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Who Has The Best Player-Development Facilities in 2019? We Rank From Bottom to Top, Part 2

Major League Baseball

The backbone of any successful MLB franchise is a successful player-development system. And these days successful player development means strong MiLB and spring-training facilities. We rank MLB organizations by the quality of their player-development facilities, as updated for 2019.

There are teams with some definite player-development philosophies, like the Atlanta Braves, who prefer owning and operating their affiliates, and the Chicago White Sox, who centralize affiliates for the most part in North Carolina and the South. Others, it seems, don’t have much of a philosophical bent and evaluate each affiliate separately. We know every MLB team wants the perfect player-development system, but perfection is hard to achieve. Hence these ratings, which were first introduced in 2018 and have been updated for 2019.

No black-box methodology here. We asked former GMs, broadcasters past and present, and journalists with expertise in specific leagues to rank facilities based on four criteria: player facilities, fan experience, proximity and stability. Player facilities include clubhouses, workout spaces, quality of batting/pitching cages, meeting spaces and cafeteria/nutritional services. The fan experience covers the physical condition of the ballpark, concessions and in-game entertainment. Proximity covers to what extent players are shuffled around; being closer to the MLB parent and other MiLB affiliates is always a good thing. Finally, stability covers the length of the current affiliation deal and expectations of the future. We cover every level of MiLB affiliation (including MiLB teams owned by the parent), as well as spring-training facilities. Spring complexes are increasingly used as year-round facilities: after spring training ends, complexes are used for rehabs, extended-spring workouts and potentially MiLB play, as well as hosting Rookie-league games.

Each level of play was assigned a potential score in each category, with AAA and spring-training facilities receiving the highest number of potential points, decreasing by level of play. There are two teams with two Rookie-level affiliates—the Reds and the Royals—and that commitment to development is reflected in the scores. We asked our experts to limit their responses to ballparks and spring facilities they’ve actually visited, and their responses are reported here in aggregated form. No single opinion dominates any ranking, as multiple feedbacks are reflected in every instance.

As noted, we present the rankings from bottom to top, with daily stories through Friday.

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium

24. Toronto Blue Jays

2019 score: 142  2018 score: 146 (20th)

Although relatively low for now, this is a score that could rise after 2019. With Dunedin Stadium set to undergo renovations for spring training and the Dunedin Blue Jays (High A; Florida State League) in time for next spring, the Blue Jays stand to make considerable improvements beyond this year. In the interim, however, construction work on the renovations will result in the Dunedin Blue Jays playing the bulk of their 2019 home schedule at Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium–a former spring training and MiLB home that has been downsized and used for high school and college baseball in recent years. The rest of the system is pretty solid, however, and that could help the Blue Jays make strides in the rankings once the renovations in Dunedin are completed.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience  Proximity Stability Potential
AAA (Buffalo Bisons) 7 7 8 7 10
AA (New Hampshire Fisher Cats) 7 7 8 8 9
High A (Dunedin Blue Jays) 5 4 4 4 8
Low A (Lansing Lugnuts) 6 5 5 6 7
SSA (Vancouver Candians) 3 4 2 4 4
Rookie (Bluefield Blue Jays) 2 3 2 3 4
ST 4 4 5 8 8
Totals 34 34 34 40 50

American Family Fields of Phoenix 2019

23. Milwaukee Brewers

2019 score: 144   2018 score: 136 (26th)

Two factors primarily helped the Brewers moved up the rankings this year. First, the renovation of AmFam Fields of Phoenix (formerly Maryvale Baseball Park) resulted in considerable improvements across the board for spring training scores. In a more modest, but still notable gain, the move of the Rocky Mountain Vibes (Rookie; Pioneer League) to Colorado Springs’ Security Service Field helps bump up the scores at the Rookie level. Beyond that, the Brewers have a pretty stable slate of farm clubs, albeit with a scattered arrangement geographically. The most glaring facilities issue is at the top of the minor-league system, as the San Antonio Missions (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are expected to push for a new ballpark to replace Wolff Stadium–a ballpark originally built in 1994 for Class-AA Texas League action that, at least in its current form, will not be an adequate home for Triple-A baseball long term.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience  Proximity  Stability Potential
AAA (San Antonio Missions) 5 5 5 6 10
AA (Biloxi Shuckers) 9 8 7 8 9
High A (Carolina Mudcats) 6 5 5 8 8
Low A (WI Timber Rattlers) 5 7 7 7 7
Rookie (Rocky Mountain Vibes) 4 3 2 3 4
Spring Training 8 7 6 8 8
Totals 37 35 32 40 46

Hammond Stadium

22. Minnesota Twins

2019 score: 146   2018 score: 132 (27th)

A year has made a big difference for the Twins, owing largely to their new affiliation with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Class AA; Southern League). Not only is Blue Wahoos Stadium a considerable upgrade over Chattanooga’s AT&T Field as a facility, but its better proximity to the Fort Myers Miracle (High A; Florida State League) certainly helps in a system where there is considerable distance between many of the affiliates. Add to that impending upgrades to player facilities for the Elizabethton Twins (Rookie; Appalachian League) at Joe O’Brien Field, and the Twins make some gains in 2019. Some of the other ballparks in the system could use upgrades, which the Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League) have been exploring the possibility of Frontier Field upgrades, but in the interim the Twins have made some progress.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience Proximity Stability Potential
AAA (Rochester Red Wings) 7 6 4 8 10
AA (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) 8 8 6 7 9
High A (Fort Myers Miracle) 8 7 6 8 8
Low A (Cedar Rapids Kernels) 4 6 7 7 7
Rookie (Elizabethon Twins) 2 1 1 4 4
ST 8 8 7 8 8
Totals 37 36 31 42 46

SRP Park Augusta GreenJackets 2018

21. San Francisco Giants

2019 score: 149  2018 score: 147 (19th)

The Giants slide down the rankings, despite an improved score that accounts for last year’s successful opening of SRP Park for the Augusta GreenJackets (Low A; Sally League). That ballpark arguably exceeded what were already fairly high expectations upon its debut, but there are still a few facility issues within the farm system. The Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) have been working for years to replace The Diamond with a new ballpark, though they have at least managed to build a solid fan experience at that facility despite its very limited amenities. The other issue is the quality of spring-training facilities, with Scottsdale Stadium in need of upgrades that the club could complete in the coming years.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience  Proximity  Stability Potential
AAA (Sacramento River Cats) 7 8 10 9 10
AA (Richmond Flying Squirrels) 5 6 4 6 9
High A (San Jose Giants) 6 6 8 8 8
Low A (Augusta GreenJackets) 7 7 4 6 7
SSA (Salem-Keizer Volcanoes) 3 3 3 4 4
ST 7 7 7 8 8
Totals 35 37 36 41 46

Salt River Fields

20 Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 score: 151  2018 score: 149 (18th)

Spring training’s Salt River Fields at Talking Stick has received a couple of higher scores from a year ago, reflecting the fact that it remains one of the better venues in the Cactus League. Outside of that, among the highlights of the system are the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and their home Greater Nevada Field–which compares nicely to other Triple-A ballparks across the board–and the solid player facilities and fan experience offered by the Hillsboro Hops (Short Season A; Northwest League) at Ron Tonkin Field. The rest of the ballparks among the full-season affiliates are solid facilities, but none particularly stand out in comparison with other ballparks at their respective levels. It is also in this part of the system where the Diamondbacks are hampered by their low proximity scores, as the Kane County Cougars (Low A; Midwest League), Visalia Rawhide (High A; California League), and Jackson Generals (Class AA; Southern League) play a considerable distance from each other.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience  Proximity  Stability Potential
AAA (Reno Aces) 8 8 7 9 10
AA (Jackson Generals) 5 5 5 6 9
High A (Visalia Rawhide) 5 7 5 7 8
Low A (Kane County Cougars) 5 5 4 5 7
SSA (Hillsboro Hops) 4 3 3 4 4
Rookie (Missoula Osprey) 2 2 2 3 4
ST 8 8 8 8 8
Totals 37 38 34 42 50

Dunkin' Donuts Park

20 Colorado Rockies

2019 score: 151  2018 score: 149 (18th)

Like their spring-training co-tenant, the Rockies benefit from the quality of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. There are also some decent scores to be found at the higher levels of the system, including Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and their Isotopes Park, as well as those generated by Dunkin’ Donuts Park–the home of the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League). This is a rather scattered system geographically, however, with many of the affiliates playing a considerable distance from each other. There is also a farm club actively pursuing a new ballpark in the Boise Hawks (Short Season A; Northwest League), who have built strong attendance numbers in recent years despite the out-of-date condition of Memorial Stadium.

Level Player Facilities Fan Experience  Proximity  Stability Potential
AAA (Albuquerque Isotopes) 6 9 7 8 10
AA (Hartford Yard Goats) 9 9 3 8 9
High A (Lancaster JetHawks) 6 5 4 6 8
Low A (Asheville Tourists) 5 5 3 6 7
SSA (Boise Hawks) 1 2 4 3 4
Rookie (Grand Junction Rockies) 2 2 3 3 4
ST 8 8 8 8 8
Totals 37 40 32 42 50

Previous 2019 Player Development Facility Rankings

Part 1: Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves

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