As the minor league season rolls on, and you’re evaluating prospect performances through the lens of the statistics put in front of you, you’ll often hear things like, “Yeah, but that was in the PCL, so you’ve got to adjust it down,” or, “Wow, he did that in the Florida State League?”
For those of you who don’t have context for those statements, or for those – like me – who just want to have a better appreciation for how hitter-friendly the PCL is and how pitcher-friendly the FSL is, Baseball America and MiLB.com each looked at park factors for the various minor leagues. Each piece pre-dates the 2013 season, and is well worth a read.
In reviewing the stats the two articles compiled, you start to get a pretty clear picture of each of the leagues in which Cubs prospects play.
The Pacific Coast League (AAA) – Iowa Cubs
The PCL is undoubtedly a hitter’s league, and is far more offensively-inclined than its AAA brother, the International League. Thanks to some small, elevated parks out west, the PCL saw more than 10 runs per game between 2008 and 2012, making it the second-most offensively-inclined league in the minors (non-Rookie), behind only the A-ball California League. That all said, you have to keep in mind that the half of the league in which the Iowa Cubs play is not home to the same Coors-Field-esque parks as the other half of the league, where the Cubs play a disproportionately fewer chunk of their games. In other words, while Cubs stats at the AAA level likely skew a little offensive, it probably isn’t so much that we throw the numbers out.
The Southern League (AA) – Tennessee Smokies
The Southern League, itself, is a pitcher’s league (it is one of the lowest-scoring leagues in the minors among the upper levels), but the Smokies’ home park definitely skews to the offensive side. In fact, at almost 10 runs per game, Tennessee plays its games at the most offense-heavy park in the Southern League (it sees more runs per game than Iowa, actually). Once again, balancing everything, the numbers probably don’t skew too heavily in one direction or the other for Cubs AA players.
The Florida State League (High-A) – Daytona Cubs
The FSL is the lowest-scoring league in the minors among the non-Rookie Leagues, and it pretty clearly skews pitcher-friendly. Keep that in mind this year as some of the top organizational prospects make their way through Daytona.
The Midwest League (Low-A) – Kane County Cougars
A huge league, the MWL runs the gamut from clear pitcher-friendly parks – like where the Cougars play – and clear hitter-friendly parks. As a league, it skews pitcher-friendly, though.
The Northwest League (Short-Season A) – Boise Hawks
The NWL is a touch pitcher-friendly, but is ultimately close to neutral.
It’s worth taking a look at the Baseball America piece and the MiLB piece to get a better picture of the differences in these leagues, but there’s your high-level overview. For the most part, with the exception of Daytona and Kane County, the Cubs’ minor league teams play in a largely neutral environment. At Daytona and Kane County, adjust your expectations downward for offensive statistics, and upward for pitching performances.