The Cardinals have built one of the best minor league systems in Major League Baseball. Several of the top prospects have the ability to be stars at the highest level. Did you know that the idea of a “farm system” began in St. Louis?
Former Cardinal manager, general manager, and team president Branch Rickey is recognized as the founder of the current minor league system. Rickey built the Cardinals into a dynasty in the 1920′s, ’30′s, and ’40′s using this system.
Lets take a look at each of the teams from the lowest levels to the highest:
Dominican Summer League Cardinals
The Dominican Summer League (DSL) team was the only International team the Cardinals operated in 2012. Players that play in the DSL are international players who are typically from the Caribbean and are not eligible for the MLB draft so they can sign with any team. The ages of players in the DSL range from 17-20.
The Gulf Coast League Cardinals
The Gulf Coast League Cardinals (GCL) is the lowest Cardinal farm team in the United States. The GCL Cards begin play late June and play home games at the Cardinals spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida. The players that play in the GCL range in ages from 18-20 and who were recent high school draft picks or international players moving up from the DSL.
Johnson City Cardinals (R)
The Johnson City Cardinals are a part of the Rookie level Appalachian League, commonly known as the Appy League. The Cards play their home games at Howard Johnson Field in Johnson City, Tennessee. The JC Cardinals, who have been with the big club since 1975, are the oldest current team in the system. Players for the JC Cards are recently drafted high school players or lower round college draftees, and the season begins in late June
State College Spikes (A-)
State College is returning as the Cardinals Short Season or Low A affiliate after being away for six years. Last season, this affiliate was in Batavia, New York. The Spikes play in the New York – Penn League and face competition all across the states of New York and Pennsylvania. The Spikes play their home games at Medlar Field in State College, Pennsylvania. Players that typically play at this level are recent college graduates or high school graduates that have been in the system for a year or two. The Spikes’ season begins in late June.
Peoria Chiefs (A)
The Chiefs are also returning to the Cardinals organization after being away for eight years and are the Cardinals Mid-level A affiliate. For the past eight years the Quad Cities River Bandits were part of the organization. The Chiefs will play their home games at O’Brien Field in Peoria, Illinois and are a part of the Midwest League which plays its games primarily in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. Some high level college draftees will begin here. Recently, Kolten Wong and Stephen Piscotty have begun their professional careers at this level.
Palm Beach Cardinals (A+)
The Palm Beach Cardinals have been the St. Louis Cardinals High A or Advanced A for the past 10 seasons. The “Beach Birds” also play their home games at the Cards’ spring training facility, Roger Dean Stadium, in Jupiter Florida. The PB Cards are a part of the Florida State League and play all of their games in Florida.
Springfield Cardinals (AA)
The Springfield Cardinals have been the St. Louis Cardinals AA affiliate for the past eight years although various levels have played in Springfield in the past. The Cards’ play their home games in the beautiful Hammons Field and are a part of the Texas League. The Texas League is made up of teams from Texas, Arkansas, Springfield, MO, and Tulsa, OK. This level is known to have the best baseball players in all of the minor leagues. Many players make the jump from AA to the majors. Trevor Rosenthal made this same jump in 2012 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Memphis Redbirds (AAA)
Memphis has been the Cardinals highest affiliate for the past 15 years. The Redbirds play their home game in AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. If you have never been to a Redbirds game you should visit. The park is in an awesome part of town. The Redbirds play in the Pacific Coast League and primarily play teams west of the Mississippi River with the lone exception the Nashville Sounds. This level is usually filled with players who may have some significant major league experience. You will also see big time prospects at this level. Matt Adams and Shelby Miller played in Memphis in 2012.
I hope this guide gives you a better understanding of how the Cardinals farm system works. Please let me know if you have any questions about any of these teams!