Minor League Affiliate System, aka, The Farm
Every Major League Baseball organization, such as the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, etc., uses a feeder system of lower-level professional teams to discover and develop potential major leaguers. This “farm system” was the brainchild of Branch Rickey (as if bringing us integrated baseball wasn’t enough) and is divided into levels roughly as follows:
Rookie, or Short-Season A: This is the first level of professional baseball. Most of these players are in their late teens to early twenties, coming fresh out of high school or college. Talented and/or older players may skip the Rookie level and start at Single-A. To all of you hard-core SABRites screaming because I’ve lumped Rookie and Short-Season A together, I plead guilty and throw myself at the mercy of the Kangaroo Court. I’m just trying to keep things simple. The Angels Rookie affiliate is the Orem Owlz; they play in the Pioneer League.
Class A, or Single-A: Another early developmental level. Again, most players here are in their late teens and early twenties. The Angels Single-A affiliate is the Cedar Rapids Kernels; they play in the Midwest League.
Class A Advanced, or Advanced-A: A third early developmental level. Players drafted out of high school will usually spend 3-5 years in these lower levels. The athletic development pyramid starts out with the biggest selection at the early levels, hence the three levels of “single-A.” Like the game of musical chairs (and private law schools) the number of open spots drops as players move up through the levels, hopefully ensuring that the Minor League “graduates” represent the tops in their class. The Angels Advanced-A affiliate is the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes; they play in the California League.
Class AA, or Double-A: Roughly, fourth- and fifth-year professionals. This is where the most drastic winnowing out happens. Not surprisingly, since each organization has only one Double-A team for every three (sometimes four) Rookie/Single-A teams. These players show a greater mix of ages, anywhere from early-to-late twenties. The Angels Double-A affiliate is the Arkansas Travelers; they play in the Texas League.
Class AAA, or Triple-A: Often referred to as “one phone call away from the show (major leagues).” Many of these players will get at least one chance to play in the major leagues. Most will not remain in the MLB for an extended career, however, again due to the limited number of major league roster openings. The Angels Triple-A affiliate is the Salt Lake Bees; they play in the Pacific Coast League.
Extended Spring Training: A catchall level for players who didn’t make the Single-A or Double-A teams, as well as for players working through an injury rehabilitation. The Angels Extended Spring Training facility is located in Tempe, Arizona.
Climbing the ranks of the Minor League Affiliate System is one of the toughest progressions in elite athletics. One source calculates the odds of a player who has been selected by a Major League organization to play Rookie or Single-A ball making a single appearance in the major leagues as being only 5-6%.