Today the 2020 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays invited four communities to join with them as affiliates under Major League Baseball’s new player development structure, which begins in 2021.
The details of these invitations were provided via team press release:
The Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs were invited to become the Rays Low-A affiliate. Charleston served as Tampa Bay’s original Low-A affiliate from 1997 until 2004, and affiliated with the New York Yankees from 2005 until 2020. Among the many former Rays prospects who played for Charleston are James Shields, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli. In addition, Rays coaches Matt Quatraro and Paul Hoover both played for Charleston, and Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo managed Charleston in 1999 and 2000. The RiverDogs play at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park.
The Bowling Green (Ky.) Hot Rods were invited to continue as a Rays affiliate, advancing from Low-A to the High-A classification. The Hot Rods became a Rays affiliate in 2009, and have reached the postseason in four consecutive seasons (2016-19). In 2018, they won the Midwest League championship and were named Baseball America Minor League Team of the Year.
The reshuffling drops Port Charlotte (FL) from High-A to the Gulf Coast League, and although the complex will continue to serve as the team’s Spring Training facility, as well as the informal Extended Spring Training and Instructional leagues, this move too may be short lived if the Rays ultimately build a new stadium in Tampa, which has the rumored promise of becoming the team’s Spring Training complex as well.
Meanwhile, the Rays affiliates in Hudson Valley (NY) and Princeton (WV) depart the organization, with the Renegades becoming the new Yankees High-A affiliate. That move drops the locally based Tampa Tarpons to Low-A for the Yankees.
“The Rays would like to thank the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Hudson Valley Renegades and Princeton Rays for their many years of affiliation with our organization,” said Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Erik Neander. “The Rays were very fortunate to have close, long-standing relationships at every level, and we appreciate the pivotal role all our affiliates play in helping our players develop on their journeys to the big leagues.”
The Rays higher affiliates remain unchanged.
The Durham (N.C.) Bulls were invited to continue as the Rays Triple-A affiliate. Durham moved to the Triple-A level in 1998, when they became a Rays affiliate, and in 22 seasons since then advanced to the postseason 16 times and captured six International League titles (2002, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2017, 2018).
The Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits were invited to continue as the Rays Double-A affiliate. A Rays affiliate since 2004, the Biscuits have won two Southern League championships (2006, 2007) and reached the postseason in five consecutive seasons from 2015-19. In 2019, they went 88-50, setting a franchise record for wins.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to continue partnering with our friends in Durham, Montgomery and Bowling Green in developing the next wave of Rays players. They have been tremendous partners,” said Rays Vice President, Player Development and International Scouting Carlos Rodriguez. “Likewise, our relationship with Charleston many years ago was very fruitful. The RiverDogs staff and fans create an environment where young prospects can flourish and grow, and we are excited to invite them back in to the Rays family.”
Additional details from the press release were as follows:
- Rays affiliates combined for a .584 winning pct. (1,040-741) over the 2018-19 seasons, the best mark for any parent club during that stretch.
- In 2020, the Rays became the sixth team to rank No. 1 in Baseball America’s preseason Organizational Talent Rankings and advance to the World Series that same year, joining the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, 2008 Rays, 1999 Atlanta Braves, 1995 Braves and 1993 Blue Jays. The Rays claimed the No. 1 spot in Baseball America’s Organizational Talent Rankings in July 2019 and have held it since.
- The Rays had seven players on Baseball America’s season-ending ranking of Top 100 prospects, tied with the Miami Marlins for most in the majors. This group includes baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect in shortstop Wander Franco and 2020 American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Randy Arozarena (No. 100 overall)—the first rookie position player to win MVP of a LCS or the World Series.