Buffalo (WKBW.com/Bisons release) With great excitement and anticipation, the Buffalo Bisons today announced that they are the new Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Bisons and Blue Jays today agreed to a two-year player development contract, aligning the Herd with Toronto for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Bisons take the field as a Blue Jays’ affiliate for the first time on Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, 2013 against the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field.
“Aligning with the Blue Jays not only gives the Bisons a great regional partner, but also aligns us with one of the top minor league systems in all of baseball,” said Bob Rich Jr., President/Owner of the Bisons. “Toronto has a well-documented commitment to developing exciting young talent throughout their farm system.”
“We are thrilled to enter into partnership with the Buffalo Bisons organization and more specifically with Mindy and Bob Rich who we have known for many years,” said Toronto Blue Jays President and C.E.O. Paul Beeston. “This relationship is a natural fit, both geographically and philosophically. The Bisons are committed to winning and the Rich family to providing an environment consistent with the values we are establishing with the Blue Jays. Simply put, we are fortunate they have agreed to align with our program and we thank them for the confidence they have shown in us.”
Blue Jays Senior Vice President and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos noted that “from a baseball point of view, this is a great fit for our organization. With only 160km (99 miles) separating the two fields, we will have greater flexibility to make roster decisions and an increased opportunity to watch our most developed prospects. We look forward to providing the Bisons with an exciting and talented roster.”
This partnership between the Bisons and the Blue Jays opens up an array of marketing and regionalization opportunities for both teams. With only 99 miles separating Rogers Centre and Coca-Cola Field, baseball fans throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario will have regional access to the organization’s top players and prospects at both the Major League and Triple-A levels.
As the affiliate of the Blue Jays, the Bisons will also benefit from one of the highest-ranked minor league systems in all of baseball. The Bisons have always recognized the importance of having a strong major league partner and a competitive team for the fans of Buffalo. Since Coca-Cola Field opened in 1988, the Herd has had 18 winning seasons in 25 years and won three league championships.
Blue Jays Minor League System Ranks Among Baseball’s Best
The Blue Jays have an abundance of exciting young talent in the minor leagues and virtually every baseball publication applauds Toronto’s emphasis on their farm system. Before the 2012 season, the Jays’ system was ranked as the 3rd-best among major league teams by ESPN.com and the 5th-best by Baseball America. ESPN.com’s Keith Law added “the club has spent aggressively in the amateur markets…they are the organization most likely to be No. 1 on this list next winter.”
Sports Illustrated has also noticed the Jays’ emphasis on stock-piling their minor league system in recent years: “They have pitching galore, beginning with what might be the best staff in the minor leagues at Class-A Lansing with the trio of RHP Noah Syndergaard (8-5, 2.49ERA, 122K), LHP Justin Nicolino (10-4, 2.46ERA, 119K) and RHP Aaron Sanchez (8-5, 2.49ERA, 97K).”
Toronto had seven prospects on MLB.com’s Top 100 prospect list, more than any other team. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud leads the group as the #12 prospect in baseball after hitting .333 (93-279) with 16 home runs, 39 extra-base hits and 52RBI in 67 games at Triple-A last season. Outfielder Jake Marsinick is another “5-Star Prospect” by Baseball Prospectus after compiling 47 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 120 games between Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire in 2012.
Bisons fans also met Pacific Coast League All-Star shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria last July at Coca-Cola Field as the 23-year old hit .312 (138-443) with 20 doubles, six triples, six home runs and 63RBI in 102 games with Las Vegas.
Affiliations under Rich Ownership
When the Bisons take the field on Opening Day 2013 it will be the club’s 31st season under the ownership of the Rich family. The team has played in the Triple-A classification since the 1985 season when Rich purchased the Wichita Aeros and moved the American Association franchise to Buffalo. Since 1985, the Herd has had four different major league parent clubs.
The Bisons partnered with the Chicago White Sox during the team’s first two years at Triple-A, After a single season with the Cleveland Indians in 1987, the Bisons aligned themselves with the Pittsburgh Pirates to coincide with the opening of then-Pilot Field. Buffalo and Pittsburgh were together for seven seasons before the Bisons joined up with the Indians in 1995. The Herd and the Tribe were partners for 14 seasons, 1995-2008. The Bisons then affiliated with the New York Mets for four seasons from 2009-2012.
Toronto’s Minor League System
The Toronto Blue Jays had their Triple-A squad at Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League for the last four seasons. In 2012, the 51s finished 15 games over .500 at 79-64, the 5th-best record in the PCL. Las Vegas ranked 2nd in the league with a .298 team batting average.
From 1978-2008, Syracuse was the home of the Blue Jays’ top minor league club. It was Toronto’s only other Triple-A affiliate in the franchise’s history.
The Blue Jays minor league system consists of Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League, the Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League, the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League and the short-season Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League.