With Spring training set to start in a few weeks, the results of the spring will lead to players being put at all levels of the minor leagues. Here is a rundown of the Nationals minor league affiliates for those who are unaware or maybe who don’t know much about them.
Single-A - Fredericksburg
The Nats' Single-A affiliate is the Fredericksburg Nationals. This team used to be based out of Potomac (Woodbridge, VA) until the brand new Virginia Credit Union Stadium was built in Fredericksburg in 2020. Play actually began at the stadium in 2021. The Nationals will frequently send players starting out rehab assignments here. The FredNats, as they are affectionately called, have also been classed in Low-A and Class A-Advanced in the past. Altogether, they have been a minor league affiliate of the Nationals since 2005, the Nationals inaugural season. Prior to the Nationals, they were a minor league affiliate of the Reds for two seasons and four other teams before that, leading back to 1984. The Hagerstown Suns (RIP) were the affiliate prior to the Fredericksburg Nationals.
High-A - Wilmington
The Nationals’ High-A affiliate is the Wilmington Blue Rocks. They play at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, New Jersey. The Blue Rocks have been an affiliate of the Nationals since 2021. Previously, they were an affiliate of the Royals for many years. Before the Blue Rocks, the Nationals High-A affiliate was the Potomac Nationals. The realignment of the minor leagues in 2020 sent the Potomac Nationals (now Fredericksburg) to Low-A.
I have a strong opinion on the Wilmington Blue Rocks. I visited their stadium in 2022 for the first time and I think that the Nationals should end their affiliation with them whenever the contract ends. The reason I say this is because the Blue Rocks are located 109 miles from Nationals Park in Wilmington, DE, approximately 2 hours away. Meanwhile the Frederick Keys, who lost their MLB affiliation in 2020, have said that they want an MLB affiliation again. They are currently an MLB draft league team and will be sharing their stadium with a new Atlantic League team this season. Frederick’s stadium is only 51 miles from Nationals Park and only 55 minutes away. Wilmington’s and Frederick’s stadiums are extremely similar so it wouldn’t be a downgrade. This would make it a little easier to send players on last minute rehab assignments.
Double-A - Harrisburg
The Nationals' Double-A affiliate is the Harrisburg Senators. Harrisburg has been an affiliate of the Nationals since 1991 when they were the Expos. They were previously a Pirates affiliate from their inaugural season in 1987 to 1990. The Senators play their games at FNB Field on City Island in Harrisburg, PA. That’s right, they play on an island. A walking bridge and a road bridge connect the island with the rest of the city. The stadium is in the middle of the Susquehanna River. I always make it out to a few Harrisburg games every summer and it is one of my favorite places to see a game. They also have life-size bobbleheads of former players like Ryan Zimmerman and Jamey Carrol.
Triple-A - Rochester
The Nationals’ Triple-A team is the Rochester Red Wings. The Nats have had 3 Triple-A affiliates over the last few years. The Syracuse Chiefs were the Nationals Triple-A team from 2009 to 2018. They then became the affiliate of the Mets and are now the Syracuse Mets. The Fresno Grizzlies were the Nats Triple-A affiliate for 2019-2020 before going to Low-A and becoming a Rockies affiliate. This partnership was less than ideal as it was across the country from the Major League club. Starting in 2021 the Rochester Red Wings became the Nats Triple-A affiliate, which was much more suitable for the Nats' needs. Prior to the Nats, the Red Wings were the Triple-A affiliate of the Twins for 17 years.
The minor league contraction of 2020 was devastating for many smaller minor league communities. Many teams lost their Major league affiliations or were shut down altogether. The Hagerstown Suns and the Auburn Doubledays were two Nats affiliates that got shut down in 2020. Now the Auburn Doubledays are part of a college summer league, but Hagerstown is no more because of the Nationals not renewing their affiliation and MLB not affiliating them with any team.