Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball

While the agreement between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball expired on September 30, there still hasn’t been any official announcements about what the teams or leagues will look like in the future.  But I’ll provide some information that I found and show how that would make the leagues look next year.

The Appalachian League and NY-Penn League look like they will become college wood-bat leagues, which MiLB officially announced for the Appalachian League.  I have not seen anything about the future of the Pioneer League.

This new information comes from Ballpark Digest and Baseball America.

The Class A level would shift leagues between High A and Low A, so High A would include the Carolina League, Mid-Atlantic League (new), Midwest League, and Northwest League and Low A would include the California League, Florida Status League, and South Atlantic League.  It looks like this is an attempt to have a better geographical spread at the High A level than the Low A level.

At the AAA level, Jacksonville, St. Paul and Sugar Land will be added and Fresno, San Antonio, and Wichita will be moved to a lower level.  I can’t tell how the affiliations will end up, but I assume that one team will move between the International League and Pacific Coast League to have two teams with even numbers.

Reports came out that the Marlins will have Jacksonville and Pensacola as their top two affiliates, and the Yankees will add Somerset (AA) and Hudson Valley (High A) as affiliates.  Since Somerset was not on the previous list, and there is no information about which team was removed, I left Pulaski off this version of the list.

I also added Beloit back in and removed Quad Cities as Beloit is in the process of building a new ballpark.

I tried to figure out how AAA and AA appear now, but I don’t have any information about how teams will be realigned for the A leagues, so I’ll make some guesses.  This is my best attempt at piecing together the leaked information with some attempt at logic and keeping as much in place from 2019 as reasonable.  Red denotes changes.  Blue denotes ownership stake.  Question marks are things I made up.

So according to this Minor League Baseball would look something like this:

International League (AAA)
Buffalo Bisons – Blue Jays
Charlotte Knights – White Sox
Columbus Clippers – Indians
Durham Bulls – Rays
Gwinnett Stripers – Braves
Indianapolis Indians – Pirates
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – Marlins
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Phillies
Louisville Bats – Reds
Norfolk Tides – Orioles
Worcester Red Sox (2019 Pawtucket Red Sox) – Red Sox
Rochester Red Wings – Twins Nationals?
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Yankees
Syracuse Mets – Mets
Toledo Mud Hens – Tigers

Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Albuquerque Isotopes – Rockies
El Paso Chihuahuas – Padres
Fresno Grizzlies – NationalsMove to California League (Low A)
Iowa Cubs – Cubs
Las Vegas Aviators – A’s
Memphis Redbirds – Cardinals
Nashville Sounds – Rangers
Oklahoma City Dodgers – Dodgers
Omaha Storm Chasers – Royals
Reno Aces – Diamondbacks
Round Rock Express – Astros Brewers?
Sacramento River Cats – Giants
Salt Lake Bees – Angels
San Antonio Missions – Brewers – Move to Texas League (AA)
St. Paul Saints – Twins
Sugar Land Skeeters – Astros
Tacoma Rainiers – Mariners
Wichita Wind Surge (2019 New Orleans Baby Cakes) – Marlins – Move to Texas League (AA)

Eastern League (AA)
Akron RubberDucks – Indians
Altoona Curve – Pirates
Binghamton Rumble Ponies – Mets
Bowie Baysox – Orioles
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets
Erie SeaWolves – Tigers
Harrisburg Senators – Nationals
Hartford Yard Goats – Rockies
New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Blue Jays
Portland Sea Dogs – Red Sox
Reading Fightin Phils – Phillies
Richmond Flying Squirrels – Giants
Somerset Patriots – Yankees
Trenton Thunder – Yankees Tigers?

Southern League (AA)
Biloxi Shuckers – Brewers
Birmingham Barons – White Sox
Bowling Green Hot Rods? – Reds?
Chattanooga Lookouts – Reds
Jackson Generals – Diamondbacks
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – Marlins (Move to International League – AAA)
Mississippi Braves – Braves
Montgomery Biscuits – Rays
Pensacola Blue Wahoos – Twins Marlins
Rocket City Trash Pandas (2019 Mobile BayBears) – Angels
Tennessee Smokies – Cubs

Texas League (AA)
Amarillo Sod Poodles – Padres
Arkansas Travelers – Mariners
Corpus Christi Hooks – Astros
Frisco RoughRiders – Rangers
Midland RockHounds – A’s
Northwest Arkansas Naturals – Royals
San Antonio Missions – Diamondbacks?
Springfield Cardinals – Cardinals
Tulsa Drillers – Dodgers
Wichita Wind Surge – Twins?

California League (High A) (Low A)
Fresno Grizzlies – Rockies?
Lake Elsinore Storm – Padres
Lancaster JetHawks – Rockies
Modesto Nuts – Mariners
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Dodgers
San Bernardino Inland Empire 66ers – Angels
San Jose Giants – Giants
Stockton Ports – A’s
Visalia Rawhide – Diamondbacks

Carolina League (High A)
Carolina Mudcats – Brewers
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros
Frederick Keys – Orioles
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians (Move to South Atlantic League?)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Cubs Braves?
Salem Red Sox – Red Sox
Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox

Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Aberdeen IronBirds – Orioles
Fredericksburg Nationals (2019 Potomac Nationals) – Nationals
Hudson Valley Renegades – Yankees
Tri-City ValleyCats – Mets?
West Virginia Black Bears – Pirates

Wilmington Blue Rocks – Royals Phillies?

Florida State League (High A) (Low A)
Bradenton Marauders – Pirates
Charlotte Stone Crabs – Rays
Clearwater Threshers – Phillies
Daytona Tortugas- Reds
Dunedin Blue Jays – Blue Jays
Florida Fire Frogs – Braves
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels – Twins
Jupiter Hammerheads – Marlins
Lakeland Flying Tigers – Tigers
Palm Beach Cardinals – Cardinals
St. Lucie Mets – Mets
Tampa Tarpons – Yankees

Midwest League (Low A) (High A)
Beloit Snappers – A’s Rays?
Bowling Green Hot Rods – RaysMove to Southern League (AA)?
Burlington Bees – Angels
Cedar Rapids Kernels – Twins
Clinton Lumber Kings – Marlins
Dayton Dragons – Reds
Fort Wayne TinCaps – Padres
Great Lakes Loons – Dodgers
Kane County Cougars – Diamondbacks Royals?
Lake County Captains – Indians
Lansing Lugnuts – Blue Jays
Peoria Chiefs – Cardinals
Quad Cities River Bandits – Astros
South Bend Cubs – Cubs
West Michigan Whitecaps – Tigers
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Brewers Marlins?

South Atlantic League (Low A)
Asheville Tourists – Rockies TBD
Augusta GreenJackets – Giants TBD
Charleston Riverdogs – Yankees TBD
Columbia Fireflies – Mets TBD
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates TBD
Greenville Drive – Red Sox
Hagerstown Suns – Nationals
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies TBD
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
Lexington Legends – Royals
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians
Rome Braves – Braves

West Virginia Power – Mariners

NY-Penn League (A – Short Season)
Aberdeen IronBirds – Move to Class A
Auburn Doubledays
Batavia Muckdogs
Brooklyn Cyclones – Move to Eastern League (AA)
Hudson Valley Renegades – Move to Class A
Lowell Spinners
Mahoning Valley Scrappers
Norwich Sea Unicorns
State College Spikes

Staten Island Yankees
Tri-City ValleyCats – Move to Class A
Vermont Lake Monsters
West Virginia Black Bears – Move to Class A
Williamsport Crosscutters

Northwest League (A – Short Season) (High A)
Boise Hawks – Rockies
Eugene Emeralds – Cubs Giants?
Everett AquaSox – Mariners
Hillsboro Hops – Diamondbacks
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes – Giants
Spokane Indians – Rangers Angels?
Tri-City Dust Devils – Padres
Vancouver Canadians – Blue Jays A’s?

Appalachian League (Rookie – Short Season)
Bluefield Blue Jays
Bristol Pirates
Burlington Royals
Danville Braves
Elizabethton Twins
Greeneville Reds
Johnson City Cardinals
Kingsport Mets
Princeton Rays
Pulaski Yankees – Move to Class A?

Pioneer League (Rookie – Short Season)
Billings Mustangs
Grand Junction Rockies
Great Falls Voyagers
Idaho Falls Chukars
Missoula PaddleHeads
Ogden Raptors
Orem Owlz
Rocky Mountain Vibes

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5 Responses to Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball

  1. Al says:

    Hey Mike,

    I’m not sure if commenting here is the best avenue to reach you, but I’ll start by saying that I’ve been checking your site for many years and respect what you do here. Even though there are tons of unknowns with this process, I just want to help clear up a few things with your list.

    There were rumors about Pulaski going to full-season, but they went along with the new 10-team Appy collegiate league.

    Somerset is replacing the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League. I think there’s a decent chance that Trenton survives in the new middle-Atlantic region league which is not yet named. Of course, they would not be a Yankees affiliate. Hudson Valley will likely be in the new league as well.

    I think JJ Cooper said it in a podcast, but Erie is likely to stay in the EL.

    Like you, I think the Jumbo Shrimp will be in the IL. I wonder if there will be odd-numbered leagues at Triple-A or other levels? Last fall/winter, all the talk was about creating a new central time zone league, but if that happens, there are 7 natural teams for a new PCL. Breaking up ABQ and El Paso would be very inefficient. It’s hard to know how Triple-A will be aligned, but I wouldn’t rule out odd-numbered leagues now that MLB is in control of scheduling and they are downplaying “competitive integrity” within the minor leagues.

    Jersey Shore will be with the Phillies, right? I mean, the new jerseys have the Philly logo on the sleeve. I think they’re slated for the new high-A league.

    I could be totally wrong, but I think the ValleyCats are going to the indy leagues along with Staten Island.

    I have no idea how they’re going to chop up the Sally and Carolina Leagues. The Brewers own the Mudcats, but there’s no way Milwaukee will let go of the Timber Rattlers. They constantly do rehabs and chose them as their alternate site. Mudcats to Sally along with Fayetteville and Down East? I have no idea.

    Like you, I think Quad Cities is top of the list for MWL teams to leave, with Great Lakes close behind. However, Senator Grassley promised that the River Bandits were safe after he talked to MLB officials. I hardly think that’s a guarantee though.

    Northwest League…rumors around Boise leaving, but who knows. Spokane’s travel costs will go up big time if they stick around too.

    Anyway, lots of unknowns. Crazy time to be a minor league fan. Keep up the good work and keep tracking those affiliations!

  2. Mike McCann says:

    Al, it sounds like you heard some different bits and pieces than I did. And some of my information is from 2019 when this first came out and I haven’t seen anything since.

    So while Erie was originally on the cut list, if they stay in, then maybe Trenton drops down to the Mid-Atlantic League and becomes the Mets High A affiliate. I agree that Tri-City seems like it doesn’t quite fit in that league.

    I agree that it would make sense to have a third AAA (bringing back the American Association?) and I could see the desire to keep the Texas teams together since there wouldn’t be a good eighth team to join the PCL with El Paso. The travel within the current PCL is a bit much, even after New Orleans left.

    I agree that Jersey Shore is a natural Phillies fit, but I didn’t want to have it jumping levels. I also thought that the Wilmington Blue Rocks could go back to the 1940’s Interstate League days as a Phillies affiliate, and Wilmington is closer to Philadelphia than Lakewood. I’m not sure how much to read into the Phillies logo on the jersey though. I also saw an article about how the new Reds AA pitching coach mentioned that he would be in Chattanooga and I don’t know if he was going by the previous affiliate or knew that the team was sticking around, but I assume the former.

    And I agree that the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues could easily switch some teams and there probably isn’t much point in guessing right now. I think the Rangers affiliates are set as Down East in Carolina and Hickory in South Atlantic since they own both though, but maybe the Mudcats join the Sally League. Moving the Timber Rattlers away from the Brewers was a tough call in my made up world, but I had to go in some direction and didn’t want to take a guess at rebalancing everything.

    And even with the contraction, I can still see a continuation of cities building new stadiums and moving in teams, so you could see some cities that lose teams now getting new ones in the future. Just like how Beloit made it’s way back onto the list.

    Appreciate the input. Thanks!

  3. Al says:

    Mike, thanks for your response.

    Boy, this thing is changing rapidly. In the Yankees’ announcement today, they said that Trenton would be offered Somerset’s membership in the Atlantic League and that Staten would likely be going indy as well. Crazy for the Thunder to go from a high-drawing team with a regional parent club to being totally left out of the minors.

    I didn’t hear that tip about Chattanooga. I sure hope the Lookouts are kept in affiliated ball. Great historic team. Chattanooga is actually pretty close to Rome, Asheville, Greenville, so I wonder if the Sally is an option if they get booted from the SL.

    I hear you about the PCL. If keeping even-numbered leagues is a dealbreaker, then I can see El Paso being added in with the central time zone teams. Another possibility is Oklahoma City. With Wichita leaving Triple-A, OKC is kind of on an island. They are almost as close to ABQ and El Paso as they are to Memphis, Round Rock, Sugar Land, etc. I suppose it’s all temporary until MLB expands too.

    Can you see Wilmington becoming the Mets’ high-A affiliate, or is that a conflict given the proximity to Philly?

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Mike McCann says:

    I missed the Yankees press release that said that Trenton would be joining the Atlantic League, so I’ll have to remove them. Definitely did not see that one coming. And I could see Wilmington becoming the Mets High A team since they were previously a non-Phillies affiliate.

    I’m going to put together an updated list based on some of these guesses, so take a look. Thanks!

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