Top 15 Most Accomplished Minor League Franchises Of The 2010s
While it’s not absolutely true that minor league success begets major league success, it is generally accurate.
In the 2010s, a moderate correlation existed between organizations’ minor league winning percentage and major league success. For example, the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals won the most frequently in the majors during the past decade. Those clubs’ domestic affiliates ranked second, third and sixth in terms of minor league winning percentage.
Cardinals affiliates won 14 domestic minor league championships, more than any other organization. The Dodgers won nine and the Yankees seven.
On the flip side of the coin, the Marlins, Padres and White Sox lost the most frequently in the majors this decade. Those organizations’ domestic affiliates had the 22nd, 20th and 24th best minor league winning percentages of the 2010s.
Those three clubs combined to win 12 domestic minor league titles.
What this suggests is that for the best organizations, player development and winning in the minor leagues go hand in hand.
This is in part because successful minor league teams tend to be victims of their own success. The better they play, the more likely they are to lose key players to in-season promotions. Often those promotions occur late in the season, just as the team readies for its playoff run.
The only way for a minor league team to cover for those departed players is to rely on the parent organization’s prospect pipeline for reinforcements. Teams that do receive those reinforcements tend to be more successful in the minor league playoffs.
To celebrate the most consistently excellent minor league clubs of the 2010s, we present a top 15 ranking that factors things like wins, league titles, runner-up finishes and having the best overall record in one's league.
Editor's note: A 16th team was added to the list on Nov. 13. A data error had previously excluded Rookie-level Ogden from consideration, but after giving the Raptors credit for their 2017 Pioneer League championship—to go with four runner-up finishes—they warranted a place here.
1. Triple-A Durham (International)
Record: 774-651 (.543). Best Record: 2010, 2013.
League Champion: 2013, 2017, 2018. Runner-Up: 2010, 2014, 2019.
No minor league team played for a championship more often in the 2010s than the Bulls, who played for the Governors’ Cup six times, winning thrice. Current Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo managed the 2013 champions before becoming a Rays big league in coach in 2015 and then moving to the Toronto dugout in 2019.
2. Triple-A Columbus (International)
Record: 782-648 (.547). Best Record: 2011, 2015, 2019.
League Champion: 2010, 2011, 2015, 2019. Runner-Up: None.
Mike Sarbauh claimed BA Manager of the Year honors in 2010, when he guided the Clippers to their first International League title while affiliated with the home-state Indians. He added another IL title in 2011 then joined the Cleveland coaching staff in 2013.
3. Double-A Midland (Texas)
Record: 705-689 (.506). Best Record: Never.
League Champion: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. Runner-Up: 2010.
The RockHounds barely eclipsed .500 for the decade, but the club had a knack for winning when it counted most. Midland won four straight Texas League titles and capped things off with a BA Minor League Team of the Year nod in 2017. That squad featured homegrown prospects A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy and in-season trade acquisitions Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse.
4. Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Record: 776-634 (.550). Best Record: 2010, 2017.
League Champion: 2013, 2019. Runner-Up: 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017.
The Thunder are the only minor league team other than Durham to play for six league championships in the decade. While Trenton captured the Eastern League title just twice, they were always in the thick of things. The club’s 776 wins for the decade rank third only to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (787), a fellow Yankees affiliate, and Columbus (782).
5. Short-season Hillsboro (Northwest)
Record: 309-222 (.582). Best Record: 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019.
League Champion: 2014, 2015, 2019. Runner-Up: None.
The Hops franchise existed for just seven seasons in the decade but made its imprint on the Northwest League by winning three league titles and finishing with the best record four times. HIllsboro also had the highest winning percentage for any minor league team that played at least five seasons in the 2010s.
6. Rookie-level Johnson City (Appalachian)
Record: 364-308 (.542). Best Record: 2010, 2011.
League Champion: 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2019. Runner-Up: None.
Johnson City won the Appalachian League five times in 10 seasons during the 2010s. No other minor league club won its league more than four times. That list consists of Columbus, Midland and Vancouver. Current Cardinals big league manager Mike Shildt got his start with Johnson City and managed the 2010 and 2011 champions.
7. High Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Affiliation: Cubs then Reds (since 2015)
Record: 693-652 (.515). Best Record: 2013.
League Champion: 2011, 2013. Runner-Up: 2014, 2015, 2018.
Daytona captured the Florida State League title twice early in the decade as a Cubs affiliate. The second crown earned them the BA Minor League Team of the Year award in 2013, when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler keyed the lineup to the best record in the FSL.
8. Double-A Jackson (Southern)
Affiliation: Cubs, Mariners, then D-backs (since 2017)
Record: 706-677 (.510). Best Record: 2012, 2016.
League Champion: 2016, 2018, 2019. Runner-Up: 2012.
The Jackson franchise has been more volatile terms of affiliation than other clubs in the top 10, but the D-backs have brought stability—perhaps—not to mention back-to-back Southern League championships in 2018 and 2019.
9. Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Record: 745-680 (.523). Best Record: 2010, 2017, 2018.
League Champion: 2017, 2018. Runner-Up: 2010.
The young standouts on the Cardinals’ 2019 postseason team coalesced at Memphis in the late 2010s and won the Pacific Coast League in 2017 and 2018. The Redbirds’ manager for both those title teams was also a prospect. Stubby Clapp, who won the BA Manager of the Year award in 2017, is now the first base coach in St. Louis.
10. Short-season Vancouver (Northwest)
Affiliation: Athletics, then Blue Jays (since 2011)
Record: 388-370 (.512). Best Record: 2017.
League Champion: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017. Runner-Up: 2014.
The Blue Jays are Canada’s team, and Vancouver likewise is Canada’s minor league team. The Canadians have been affiliated with the Toronto organization since 2011 and have been the only affiliated minor league team in the Great White North since Ottawa split following the 2007 season. Vancouver has done Canada proud with four Northwest League championships in the 2010s.
Did Super Two Status Affect Recent Prospect Callups?
Looking at recent history, it seems like this week’s promotions were not service time-influenced decisions.
11. Short-season Tri-City (New York-Penn)
Record: 402-348 (.536). Best Record: 2014.
League Champion: 2010, 2013, 2018. Runner-Up: 2012, 2014.
Tri-City played for a New York-Penn League championship five times in the 2010s, winning three times. Early in the decade, the ValleyCats were stocked with premium draft picks supplied by the rebuilding Astros and their player development machine.
12. Low Class A Quad Cities (Midwest)
Affiliation: Cardinals, then Astros (since 2013)
Record: 771-611 (.558). Best Record: 2015.
League Champion: 2011, 2013, 2017. Runner-Up: None.
Quad Cities compiled the highest winning percentage (.558) for any full-season club that fielded a team in all 10 seasons of the decade and also won three Midwest League titles. The 2013 league champion River Bandits featured Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros’ top two picks in 2012 as Houston kicked off its rebuild. Both players were key contributors to the 2017 World Series champions.
13. Triple-A Omaha (Pacific Coast)
Record: 721-700 (.507). Best Record: Never.
League Champion: 2011, 2013, 2014. Runner-Up: 2012.
Omaha finished middle of the Pacific Coast League pack in terms of winning percentage in the 2010s, yet came away with three championship trophies. One of those teams—the 2014 edition—won the whole thing with a sub-.500 record, which is tough to do in a 16-team league. The Storm Chasers of the early 2010s feature many of the key players for the Royals’ pennant winners in 2014 and 2015.
14. High Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Affiliation: Angels, then Dodgers (since 2011)
Record: 758-640 (.542). Best Record: 2018.
League Champion: 2015, 2018. Runner-Up: 2010.
The Quakes were the most successful California League franchise of the 2010s in terms of wins and championships—Lancaster also had two—but also in terms of impact talent. Mike Trout (2012), Corey Seager (2016) and Cody Bellinger (2017) went on to become major league rookies of the year.
15. Rookie-level Ogden (Pioneer)
Record: 430-328 (.567). Best Record: 2012, 2015, 2018, 2019.
League Champion: 2017. Runner-Up: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2019.
Ogden played for the Pioneer League championship five times during the decade, winning once, and four times had the eight-team circuit’s top record. The Raptors also won 430 games in the 2010s, which was tied with Hudson Valley for the most for any short-season team. The 2012 Ogden team, in particular, would make its imprint on the parent organization. Both shortstop Corey Seager and righthander Ross Stripling would play for the Dodgers in the major league postseason.
16. Double-A Biloxi (Southern)
Record: 384-308 (.555). Best Record: 2015, 2018.
League Champion: Never. Runner-Up: 2015, 2018, 2019.
The Shuckers haven’t won the Southern League championship yet, but they have made three trips to the finals in their five years of existence since moving from Huntsville to Biloxi. In the franchise’s inaugural season, Biloxi captured BA Minor League Team of the Year honors with a team fronted by prospects Orlando Arcia and Josh Hader.