Dodgers Invade Oklahoma! – Fallout From The Affiliation Shuffle

Dodger fans, you won’t want to look out for Lookouts when next year’s Pro Debut and Minor League Heritage sets come out.

…Just like the scene will be “Grizzly” if Giants fans pick up cards of 2015 Fresno players.

(Trust me, I had even worse wordplay going, but I decided to delete it and spare you the additional agony.)

The point of all this nonsense is that we’ve finally reached the end of an unusually-drawn-out minor league affiliation “silly season”, and fans of a number of teams have adjustments ahead of them.

The most notable changes involved the Dodgers shifting their top two affiliations to teams in Oklahoma. Aside from the fact that the AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks are being sold to a group with Dodger connections, the organization apparently wanted to get their prospects in a home park that plays truer than Albuquerque’s high-altitude ballpark. Albuquerque’s elevation is just over a mile high, did you know that? I didn’t know that.

2010 Topps Pro Debut #242 - Michael Kirkman - Courtesy of COMC.com

2010 Topps Pro Debut #242 – Michael Kirkman – Courtesy of COMC.com

Since the Dodgers can’t have a AA team near their parent club – there are no AA teams west of Texas – they must’ve figured that having it near their AAA team was the next best thing, so they hooked up with the Tulsa Drillers, just over 100 miles from OKC.

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #109 - Kyle Parker - Courtesy of COMC.com

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #109 – Kyle Parker – Courtesy of COMC.com

Suddenly, you’ve got Dodger Country in the middle of the United States. It’ll be interesting to see if the Dodgers can leverage that into a devoted fan base.

Other notable changes…

Since their very first season, the Rockies have had their AAA team in Colorado Springs. That won’t be the case in 2015 after the Rockies surprised people by shifting their affiliation over to the Albuquerque Isotopes.  The Rockies had apparently grown disenchanted with the Sky Sox, so it makes sense for them to have their prospects in another “Mile-High City”.

Speaking of long-term relationships coming to an end, the Cubs left their Hi-A team in Daytona after a 22-year relationship.

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #160 - Javier Baez - Courtesy of COMC.com

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #160 – Javier Baez – Courtesy of COMC.com

Myrtle Beach proved to be too much of a draw for the Cubbies, but now the Daytona club has to rebrand on relatively short notice, as they can’t use the “Daytona Cubs” name they’ve used since the 1990’s.

Most of the affiliation changes were announced in the first few days, but the last pieces of the puzzle took two weeks to sort out. After most of the dance partners were chosen, the ones left standing against the walls were the Braves and Rangers, who were sizing up their High-A options with the Carolina Mudcats (Zebulon, NC) and the High Desert Mavericks (Adelanto, CA). For a variety of reasons, many teams prefer to be in the Carolina League rather than the California League, and the ballpark in Adelanto is considered to be overly hitter-friendly.

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #85 - Francisco Liriano - Courtesy of COMC.com

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition Venezuelan #85 – Francisco Lindor – Courtesy of COMC.com

Because of this, the Mudcats were able to take their time, listen to the overtures of their two suitors, and ultimately picked the Braves… Not a huge surprise as a team in North Carolina would have an easier time marketing the Braves than they would the Rangers.

This has nothing to do with affiliation shuffle, but I thought I’d mention that the Mudcats, like the Isotopes, are regularly among the top minor league teams in merchandise sales.

…And before I get off the subject of the Mudcats, I want to vent about something.  The following is an excerpt from an article on the website of a Georgia newspaper:

[The Braves’] Class A Advanced team, the Lynchburg Hillcats, will move from Lynchburg, Va., to Zebulon, N.C., beginning in 2015… The Advanced-A team will be known as the Carolina Mudcats and will remain as a part of the Carolina League.

Writing like this drives me nuts, because a newspaper is supposed to know better, or at least express their knowledge better. The Lynchburg Hillcats are not moving, nobody “will be known as the Carolina Mudcats” except for the team that has been the Carolina Mudcats. The agreement that the Braves had with the Hillcats expired, and they signed a new agreement with the Mudcats. The Hillcats are still there, they signed an agreement with the Indians.

Thank you for your time. End of rant.

So that’s pretty much a quick overview of the highlights of the latest shuffle… but got me curious… After the Sacramento RiverCats switched their affiliation from the Athletics to the Giants, I heard that there are some fans in the area who are none too pleased about it. So, because of that I want to ask…

Has anyone’s local minor league team changed affiliation? Are you on board with the change, against it or just indifferent?

In the meantime, for those who search for minor league cards of their teams’ affiliates, here’s a heads-up on the new affiliates and/or relocated teams for 2015:

Astros: Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
Athletics: Nashville Sounds (AAA)
Braves: Carolina Mudcats (Hi-A)
Brewers: Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA), Biloxi (AA, relocation from Huntsville, name to be determined)
Cubs: Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Hi-A), South Bend Cubs (Lo-A, called the Silver Hawks in 2014), Eugene Emeralds (SS)
Diamondbacks: Kane County Cougars (Lo-A)
Dodgers: Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA); Tulsa Drillers (AA)
Giants: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)
Indians: Lynchburg Hillcats (HI-A)
Mariners: Bakersfield Blaze (Hi-A)
Padres: Tri-City Dust Devils (SS)
Pirates: Morgantown, WV (Lo-A, relocation from Jamestown NY, name to be determined)
Rangers: High Desert Mavericks (Hi-A)
Reds: Daytona (Hi-A, name to be determined)
Rockies: Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA), New Britain Rock Cats (AA), Boise Hawks (SS)
Twins: Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Yankees: Pulaski Yankees (Rookie)
No change: Angels, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, White Sox

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5 thoughts on “Dodgers Invade Oklahoma! – Fallout From The Affiliation Shuffle

  1. The closest I’m getting to a minor league affiliation change is the New Britain Rock Cats switching from the Twins to the Rockies – when they make their trip to Trenton, I’ll be able to see minor leaguers from a different organization (if I go to that series.)

    The local teams aren’t going to be shifting soon – the Mets & Yankees own a piece of the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, respectively. The Trenton Thunder have an affiliation agreement with the Yankees that runs through 2022. The Lakewood BlueClaws’ agreement with the Phillies only runs through 2016, but I can’t imagine either party wanting to change it.

  2. Padres switched from the Eugene Emeralds to the Tri City Dust Devils. Never been to a game in the North West League, but I DID like that they’d been w/Eugene for a while, and I REALLY liked the Emerald’s logo/color scheme. Tri City seems like the opposite of Eugene – dull colors, probably one of the worst looking logos I’ve come across.

    Thankfully, the minor league teams closest to me (AAA Round Rock Express – Rangers, and AA San Antonio Missions – Padres) have stayed the same. I guess the only thing that would keep me from going to a game in Round Rock would be if it was a Dodger farm team, but the only reason I make the trip down to San Antonio once a year is to see the future Padres. It actually paid off this year too! Two of the guys I saw on my trip down there in July actually made it up to the big club this year: Cory Spangenberg and Rymer Liriano. Very cool.

    • It’s always fun when a player you’ve seen in the minors (especially AA or lower) makes it to the majors and you say “Hey, it’s the guy!”

      Heads up – rumor has it that the Express will be an Astros team in 2016, as the team is part-owned by Nolan & Reid Ryan.

  3. I was hoping that the Astros would wind up with Round Rock this year, but signs point to kicking it down the road a little bit until the Express team is out of its franchise contract with the Rangers. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them in Nashville, either. It’s farther away of course, but I’d be able to catch them when visiting my brother.

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