Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 5

It was announced that the Sugar Land Skeeters would become the Astros AAA affiliate, which aligns with the previous reports that they would be added from the Atlantic League, but reports also mention that the Astros will have an ownership stake.  I’ve been trying to figure out if the new system would mean more teams would have ownership stakes because MLB now has so much control, or if fewer teams would because there is less reason to force a team to remain your affiliate as was done when teams purchased Carolina League teams because they didn’t want a California League affiliate.

At the AAA level, I decided to make Nashville the Brewers AAA affiliate and put them in the International League because the desire to keep Memphis and Nashville together is likely outweighed by the distance St. Paul is away from everything else.  I mentioned before that three leagues at AAA probably made the most sense, but thinking about it more, it also might not be that crazy to have a 20 team International League that includes Nashville, Memphis, Omaha, Iowa, and St. Paul and a 10 team Pacific Coast League.  If you had an unbalanced schedule where some teams only meet once a year (or even one home and home series), that’s not too unreasonable.  I am assuming that Sugar Land is going in the PCL, but I haven’t seen anything confirming that.

So let me know what you think of the latest version.  I’ll keep making updates when new information is available.

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
Nashville Sounds – Rangers Brewers?
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 – Nationals – Move to California League (Low A)
Iowa Cubs – Cubs
Las Vegas Aviators – A’s
Memphis Redbirds – Cardinals
Oklahoma City Dodgers – Dodgers
Omaha Storm Chasers – Royals
Reno Aces – Diamondbacks
Round Rock Express – Astros Rangers?
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
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

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?

Carolina League (High A)
Carolina Mudcats – Brewers Move to South Atlantic League?
Columbia Fireflies? – Braves?
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers

Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros
Frederick Keys – Orioles
Greensboro Grasshoppers? – Pirates
Greenville Drive? – Red Sox

Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians Move to South Atlantic League?
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Cubs Move to South Atlantic League?
Salem Red Sox – Red Sox Move to South Atlantic League?
Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox

Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Aberdeen IronBirds? – Orioles
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets
Fredericksburg Nationals (2019 Potomac Nationals) – Nationals
Hudson Valley Renegades – Yankees
Jersey Shore BlueClaws? – Phillies
Wilmington Blue Rocks – Royals

Midwest League (Low A) (High A)
Beloit Snappers – A’s Rays?
Bowling Green Hot Rods – Rays – Move 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 Marlins?
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

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

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

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

South Atlantic League (Low A)
Asheville Tourists – Rockies Astros?
Augusta GreenJackets – Giants Royals?
Carolina Mudcats? – Brewers
Charleston Riverdogs – Yankees Reds?
Columbia Fireflies – Mets Move to Carolina League?
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates Move to Carolina League?
Greenville Drive – Red Sox Move to Carolina League?
Hagerstown Suns – Nationals
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies Move to High A Mid-Atlantic League?
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
Lexington Legends – Royals
Lynchburg Hillcats? – Indians
Myrtle Beach Pelicans? – Cubs

Rome Braves – Braves
Salem Red Sox? – Red Sox
West Virginia Black Bears? – Nationals?
West Virginia Power – Mariners

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

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

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

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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15 Responses to Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 5

  1. Al says:

    Mike, your 20/10 Triple-A split idea is the most sensible solution I’ve yet to see for this problem. I don’t think it’s worth it to go through the trouble of creating a whole new league unless it’s a clean fit with the others. The PCL situation makes that very difficult. But the 20/10 doesn’t separate any clusters and maintains even numbers.

  2. Chin says:

    Yeah, I like the 20/10 as well, though I think just swapping Memphis and Nashville to the IL for 14/16 looks really nice, too. It’s always made more sense that way, to align them in a league with Louisville and Indianapolis. Not having New Orleans around makes it easier to do now.

    If the AAA teams align as expected (Texas goes back to Round Rock), you can just make the PCL a 10-team league of AL and NL West affiliates, which works out nicely.

  3. Todd Boss says:

    20/10 IL/PCL split. Does that make more or less sense than dividing AAA into three leagues (IL east coast, return the old AA for the mid-west leagues, PCL for west coast) to completely solve the travel issue?

    I did some noodling and it isn’t perfect, but a 10-10-10 league where you join the Texas clubs with the West Coast clubs fits. Maybe its easier to group them by division within a larger AAA league and accomplish the same thing.

    Also wanted to say, I came across this blog by chance and I think the work you’re doing is fantastic. I’m a Nats-focused blogger and we have significant interest in the minor league reorg, since 2 of our 4 current affiliates are getting whacked (Fresno and Hagerstown).

  4. Todd Boss says:

    To show my work on the above 10-10-10:

    International League: you could split into two even more geographically associated divisions:
    – IL North: Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Worcester, Rochester, Scranton/WB, Syracuse
    – IL South: Jacksonville, Charlotte, Durham, Norfolk

    American Association:: again could do a two division split:
    – AA south: Gwinnett, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville
    – AA north: Columbus, Indianapolis, Toledo, Iowa, Omaha, St. Paul

    Pacific Coast League:
    – PCL East: Round Rock, El Paso, Sugar Land, Oklahoma City
    – PCL West: Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Tacoma

    If you did a non-balanced schedule you’d limit the longer trips to the alternate division teams, which would really help the PCL West teams like Tacoma.

    The biggest issues with this org:
    – splitting the Texas/Oklahoma teams from Omaha
    – splitting Gwinnett from Charlotte
    – Tacoma is still a long ways from the Texas teams

  5. Al says:

    Welcome Todd! This space has been great for a small group of us to speculate and bounce ideas in a respectable way. You might find some interesting discussions about the Nats in the comment threads from previous posts too.

    Your setup is pretty much identical to Mike’s but splits the 20-team IL into two leagues. Either could work – now I’m curious what divisions Mike would suggest for the 20-team IL. We need a spreadsheet that would calculate total miles of distance in a projected league/divisional schedule and pick the most efficient scenario.

  6. Mike McCann says:

    Todd, it’s great to have you join us! I know that we’ve gone through a few different AAA iterations here. One of the earlier ones was the time zone split, where I believe that was the PCL being the 6 teams in your PCL West, the IL being as 14 team league of your IL plus Gwinnett, Columbus, Indianapolis, Toledo, and the resurrected American Association being the middle 10 (El Paso, Round Rock, Sugar Land, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Iowa, St. Paul, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville). That tenth AA team is tough but I think Louisville makes the most sense, even though it’s the only team that would in the Eastern time zone. MLB doesn’t seem to often do things logically, so the 6-10-14 format isn’t an unreasonable suggestion either.

    Divisions for a 20 team IL could definitely be broken up into four like you have in the AA and IL format here. And I agree with Al that you would need to do some distance analysis to determine what really makes the most sense. If I were to break the IL into divisions, I’d make it three where you combine your two South Divisions for the IL South and make the AA West the IL Northwest and the IL North the IL Northeast. Actually, if it was broken up into four leagues that way as 6-6-8-10, that would be an option. I think that’s extremely unlikely, but if they were really focused on travel with the AAA level spread out across the entire country, that would be a good way to cut down on travel costs.

    Actually, I’ll suggest this as the four team league:
    Pacific Coast League (6): Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Tacoma
    Central League (8): El Paso, Round Rock, Sugar Land, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Iowa, St. Paul, Memphis
    Northeastern League (10): Buffalo, Worcester, Rochester, SWB, Syracuse, Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, Lehigh Valley, Norfolk
    Southeastern League (6): Jacksonville, Charlotte, Durham, Gwinnett, Nashville, Louisville

    There are definitely some places where the lines have to separate teams that you want to keep together (Memphis/Nashville, Norfolk/Durham, Albuquerque/El Paso), but it how I see the best way to break things up, although there are better names than what I put down. Given the location of the existing teams, I think that could work. And I’m sure that within two years they will move some team that ruins whatever we come up with regardless.

    And definitely interested to get your thoughts on where the Nationals will have their two A teams. Right now, my guess is Fredericksburg and West Virginia, but I think others are betting on Wilmington and Fredericksburg.

  7. Bob Williams says:

    Love Todd’s work on this. If there will definitely be four high-A leagues, I think there will be three AAA leagues. Also Todd, welcome to Rochester. As someone who has lived in both places, I think the flight schedule is going to suit you nicely. Plus you’re getting a facility that had Blue Jays alternate training site upgrades. I’m happy to have the Nats in town.

  8. Chin says:

    Dodgers High A affiliate will be in Spokane. I gotta say, I did not see that one coming.

    https://twitter.com/jphoornstra/status/1329544657676759046

  9. Jim Blowers says:

    Rochester Red Wings did sign up with the Nationals.

  10. Chin says:

    This is getting fun. JJ Cooper says the Dodgers/Spokane rumor is false.

    https://twitter.com/jjcoop36/status/1329557230098800644

    Maybe J.P. Hoornstra misunderstood, and it’s the Angels going to Spokane?

  11. Mike McCann says:

    As soon as you posted the Spokane information, I found an article that I thought confirmed it. Then I realized that it was J.P. Hoornstra writing for the Los Angeles Daily News and the same source: https://www.dailynews.com/2020/11/19/dodgers-will-affiliate-with-spokane-and-not-great-lakes-or-ogden-in-2021

    In this case, I’ll wait for a second source before posting that, but it would make things interesting. It would mean either the Angels or Giants having their High A affiliate somewhere in the east and I don’t know where I would put either of them. Maybe assume it would be the Giants so they could be close to their AA team? Or I suppose another option is that the west coast teams all put their High A affiliate in the Northwest League and the Giants stay at Salem-Keizer and the Padres stay at Tri-City with the Angels going to Eugene, but that would mean two more Midwest League teams would be contracted instead of those Northwest League teams. Maybe that’s not too unreasonable if they feel strongly about the geographic ties.

    And I definitely agree that the Angels would make more sense than the Dodgers given everything else that has leaked, but we’ll see if any other news comes out about this today.

  12. Al says:

    Chin, I like your theory. I can imagine the conversation.

    “Hey, J.P., I got a hot tip for you. Los Angeles to Spokane.” (hangs up phone)
    “Mr. editor, let’s print it. Dodgers to Spokane.”

  13. Jon M. says:

    I can’t see the Brewers willingly affiliating with Nashville after Nashville dumped the Brewers at the end of 2014 forcing them to go the then worst affiliate location of Colorado Springs (which hampered their pitching development for years) just before opening of the new Nashville stadium with better facilities after the Brewers played 10 years in Nashville’s poor facilities. Much hard feelings and bitterness remain. So don’t be suprised to see the Brewers end up in Round Rock.

  14. Al says:

    Hey Jon

    I’m a Brewers fan and remember all too well how Doug Melvin and company were left holding the bag that fall. It really hurt the team to have Colorado Springs, and there were ripple effects.

    If Nashville were still their AAA club in ’16, they may have grudgingly accepted Lancaster at High A. But you can’t work with video game offense at both AAA and High A. Send all pitchers to Biloxi? Cue the impulse buy of the Mudcats and here we are. Reduced franchise valuation in Zebulon, the Brewers have to pay for the renovations/travel fees imposed by the MLB office, and it wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d known Lancaster would be contracted a few years later.

    But regarding Nashville, are you sure that “much hard feelings and bitterness remain”? That was over six years ago and there’s been a fair amount turnover in the front office since then. Also, I can’t remember anyone from the Brewers ever going public with their hard feelings. Do you have any inside sources that indicate the bitterness is still strong?

    Round Rock is still in play until we hear official confirmation. JJ Cooper has held off on adding them to his confirmation chart.

    https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2021-minor-league-baseball-affiliation-chart/

    But then again, Cooper also retweeted that report that the Rangers were headed back to Round Rock. Hard feelings or no, the Brewers seem destined to land in Nashville. It would be a cruel irony to have the MLB office force them to take back the affiliation they lost six years ago.

    Or maybe Stearns/Attanasio shrug and say “hey, that facility is still pretty nice.” Bygones be bygones?

  15. Al says:

    Not sure if anyone’s still reading this, but Adam McCalvy is a very reliable source.

    https://www.mlb.com/brewers/news/david-stearns-brewers-offseason-plans

    “I’ve heard two possibilities, though these are only possibilities: Wichita, which has a new stadium that was to house the Marlins’ top affiliate in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and Nashville, the Brewers’ former longtime Triple-A home. Nashville opened a new stadium in ’15, just as the Brewers were nudged out to their chagrin. Milwaukee officials would be thrilled about a reunion, should that come to pass.”

    Reading between the lines, I’m wondering if the Rangers are trying to stay with Nashville. Maybe we’ll see Round Rock get sent to the Texas League instead of Wichita. But if not, sounds like the Sounds are a legit option with no hard feelings.

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