Minor League Baseball’s restructuring became official last week with the announcement that 120 teams had signed Player Development Licenses with Major League franchises. There’s no question that the change in MiLB is devastating to dozens of communities and hundreds of employees and players who will no longer have the same opportunities in places like Clinton, Iowa or Charlotte, Florida (home to now-former Class A affiliates).
This change also dramatically alters the landscape of the minors – with new divisions, rivalries, and classifications. For example, the Fresno (CA) Grizzlies, a Class AAA club for decades and most recently the Washington Nationals’ top minor league affiliate, has plummeted in the rankings all the way to Low-A as the junior team in the Colorado Rockies organization. Many other clubs have been on the move across classes, as well – my beloved Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp have finally joined Class AAA as the Miami Marlins affiliate.
To get you prepared for the new-look Minor Leagues, I’m here to share the best teams in each classification – as judged by their team names. One of the best American sports traditions is absurd minor league baseball team names, so there’s no reason to consider any other factors in determining who is “best.” Let’s get into it.
Best AAA Team: El Paso Chihuahuas
We kick things off with this west Texas affiliate of the San Diego Padres. There are a number of great options (including a team name built on a reference from “The Simpsons”), but the logo of the Chihuahuas really sets them apart. It’s a very mean, very small dog.
Honorable mentions: Albuquerque Isotopes, Toledo Mud Hens, Sugar Land Skeeters, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Best AA Team: Rocket City Trash Pandas
The most absurd name of all minor league teams belongs to this affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels based in Madison, Alabama, part of the Huntsville metropolitan area (which explains the “Rocket City” moniker). Like I said, I love when minor league teams just lean into the ridiculousness of it all, and the Trash Pandas have certainly done that here.
Honorable mentions: Amarillo Sod Poodles, Akron RubberDucks, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Montgomery Biscuits. (Class AA has the best overall team names.)
Best High-A Team: Tri-City Dust Devils
When I looked into this team, another Angels affiliate (this time based in Pasco, Washington), I was intrigued by the name but absolutely horrified by the logo. Seriously, what is this thing? The rings appear to be a kind of ribcage. I also love the idea of young players in the Angels organization being promoted from the Dust Devils to the Trash Pandas.
Honorable mentions: Hillsboro Hops, Aberdeen IronBirds, Asheville Tourists, Lansing Lugnuts, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Bowling Green Hot Rods.
Best Low-A Team: Down East Wood Ducks
Finally, this Kinston, North Carolina club in the Texas Rangers organization takes the Low-A honors. A wood duck is a pretty innocuous thing (although extra points are given for the “Down East” location, as though people outside of eastern Carolina would have much of a clue what that’s all about), but the logo suggests that an evil, sentient duck with opposable thumbs is coming to bludgeon me to death with a half baseball bat, half tree stump weapon. The Wood Ducks intimidate their way to first place.
Honorable mentions: Augusta GreenJackets, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, Modesto Nuts.