During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
The idea of whether a minor league team is “good” is a hard one to answer.
For one thing, there’s the basic fact that the ultimate purpose of a minor league team is not to win games but to develop players for the parent club. Sure, an MLB team would prefer that their affiliates are doing well, but that’s at best a secondary concern. I, however, am going to go with the more on-the-field and in-the-standings definition of “good,” since that’s easier to figure out.
For another, the composition of a minor league team changes drastically over the year. During the season, players are called up, sent down, injured, released, traded, or in some cases even begin or end their careers. By the end of the season, the team may only superficially resemble the squad that began the campaign.
Take, as an example, the two people in the picture below: Luis Garcia and Dee Strange-Gordon. Dee Strange-Gordon, as mentioned before, is only in Rochester on a rehab assignment. Garcia is one of the Nationals top prospects and has been tearing up opposing pitchers, so it is doubtful he’ll still be here when the season ends.
That said, there is reason to believe that, at least as the team is now, the Rochester Red Wings are good. Or at the very least good enough to have a good shot at a winning record.
First, the obvious: the Red Wings are 13-11 after yesterday’s 8-3 win over Syracuse, one game back of Buffalo in the International League East. That is, obviously, a winning record.
Even looking beyond that, though, the Red Wings have been doing well. As a team, they are second in the league in batting average (.270, behind only Jacksonville’s .271). They are fifth in OPS and sixth in runs scored. They have the fourth fewest strikeouts, and are fourth in total bases. All very good places to be, even if the team’s best hitter (Garcia) is unlikely to remain in Rochester very long.
However, the pitching has been a cause for concern. The team has a 5.37 ERA, an ugly 17th in the 20-team league. They are 19th in WHIP, and tied for 12th in opponent batting average. They’ve walked too many people and are 18th in the league for BB/9, averaging 5.20 walks every nine innings.
Given that the hitting has been good and the pitching hasn’t been good, it is perhaps not a surprise that the team isn’t too far away from being simply .500.
It also speaks to how the rest of the Red Wings season will turn out. If the hitting falters, the team will too. If the pitching gets better, so will the team.
It’s that simple.