St. Louis Cardinals Minor League History Series

photo: Johnson City Cardinals – 2019 Appalachian League Champions (Johnson City Cardinals)

Note from the owner

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– Brian Walton



The St. Louis Cardinals have enjoyed a long history of success – both at the Major League and Minor League levels.

The focus of this new series is to revisit the rich history of the Cardinals minor league teams and the organization’s standout players over time.

Part 1 – The levels

Following an overview of the system and how it evolved over the years, we will review each level of play – from Triple-A down through the Dominican Summer League, highlighting the best teams in the regular season, the playoff entrants and the ones that progressed to win their league championship.

This classification-focused view begins in 1963 and runs through 2019 – a period of 47 years. 1963 was chosen because it was a time of significant change for minor league baseball. The long-standing B, C and D classifications were eliminated, and the first Triple-A league to fold, the American Association, did so.

In 1963, the Cardinals were down to all-time low of five affiliates (tied), a far cry from the peak of 31 farm teams just two decades prior. None of the five clubs in 1963 were short-season teams, though the Cardinals initiated their first regular season “complex” team in Florida in 1964. Eventually, the system grew to its current nine affiliates – through two may be eliminated in 2021.

Articles:


Part 2 – System season hitting and pitching leaders since 1960

The second phase of this series will highlight the top individual seasons by Cardinals minor leaguers over time in a number of statistical categories – as compiled for both hitters and pitchers. Some of the names will be very familiar, while others might have been forgotten over the ensuing years.

The time frame for this exercise will be 1960 through 2019, a period of 60 years. The starting date is based on the point in time in which the number of minor league games per season were dropped – making counting stat comparisons valid from 1960 onward.

Hitters Pitchers
Batting average ERA
Hits Wins
Runs Innings pitched
Doubles Strikeouts
Triples Saves
Home runs
RBI
Stolen bases

Part 3 – Current affiliate stats leaders

Each of the Cardinals current minor league affiliates maintain team single-season statistical leader lists. These differ from the all-time lists since each of the current teams joined the Cardinals system at different points in time, some relatively recently.

      • Memphis Redbirds – 1998-2019
      • Springfield Cardinals – 2005-2019
      • Palm Beach Cardinals – 2003-2019
      • Peoria Chiefs – 1995-2004, 2013-2019
      • State College Spikes – 2006, 2013-2019
      • Johnson City Cardinals – 1975-2019

Part 4 – System season hitting and pitching leaders – all-time

A potential fourth segment of articles – if time permits before 2020 play resumes – will be to review the all-time minor league stat leaders across the Cardinals farm system. The vast majority of these records were set in the 1930s and 1940s. Even so, a number of the standout player names will be familiar to readers.

The categories would be the same as in Part 2, with the exclusion of stolen bases for offensive players and saves for pitchers.

Hitters Pitchers
Batting average ERA
Hits Wins
Runs Innings pitched
Doubles Strikeouts
Triples
Home runs
RBI

Part 5 – Other key individuals

We all should know that the primary purpose of player development is to provide MLB-ready players when St. Louis needs them. In this section, we will remember players who made their Major League debuts by year.

Another area of emphasis will be to evaluate the winningest managers in the farm system over time.

Further surprises could follow, depending where the data leads as well as the calendar, as we all ponder how long baseball will remain on hiatus while anxiously awaiting the return to live play on the fields.


To see it all

At least one article in each part of the series will be free to all readers, but the majority of this content will be available only to members of The Cardinal Nation. (Those articles will be designated with the key icon. )

We never take for granted the ongoing support of our subscribers, who enable us to provide the best end-to-end coverage of the Cardinals system available anywhere year after year.

Thank you to our readers!


Acknowledgments

This series would not be possible without the record-keeping of Baseball America as delivered via their book, The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, as well as the staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, who have maintained individual player leader lists for decades. Baseball Reference remains a valuable fact-verification resource.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals 2019 Minor League Award Winners Recognized


Now Available! – TCN’s New 2020 Prospect Guide

232 pages, 97,000 words, over 60 player capsules, history and much more – in both PDF and spiral-bound book versions. Foreword by Dan McLaughlin. Order your copy today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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