O's extend invites to Minor League affiliates

December 9th, 2020
Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md., has a hotel that evokes the warehouse at Camden Yards.Dan Cichalski/MLB.com

The Orioles on Wednesday extended an invitation to four organizations to be full-season affiliates of the club as part of a league-wide restructuring of the Minor Leagues.

The realignment would result in the Orioles having six affiliates: Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, Class A Advanced Aberdeen and Class A Delmarva, plus two unaffected Rookie ball teams in the Florida Gulf Coast League. The Frederick Keys, a longtime Class A Advanced affiliate of the Orioles, are joining the new six-team MLB Draft League that will function as an unaffiliated showcase circuit for Draft-eligible college juniors.

Aberdeen would move from Class A to Class A Advanced as part of the arrangement, making the Cal Ripken-owned IronBirds one of the Orioles’ full-season affiliates going forward. Frederick was one of 40 Minor League cities to lose affiliation in the reorganization of the Minors, which slimmed the number of big league affiliates from 160 to 120.

“We are proud to continue the Orioles’ tradition of creating baseball across Maryland and our region,” O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said in a statement. “We believe the structure of our Minor League affiliates will enable us to continue fortifying a robust pipeline of talent that will graduate top prospects to Camden Yards in the near future and for years to come, and we are excited to have secured a home for the MLB Draft League in Maryland as well. We are eager to continue working with our local communities as we strive to build the best player development system in baseball, with an eye towards our ultimate goal of developing a championship-caliber team.”

Among other MLB clubs with affiliates in their market before Wednesday's announcement were the Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett), Rangers (Double-A Frisco), Mets (Class A Advanced Brooklyn), Indians (Class A Advanced Lake County) and Astros (Triple-A Sugar Land). The list grew substantially on Wednesday.

The Orioles retain longstanding ties to their affiliates at Norfolk (since 2007), Bowie (1993), Aberdeen ('02) and Delmarva ('97). The Keys are owned by Ken Young, who also owns the Norfolk Tides and Bowie Baysox.

Located 55 miles west of Baltimore, Frederick had been an O’s affiliate since the team was relocated from Hagerstown, Md., in 1989. Frederick was the second-most distant satellite in an Orioles farm system that long stood out for its geographical proximity: Unlike most clubs, the O’s enjoyed the luxury of having all of their MiLB affiliates located within driving range of their MLB home. That layout was beneficial from a logistical standpoint, while also allowing fans the opportunity to follow the careers of future big leaguers from the ground up.

It was initially unclear how the restructuring would affect the Minor League staffing, but the organization is expected to condense its developmental staffs accordingly. Before the 2020 Minor League season was cancelled, the Keys had planned to be led by first-year manager Kyle Moore and his four-coach field staff: pitching coach Josh Conway, hitting coach Tom Eller, developmental coach David Barry and fundamentals coach Collin Woody.