The Pittsburgh Pirates made a trade that I hate today, swapping high-A affiliates with the Cincinnati Reds, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Josh Leventhal confirms the story at Baseball America.
Pittsburgh would have their high-A affiliate in Bradenton next year, joining the Florida State League. Cincinnati would move their high-A team to Lynchburg, joining the Carolina League.
The Pirates have been affiliated with Lynchburg since 1995, and have had a team in the Carolina League since 1962. Aside from the obvious reasons for not liking the move (my close proximity to Lynchburg), I also feel that the Carolina League is a better choice for the Pirates.
In 2009, the Carolina League teams averaged a .256/.329/.383 line, with an average of 92 homers and 616 runs per team. As far as the high-A leagues, that put Carolina right in the middle: not too pitcher friendly, and not too hitter friendly.
In 2009, the Florida State League teams averaged a .252/.322/.363 line, with an average of 70 homers and 546 runs per team. The Florida State League ranks last in every one of those categories amongst all leagues ranging from low-A ball to AAA. That makes the Florida State League heavily skewed towards pitching.
To put that in perspective, think about the Pacific Coast League, and the effect it has on hitters. It’s hard to tell which hitters are legit, because the parks and the playing conditions are so hitter friendly that going by the results can be deceiving. The same case can be made for pitchers in the Florida State League, which means that we’ll see better numbers from our high-A guys, but it will be harder to tell if those numbers are legit, or just a product of the playing environment.
There’s also the proximity factor. Lynchburg is closer to West Virginia, the level right below high-A, and Altoona, the level above high A. Its only a four hour drive from Charleston, WV, where the West Virginia Power play, to Lynchburg. It would take a series of flights and about six hours to get from Bradenton to Charleston, unless the Pirates use a private jet that flies non stop, although if that’s the case, it’s still faster to go from Charleston to Lynchburg. The same is true on a larger scale from Lynchburg to Altoona, which is a five and a half hour drive, and at least an eight hour flight (considering stops) from Bradenton.
Even without the impact to the site, I wouldn’t like this move. The Pirates go from a neutral league where you can get a good read on the status of their prospects, to a league that is the most pitcher friendly league of all full season minor league levels. Not only does that make it harder to get a read on the prospects at the level, but it could potentially set back some hitters who struggle in the pitcher friendly environment.
As for the site, Richmond will have a team in the Eastern League, which means I will get four series’ to see Altoona next year. I also might take a trip to Charleston to see West Virginia. This all means that I’ll still have video recaps and interviews next year, just not as many as we saw this year.