With the college baseball season winding down, it seems like a lot of places are about to be out of luck with somewhere to go to watch a baseball game. With the seven layers of the Candy Cane Forest, I mean the Minor League Baseball system, there’s likely a professional team close to you.
Going to a minor league game is a lot like going to a college baseball game. You can’t go to the game expecting the same product you see at a major league game, it’s just not there. There’s a reason these guys are in the minors. A lot of the players are going to be minor league lifers, which is fine because there’s such a small percentage of ball players in the world that even make it this far that it’s still an accomplishment. But one big reason to go to a minor league game is to watch future talent develop in the farm systems.
So how do you know who to watch when you go to games? There are a couple of things you can do here. The simplest thing is grab a stat sheet at the door (most minor league teams will give these out or put it in the game program, which are a couple of bucks) and see who’s playing the best that season. Look for a combination of batting average, extra-base hits, RBIs, runs scored and home runs. The guys who are dominating in any three of those categories (especially batting average, because hitting in the minors is easier for the stars) are going to be the most successful down the road. Pitchers are a little more difficult to pin down because they might not have a good defense behind them. You really have to watch a pitcher to see if he has top-level stuff, and it’s remarkable when he does.
If you really want to know who the future stars are on your team, it’s going to take a little more homework. MLB.com has a prospect watch page that’s a great place to find out who’s who among your minor leaguers. You can easily search by major league affiliate and match the players on the top 30 prospect list to your team’s roster. It might take some time, but you’ll get acquainted with your team’s system overall.
Be sure to keep in mind who you’re watching and what they do. You never know if you’re watching the next Mike Trout drop bombs over the left field fence or Clayton Kershaw dominate inferior hitters. Much like a college ball game, between the cost of admission and the size of most minor league parks, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with MiLB games. I’m not saying you need to be a super fan or even buy any regalia, but go to the game and enjoy the atmosphere, buy a hot dog, see some developing talent and just enjoy some baseball.
Photo by Brigham Berthold