Over the weekend, I attended a Rough Riders (the Texas Rangers’ AA affiliate) baseball game with a couple of my girl friends. During the course of the game, they had several questions about how the minor league works, so I thought that would be a great topic for this week.
The minor league is broken down into several levels of play: Rookie, Class A Short, A, AA, and AAA. Each major league team has their own Minor League system which includes a team at each level. The players on these teams are all vying for a spot on that team’s major league team.
A team’s minor league teams are often collectively referred to as a “farm system”. It might seem like it, but the minor league teams aren’t owned outright by a major league club. They actually have an affiliation contract with the team, meaning all players playing for the minor league team are being developed for the major league club.
Rookie and Class A Short leagues play a shortened season. They are also the lowest level of baseball. ’A’ ball, often referred to as “single A”, is the next step up, then AA (or “double A”), and finally AAA (or “triple A”). There are also independent leagues, which consist of teams not affiliated with any major league teams.
When players are drafted, they are then sent to the particular level where the team feels their skill set fits. Generally, that means one of the lower levels, but that’s not always the case. Players are then brought up as their skills develop. Sometimes players will move up quickly (over just a year or 2), but more often than not, players will spend many years moving up through the system. And most won’t ever play major league ball.
At the beginning of each season, the major league club will have a 25-man roster (those players that will start out playing for the major league team) and a 40-man roster (all players that are eligible to play for the team that year). If a minor league player is placed on the 40-man roster, then throughout the season, that particular player can move from the minor league roster to the major league roster without any additional paperwork and such.
If a player is not on the 40-man roster, but the team wants to “call him up” then they have to move someone off the 40-man roster, generally through releasing or trading him. The team will also have to purchase his contract from the minor league team. The 40-man roster also includes any players on the disabled list (or injured players).
On September 1, a team can call up all the players on the 40-man roster, meaning they can play in any games after September 1. This is a great way for teams to rest their star players, but giving some of the minor league players that will probably be playing for the club the next year a chance to get in some major league time. That said, if a player is not on the 25-man roster at the end of the season, he cannot play in the playoffs should the team make it.
The minor leagues aren’t always just use for player development. Major league clubs will also use them for rehab assignments for players that are on the major league roster. Let’s say a player has been injured for a month or 2, instead of bringing him straight up to the majors, they’ll often assign him to a minor league team (often the one that is geographically closest to the major league team) to play a few games and get in some real-game practice before coming back up.
If you have a baseball-related question or topic you’d like to see discussed or explained here, please shoot me an email at LorInBigD@gmail.com or tweet at me @LorInBigD.