The minor-league system in professional baseball is undergoing a massive transformation, but it seems like the Richmond Flying Squirrels could be staying with the SF Giants as their Double-A affiliate.
Almost all signs suggest the SF Giants have already lost one minor-league affiliate amidst the industry’s largest restructuring in over 50 years. With the California League moving from the High-A to Low-A level, the San Jose Giants will remain affiliated with the organization, dislodging the Augusta Greenackets from their minor-league ranks. However, the fate of the organization’s Double-A affiliate Richmond Flying Squirrels remains unknown.
For Giants fans in the Richmond area, MLB’s interest in bringing affiliates geographically closer to their parent organization made the Washington Nationals an obvious possible problem. Recent reports from John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch suggest that the Nationals though have found an upper minor-league affiliate next season in Rochester. If the Nationals indeed are set, the Giants will very likely maintain their affiliation in Richmond.
Had the teams parted ways, the Giants Double-A affiliate next season would have very likely been in the Texas League. A move away from the Eastern League (where Richmond is) might have been a welcome change for some fans. The Eastern League is a severely pitcher-friendly environment with expansive ballparks and climates that depress the flight of the ball. Player evaluation, of both position players and pitchers, has been difficult over the years due to these factors.
Still, Richmond’s facilities have been upgraded and continuity remains a valuable tool for any organization. Moving to the Texas League would basically throw previous statistical comps for Giants prospects at Double-A out the window. Instead, even as a lot continues to change, the team’s second-highest minor-league affiliate appears likely to remain the same.
A lot of uncertainty remains for minor-league affiliates throughout professional baseball. The SF Giants already know they will be losing the Augusta Greenjackets as an affiliate, but it seems like the chances that they maintain a relationship with the Richmond Flying Squirrels has increased in the past couple of days.