleveland Indians would love to move their Lake County affiliate to the Midwest League to reduce travel. Lake County is the northernmost team in the Sally, located just outside of Cleveland. Since two teams would have to make the move together, Bowling Green may be the most likely partner to move to the Midwest with Lake County. Financial considerations (both getting into the Midwest and out of the Sally) will be the determining factor.

The Vero Beach Devil Rays (A+, Florida State League) will move to Port Charlotte now that they have been bought by the Ripken group. Possible name: Port Charlotte Ripken-Rays. Since they are moving from the east coast to the west coast, there will probably be a realignment of the FSL. There has been some talk of switching to North and South divisions, but the simpler and more likely scenario is for Port Charlotte to move to the FSL West and Lakeland to the FSL East. This will increase travel costs for Lakeland but something (money) can probably be worked out.

The Princeton Devil Rays (high rookie) will remain in West Virginia and the Hudson Valley Renegades (short-season A) will remain 70 miles north of Manhattan. The only remaining question is whether the Rays will add a seventh minor league franchise in the Gulf Coast League (low rookie) based out of the Port Charlotte complex. There are obvious advantages to having the organizations youngest players (high school picks, Venezuelans and Dominicans coming to the states) under the team's watchful eye at the complex. No official word yet, but 2010 looks more likely to add the GCL team.

8/29 Update: From someone with knowledge of the Indian's system, Lake County isn't moving to the Midwest League in 2009. That means Columbus will remain in the Sally too. Lake County is planning on 2010, but by then it's uncertain who they will take with them. Bowling Green's site is here, link to next year's schedule on the right.

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