Re-Mixing the Carolina and Sally (and Mally) Leagues
Back in September, I wrote a piece called “Mixing Up the Carolina and Sally Leagues.” At that time, I was exploring the optimal arrangements for the two Single-A leagues based on geography and MLB affiliation. Recently, there have been some rumors that have shaken up the way I’m thinking about these two leagues moving forward.
First up was Kevin Reichard’s recent rumor bombshell, which spelled out the expectations for the overall Single-A structure. The Carolina League would remain at High-A alongside the newly-promoted Northwest and Midwest Leagues, as well as the new league in the middle-Atlantic region, which for the purposes of this article I will be calling the “Mally League.” Meanwhile, Reichard expects that the Sally League would remain at Low-A with the newly-demoted California and Florida State Leagues. Although the final number of teams in the Carolina League was not released, the Sally League is rumored to be at a whopping twelve teams. Given the Carolina’s cramped position with three other leagues–especially the Midwest and their likely twelve teams–the circuit will likely remain small.
In that same article, Reichard mentioned a few other relevant things, notably this: “the Carolina League may end up being a real Carolina League.” That scrambled my brain a bit, because a quick glance at the maps of the Sally and Carolina teams shows that if the Carolina League sticks in the Carolinas, the Sally League would likely remain sprawled out, with some teams southwest of that pocket and others to the north. But one dude’s type-A maps mean little, and even if it flies in the face of common sense, Reichard’s rumors are likely to be true.
MLB is calling the shots, and there are some additional hints that come from expected affiliations. Reichard mentions that the Orioles want to maintain their existing affiliates, which in this case would mean that they want to keep the Aberdeen IronBirds and Delmarva Shorebirds. Geographically speaking, both of those teams are best-suited for the Mally League, though we can squint and see Delmarva slotting into the Carolina League map. But if Baltimore wants both, it seems more likely that Delmarva would stay in the Sally League, becoming the new northernmost outpost.
Then we have the Mudcat Quagmire, and though I’ve thought through a bunch of crazy directions this could lead, I think we have to operate under the assumption that the Brewers will still be with both the Timber Rattlers and the Mudcats. As such, the Mudcats would be likely to get booted to the Sally League.
Finally, I heard a rumor–a pure gossipy rumbling–that the Tampa Bay Rays are expected to join up with the Charleston RiverDogs, who were just abandoned by the Yankees. The person who dropped the rumor lives in Charleston, so I think there’s at least a chance that it has legitimacy. If this is the case, then Charleston would have to be a separate level than Tampa’s affiliate in the Florida State League. That means the RiverDogs could be slated to jump up to High-A in the new Carolina League.
With all of these new considerations, as well as a bunch of older considerations listed here, I’ve been looking at some realistic scenarios for the Carolina, Sally, and Mally Leagues. In these maps (pulled from milb.com’s map maker) orange denotes current Sally League teams and yellow is for current Carolina League teams.
Let’s start with the Carolina. Can you imagine a stripped-down, six-team Carolina League that looks like this?
Here we have one each of the Red Sox, White Sox, and Rangers pairings–Salem, Winston-Salem, Down East–as well as Fayetteville, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston. (Granted, this isn’t a purely “Carolina” league if Salem, VA is included.)
What happens if we promote more Sally teams and flip Boston, Texas, and Chicago’s affiliates?
That’s Greenville, Hickory, and Kannapolis swapped in for Salem, Down East, and Winston-Salem. Let’s talk about the Boston Red Sox for a second. They own Salem in the current Carolina League, but they also exert a strong influence on Greenville, with Flour Field matching Fenway’s dimensions–including replicas of the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole. But Greenville isn’t owned by Boston, and the two could conceivably split up. If so, that could open possibilities like this:
Or a combination of these teams. Here are some of the interchangeable parts:
- I assume that if Charleston is in the Carolina, then Myrtle Beach would be as well.
- The Texas Rangers own both Hickory and the Down East Wood Ducks of Kinston, NC. I can see them being interchangeable depending on geographic needs or the Rangers’ preferences.
- The White Sox are expected to continue with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis, and inertia suggests that the Dash will stay in the Carolina. But then again, Kannapolis has a brand-new facility just outside of Charlotte, and they are slightly closer to the Hickories and Columbias of the world.
I think you get the gist. A six-team Carolina League with three in NC/VA and three in SC that includes one of the Ranger teams, one of the White Sox teams, likely one of the Red Sox teams, and the rumored Charleston. But what does that do to the Sally League?
There are quite clearly some major unknowns here, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if we see things like random teams like Lynchburg or Asheville not making the cut. Or maybe the Atlanta Braves will abandon Rome, GA, and move their franchise into some other newer stadium. Who knows? But as of today, November 10, here are the two sprawled-out Sally League scenarios I’ve been kicking around. Note: with both of these, the same caveats of interchangeability that I mentioned above could apply, though I’ll stick with the team’s current league/level as a default.
#1: the northern plan
Here we have 1. Rome, 2. Augusta, 3. Columbia, 4. Asheville, 5. Hickory, 6. Kannapolis, 7. Greensboro, 8. Mudcats, 9. Lynchburg, 10. Salem, 11. Delmarva, and 12. Wilmington. Personally, I think Wilmington is more likely to be in the Mally League, but to get up to twelve, I had to pick another team. It could just as well as easily be the Fredericksburg Nationals, but let’s give Washington the tantalizing possibility of having both the FredNats and, say, Lynchburg. This is just one possibility. Here’s another:
#2: the southern plan
In this one, we’ve got 1. Delmarva, 2. Lynchburg, 3. Mudcats, 4. Greensboro, 5. Kannapolis, 6. Hickory, 7. Asheville, 8. Greenville, 9. Columbia, 10. Augusta, 11. Rome, and 12. Chattanooga! Hey, I needed another team to get up to twelve, and the Lookouts are right there. It’s possible, people.
OK, so where does that leave the Mally League? There are several possibilities–and I could be totally off base here–but I think the West Virginia Black Bears have a good chance of being included. The Tri-City ValleyCats could go either way, but I think the way they stretch the map too far north. Fredericksburg could also stay in the Carolina League or become Delmarva’s buddy in the South Atlantic League. Lots of possibilities!
You’ll notice that I put Trenton (red) here. Considering their recent public tirade against the Yankees, Trenton may have already burned a bridge with MLB, but you can see how they would fit nicely with Hudson Valley, Jersey Shore, Aberdeen, etc. But what if you combine this High-A Mally with the Low-A Sally “southern plan?”
In this one, the Thunder wouldn’t have a place (unless Frederickburg were in a different league–replacing Lynchburg?) and Trenton would be in its way to the indy leagues. But the beauty of this scenario is that it would leave space for the Lookouts. I’m not ready to let go of the Lookouts.
Speaking of Lookouts (and insufferable segues) you should look out for more of these articles being posted on MLG. The new construction of the minor leagues is happening quickly. Till next time.