There are a number of Bull League organizations who have an active roster average age that is lower than their top minor league team’s, indicating that their best AAA-level players could be past their prime, as they have not been called up to the league’s top level ahead of the younger players in their franchise.
While occasionally a high-level minor league team will feature some older, experienced veterans looking to refine some skills, or perhaps rehab following an injury, it is rare that the oldest and most experienced ball players in an organization will be passed over for promotion to the top level in favor of younger talent.
When it happens, it’s usually a handful of younger rising stars who managed to shine above the rest. But under normal conditions, the oldest roster in a system should be its major level. But for these five teams, that’s not the case. The major level is actually younger than the AAA-level, and we examine why here:
#1 DALLAS DEPUTIES (BL – 30.23, AAA – 32.14)
As of publication, the worst offender is the Dallas Deputies, who have an average roster age of 30.23, and a AAA-level average age nearly two years older at 32.14.
The Deps are particularly affected with aging veterans throughout the organization. But they not only have one of the few major level rosters averaging over 30 years old, but they also have the oldest AAA-level roster in baseball. The Fort Worth Spectres roster features four players aged 35 or older, including reliever Noah Peters, a six-time All-Star who is riding out the sunset of his 18-year major level career after being picked up as a free agent this past off-season following an injury-plagued year with Boston.
It is doubtful that Peters will find his way back to the top level, and we expect to see him retire at the end of 2018 into relative obscurity, having won no major awards (though he placed 2nd or 3rd four times for the Woodchuck Trophy, for top relief pitcher). Peters has not registered a save at any level since 2016.
The AAA-level roster features just six players under age 30. Among those over that benchmark age, just three have a year or less of major level service, suggesting the vast majority of their roster are veterans major leaguers who are riding out their remaining contract years in triple A, unlikely to come back to the top level any time soon.
The Dallas organization has none of its top prospects at the AAA-level, and none of their five prospects are even at the AA-level right now. The 6-year-old expansion club is unlikely to compete any time soon on the basis of homegrown talent, despite several seasons of having top level draft choices.
The fix is several years off still, their top young talent remains at A ball or lower, though perhaps higher than normal retirement numbers will free up space and force the club to move their young players up quicker.
#2 LOUISVILLE SLUGGERS (BL – 29.13, AAA – 30.63)
The Louisville Sluggers (formerly the Battle Creek Attack) are another 2012 expansion team with a system full of aged veterans brought in to the club at expansion time. The club has taken steps to place younger talent at their top level, and the major roster features some up and coming, and established talent such as Brendan Starratt (23, and promoted to the top level this season from AAA), 3-season veterans Chris Dow (24), promising upstart closer Gene Becker (21), and 2017’s Lake League Platinum Glove winner at LF, Jason Nelson (24).
But in AAA-level Mobile, the River Bandits are clogged with several over-30’s who will likely see no more days at the major level, save for closer Matt McMahon, who at 33-years-old still packs a 98 mph fastball.
The good news is that two prospects should be ready to move up from AA-level later this year, or by next spring at the latest. Brian Martin, a 23-year-old LHP who is ranked 77th by the OSA, is working on his control issues but has managed bring his minor league career ERA down to 2.65 since being drafted 2nd overall in 2013. He will likely join 21-year-old shortstop Ivan Aguilar in AAA around the same time, whenever that call comes. The speedy Venezuelan, Aguilar, has started off at AA-level Nashville hitting a paltry .119 after 11 games, but should even out his swing and make regular contact towards the gaps especially. Aguilar could be one of the smartest players in the Sluggers organization, and is a solid defender, with skills that will be useful at higher levels.
Until then, the Sluggers will suffer with the second oldest AAA-level roster after Dallas, meaning little to no help coming from within the organization during the 2018 campaign, should the team need it.
#3 DETROIT MOTORHEADS (BL – 29.05, AAA – 30.25)
The Motor City club has taken steps to bring younger talent to the major-level for 2018, but like Louisville, should not look to their AAA-level team for too much long-term help should the need arise.
With the third oldest AAA-level team in baseball, the Windsor Wild are certainly equipped with talented players who can win games (they are currently in 1st in their division at 8-3), but they are saddled with three geriatric players who are bringing the team average age up to the stars.
Asato Matsumoto has played pro baseball since 2000, but at the Bull League level has only managed to hit for a .214 average in sporadic appearances over the years. His longest stint was 50 games in 2013 (for expansion Dallas) as a then-33-year-old outfielder, during which he struck out 40 times. His last time at the top level was with Jacksonville in 2016, lasting 41 games. Now 38, he is not expected to be a useful hitter, and though he is competent enough as a fielder, there are far too many younger players who can defend just as well, and who hit better and run faster, leaving Matusmoto’s future chances of promotion looking grim
The Motorheads already field a solid outfield, and barring injuries, would look to fix their infield before moving any outfield pieces around.
#4 CALGARY INFERNO (BL – 29.09, AAA – 29.52)
The 2017 Bull Cup Champions are a year older, and already they’re showing the signs of wear and tear: 31-year-old Logans Run is out for the season with a torn labrum, 36-year-old right fielder Danny Estrada has been out since spring training with a forearm strain (though he is due back this week), and RHP Enrique Nunez, 31, is battling rotator cuff inflammation and may not be back until the postseason, if at all.
But both the major level and AAA-level rosters are under the average age of 30, which separates them from the top 3 teams on this list. Down at Kelowna, they have veteran Italian-American RHP Chris Cottone and Colombian Francisco Hernandez as the elder statesmen, both topping the roster age at 35 years old. Hernandez, a right fielder, is hitting over .400 so far this season at Triple A, and could do as a spot DH in a pinch. Cottone could eat up innings in long relief should an injury open up a spot in Calgary.
But overall the AAA roster lacks young talent after high-performing Inferno rookies like Jordan Reyes, Fred Wright and Mike Roper were all brought up for 2018 straight from the low minors, in all cases skipping both AA and AAA levels entirely.
Of the three, Roper and Wright may be sent back down to AAA for refinement. Both have been used mainly as defensive subs for the big slugging Jan Conch and Dannny Huertero. Roper has failed to get a hit in 5 at bats, while Wright has made it safely aboard just once in the same number of plate appearances.
In all, however, the Inferno organization will have to wait another year or two before it sees its younger players promoted up to AAA level, and until then the top level club will have limited choices in their top minors when it comes to extracting fresh talent.