Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 6

While I do enjoy putting together different potential scenarios for how Minor League Baseball will look next year, I am hoping that their plans are made public early next week as speculated because there are still so many unknowns that it seems like a futile exercise to do any more conjecture.  Now with that being said, Baseball America reported that there will be three High A leagues instead of the four that we thought.  So while it sounds like the Carolina League name will be discarded in favor of the more geographically correct Mid-Atlantic League, I’ll update my structure one more time to indicate one possibility of how things may look.  And if any other information comes out this weekend, I will incorporate that as well.

I will also incorporate the speculation from Ballpark Digest that the Astros will be getting a Midwest League team.  To do that, I’ll assume the Astros stay at Quad Cities and Kane County is the odd man out.  To break up the Mid-Atlantic League and South Atlantic League, there isn’t a clear distinction between the two in this version although I tried to keep it as geographically separated as possible, but I ended up with Delmarva and Lynchburg as SAL outliers.  While Delmarva is further north and Lynchburg is too far west, all of the teams closer to the coast end up as part of that league as it now includes Down East, Carolina Mudcats and Fayetteville.  Now if the Orioles were to do something like drop Bowie, making Aberdeen their AA team and Delmarva their High A team, things could fit much better.  And some other team would get added back to the South Atlantic League also, like Chattanooga as an example.

The other struggles are where the Marlins and Rays High A affiliates would fall, so I listed both in two places (Beloit and West Virginia).  I’m still assuming that the West Virginia Black Bears have a Mid-Atlantic team with no obvious affiliation, although that could also make sense as Trenton too.  And really there are many other assumptions that could be wrong that cause this entire thing to fall apart.

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 Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Aberdeen IronBirds? – Orioles
Asheville Tourists? – Braves?
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets

Carolina Mudcats – Brewers Move to South Atlantic League?
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers Move to South Atlantic League?
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros Move to South Atlantic League?
Frederick Keys – Orioles
Fredericksburg Nationals (2019 Potomac Nationals) – Nationals
Greensboro Grasshoppers? – Pirates
Hickory Crawdads? – Rangers
Hudson Valley Renegades – Yankees
Jersey Shore BlueClaws? – Phillies
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians Move to South Atlantic League?
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Cubs Move to South Atlantic League?
Salem Red Sox – Red Sox
West Virginia Black Bears? – Marlins? Rays?
Wilmington Blue Rocks – Royals
Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox

Midwest League (Low A) (High A)
Beloit Snappers – A’s Marlins? 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
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 Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Augusta GreenJackets – Giants Royals?
Carolina Mudcats? – Brewers
Charleston Riverdogs – Yankees Reds?
Columbia Fireflies – Mets Nationals?
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Greenville Drive – Red Sox
Hagerstown Suns – Nationals
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
Lexington Legends – Royals
Lynchburg Hillcats? – Indians
Myrtle Beach Pelicans? – Cubs

Rome Braves – Braves
West Virginia Power – Mariners

NY-Penn League (A – Short Season)
Aberdeen IronBirds – Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Auburn Doubledays
Batavia Muckdogs
Brooklyn Cyclones – Move to Mid-Atlantic League
Hudson Valley Renegades – Move to Mid-Atlantic League
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 Mid-Atlantic League?
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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23 Responses to Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 6

  1. Thomas A Mills says:

    I’m inclined now to believe the rumors that Daytona survived and Port Charlotte did not. Partly I’m sure because their owner passed away,

    So I might put Rays in Charleston.

  2. Justin says:

    Yet another good rundown Mike! One note that’s mostly academic but you have the West Virginia Power as being currently affiliated with the Pirates rather than the Mariners.

    It’ll be weird to see the Carolina League and South Atlantic leagues essentially combined after parts of both Leagues get picked off for the Mid-Atlantic League. It’ll definitely be interesting to see who goes where.

  3. Mike McCann says:

    Good catch! I’m going to go ahead and edit those posts to correctly reflect that.

  4. Chin says:

    Another good one! Looks like you got the Astros doubled up in Low-A though, in Augusta and Fayetteville. I think the Nats are the one missing at that level.

  5. Mike McCann says:

    Another good catch! I actually work with a separate spreadsheet to make sure that I keep things even, but I must have posted before I finished all of my updates. Coming up with a Nationals SAL team is harder than you would think since there aren’t any obvious choices nearby. I think that Lynchburg might be a good fit, but my goal was to keep the previous affiliations together and left them with the Indians. So I updated it to put the Nationals in Columbia and Royals in Augusta. Those are just out of the blue guesses.

  6. Iron Horse says:

    Great work putting all this together! What do you think of this modification to get Delmarva and Lynchburg in the Mid-Atlantic while also keeping Greensboro and Winston-Salem together and giving the Pirates the WV Black Bears?

    Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
    Delmarva Shorebirds – Marlins/Rays (East Coast affiliation, per Ballpark Digest)
    Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
    Lynchburg Hillcats – Braves
    West Virginia Black Bears – Pirates
    Wilmington Blue Rocks – Marlins/Rays

    Midwest League (High A)
    Beloit Snappers – Royals

    South Atlantic League (Low A)
    Asheville Tourists – Orioles/Nationals
    Columbia Fireflies – Indians (AL Central team, per Ballpark Digest)
    Greensboro Grasshoppers – Orioles/Nationals
    Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox (part-owner)

    https://ballparkdigest.com/200905261902/minor-league-baseball/news/affiliate-dance-2012 (the link is seemingly from 2009/2012, but they’re assessing the minor leagues for 2021)

  7. Al says:

    This is interesting. Sounds like the Fresno Grizzlies have so far resisted a proposed move to the Cal League and MLB is giving them till Monday to decide.

    https://amp.fresnobee.com/sports/mlb/fresno-grizzlies/article247444700.html

    Another nugget in there is that the Rockies have said they would take Fresno as a low A team, so if Fresno does go there, Mike is right on track.

    Fresno has no other good options (Pecos League?) so they’ll probably accept the demotion. But MLB has Lancaster as a backup. I’m sure the Rockies would much rather have the Grizzlies but if the JetHawks are saved it would one less team to find placement for.

  8. Chin says:

    If Fresno opts out, would MLB opt to cut another team in the Cal and drop down to six rather than stick with a place they obviously don’t like in Lancaster? Maybe Visalia? I’d guess not, because then they’d be stuck with two West teams in an East Coast Low-A League.

  9. Al says:

    I think Visalia is pretty safe. They got new ownership in the fall and the city pledged a bunch of money for upgrades. We’ll see where this goes but Rockies affiliate in the Cal League seems the most likely outcome.

  10. Mike McCann says:

    That’s definitely feasible also. What I struggle with is that the Mid-Atlantic League would need to have at least two North Carolina teams because the Rangers and White Sox each own two teams in that state. So I agree with you that something like would work by including Delmarva and Lynchburg in the MAL and including Asheville and Greensboro in the SAL. Personally, I think that Winston-Salem in MAL and Kannapolis in SAL is more likely, but I could easily see it going the other way.

  11. Al says:

    Apologies for the rumor dump, but I’m curious to hear some thoughts on the latest revisions to Ballpark Digest’s affiliate dance. The page is still pretty sloppy, but the some of todays’ new things are interesting. Here’s what stands out to me:

    Several teams now say “Will play in the Showcase League/MLB Draft League.” These include

    Trenton
    Hagerstown
    Mahoning Valley
    State College
    West Virginia Black Bears
    Williamsport

    Aberdeen says “could end up High A or Showcase”

    Tri-City ValleyCats says “may end up will play in Showcase League/MLB Draft League.” I think that’s just a typo, and I think he meant to change it from “may end up” to “will play.”

    Vermont and Connecticut may end up in indy leagues. Vermont lists the Frontier, which makes sense given their proximity to the old Can-Am clubs. Nothing new on Lowell.

    Vancouver now says “Blue Jays/Athletics?” so it makes me wonder if there is indeed a push to keep Toronto with the Canadians and Beloit in the MWL. Lansing still says “Blue Jays?”

    Tri City Dust Devils now says “Angels?” (!) while Boise just says “TBA.” The Hawks were “expected to renew” before this update.

    We kind of assumed this, but it looks like Carolina, Down East, and Myrtle Beach are all headed to low-A. Have to assume Fayetteville will be in that mix as well.

    Nothing new on Bowling Green, Delmarva, Florida State League. Asheville stills lists Marlins.

  12. Mike McCann says:

    I always struggle with how to interpret things on that site. It’s written intentionally cryptic to imply that there is more known about what is going on that can’t be released at this point. And the fact that we are discussing it achieves their goal in writing it that way.

    I’ve been going off of the assumption that there would be 12 teams in the Mid-Atlantic League, but if Aberdeen and Trenton and West Virginia weren’t in affiliated ball, I guess that means it would be 10 teams and either the Midwest or Northwest Leagues would pick up the slack. So I suppose that maybe there’s a chance it goes that way. Adding more fuel to that rumor would be the Angels going to Tri-City, and while Rockies are now listed as Spokane instead of Boise, maybe there was something to that earlier rumor about the Dodgers going to Northwest League, potentially even Spokane. I see that it doesn’t commit the Dodgers or Padres to the Midwest League, so maybe they are looking west.

    Without any inside information, I can’t speculate on how many moving parts there have been this month or how many still remain. I did see the article about Fresno, but that looks like it will be the Rockies ending up in one of two places. But if there is still discussion about the Blue Jays staying in Vancouver, then I could see the Northwest League staying with eight teams. Or maybe the A’s would stay in Beloit and Boise becomes an odd man out of the Northwest League in favor of Tri-City.

    Other things I noticed are that it has the Rangers in Nashville and putting the Brewers in Round Rock. It has a question mark on Bowie, so I’m wondering if it’s still there’s a chance that they are replaced by Aberdeen, although Aberdeen says High A, or maybe Delmarva since they are question marks across the board. I also see that Jersey Shore has question marks across the board as well, so maybe being the Phillies High A team isn’t a done deal. In the Cal League, Rancho Cucamonga and Visalia are both question marks, but I would be surprised if either of those changed, so maybe I’m reading into all of this way too much.

  13. Iron Horse says:

    Interesting that Ballpark Digest asserts the WV Black Bears will drop out of affiliated ball. (Incidentally, they also claim that Hickory will move to High A.) If this is true, then I will propose an alternate modification to Mike’s most recent setup in which Kane County is retained in the Midwest League and Lake County is moved to the MAL to replace WV. Greensboro stays in the MAL as a Pirates affiliate. With Kannapolis remaining in the SAL, the White Sox can affiliate at the High A level with nearby Kane County instead. Kannapolis does not seem to be owned by the White Sox, so they affiliate with the Orioles or Nationals.

    Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
    Delmarva Shorebirds – Marlins/Rays (East Coast affiliation, per Ballpark Digest)
    Lake County Captains – Indians
    Lynchburg Hillcats – Braves
    Wilmington Blue Rocks – Marlins/Rays

    Midwest League (High A)
    Beloit Snappers – Royals
    Kane County Cougars – White Sox

    South Atlantic League (Low A)
    Asheville Tourists – Orioles/Nationals
    Columbia Fireflies – Indians (AL Central team, per Ballpark Digest)
    Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – Orioles/Nationals
    Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox (part-owner)

    This does split Greensboro and Winston-Salem, but one could easily put Greensboro in the SAL and replace them in the MAL with either Asheville or Kannapolis.

  14. Al says:

    Mike, thank you for weighing in on this. That affiliate dance is certainly cryptic and often contradictory. I have to take it all with a grain of salt. If they know some things are so certain, you’d think they would just leak it like BA did with the Yankees.

    Iron Horse, one thing to keep in mind is that the White Sox have avoided the MWL for a long time. Kannapolis is basically a suburb of Charlotte where they have their IL team and the Dash are right up the road. Birmingham relatively close by. I think they prefer to concentrate their resources in one region and that area of the southeast is one of the few where that’s possible—especially in this new system.

  15. Chin says:

    We’ve recently discussed the Jays staying in Vancouver over Lansing, and maybe that’s happening?

    Eugene – Giants
    Everett – Mariners
    Hillsboro – Diamondbacks
    Spokane – Rockies
    Tri City – Angels
    Vancouver – Blue Jays

    A’s, Dodgers and Padres stick in their current MWL cities, where they’re said to be very happy.

    Keith Law wrote way back in April that the last spot in the NWL would come down to Boise, Salem-Keizer and Tri City. Boise seemed like the safe bet, but that it possibly changed isn’t too surprising. And maybe teams were given an option to choose, and the Rockies chose to leave Boise?

    I also just now learned that George Brett is a part owner of Tri City.

  16. Al says:

    Another thing about Boise is that they could pretty easily fit into the new indy Pioneer League. MLB has basically promised (at least back in the summer) that they would find a place for every team left out.

    I’m curious what they’ll do with the Volcanoes. And for that matter Fresno if they refuse the Cal League. The Pecos is basically the only non-collegiate option in the west. Maybe they’ll expand the Pioneer to the coast?

  17. Chin says:

    AI, I just started typing out a post in notepad touching on the same topic. I don’t know how heavily MLB would factor in Boise’s geography relative to an available “indy” league in making a final determination on who stays and goes in the NWL, but there’s an obvious fit. I can also see the Rocky Mountain/Colorado Springs team, with their AAA-caliber stadium, slot into the American Association to replace St. Paul, making room for Boise in the Pioneer.

    I’d guess Salem-Keizer would end up in the summer collegiate West Coast League, which has teams in the region in Portland, Corvallis and Bend. The league also currently sits at fifteen members, so getting to an even number works out as well (though not sure it matters much in a collegiate league).

    I also noticed that the Eugene Emeralds most recent entry on their Twitter following list is the SF Giants’ official account. I don’t think you can find the exact follow date, but it does stand out, as the rest of their MLB-related following list is very Cubs-centric.

  18. Chin says:

    I forgot to add, on the California League. I know they promised to keep baseball in every community, but if Fresno refuses the Low-A offer, I wonder if MLB uses that as justification to walk away, saying the offer was refused? I can see Lancaster in the Pecos, but Fresno, I don’t want to say they’re “too good”, but I’m not really sure that option is better than no baseball at all. They may as well just push to convert the stadium for soccer use, or something like that.

  19. Al says:

    Yeah, I agree that it wouldn’t be a major deciding factor. Interesting thought about Colorado Springs in the AA – they would be the westernmost by a good margin but then again, it’s not hard to drive from Colorado Springs to Lincoln. Flat highways with like 80 MPH.

    I’ve been curious to see what will happen with Grand Junction since they are owned by the Rockies. If they are just dissolved, it would make room for a team like Boise. Salem-Keizer does seem like a good fit for the WCL. They’re pretty respectable for a summer collegiate. Corvallis shares the park with OSU, so Adley Rutschman stuck around and played for the Knights a few years back.

    MLB could totally use that as justification to let Fresno go it alone. And it’s easy to see Fresno going the route of Portland converting to soccer, but the Grizzlies have a respectable fan base and many would be upset to lose pro baseball. If I were to bet on it, I think they’ll accept their Cal League placement. Although a Rockies affiliation is probably a disappointment when the fanbase is like 50/50 Giants/Dodgers.

    Good spot about Eugene! We’ll find out soon how all of this plays out.

  20. Chin says:

    I definitely agree, I think Fresno will ultimately decide to stick around. But wow, they’re not going down without a fight.

    Great point on Grand Junction. I can’t imagine the owners of the Rockies would want to bother with owning a college wood bat or indy team.

    The Ballpark Digest twitter account just reported a few changes to the tracker. The only one I noticed was “Athletics, Astros?” for Beloit (unless that was there and I missed it earlier). That’s…interesting. He also hinted on some announcements on Monday, and suggests big things coming for the Frontier League.

  21. Al says:

    That Beloit note is definitely a new one. I think he moved around a few question marks in the Cal League. Tri-City ValleyCats now says indy, where before it said something like indy or MLB Draft League. Another one that frustrates me is that Trenton was previously expected to join the MLB Draft League, but now it has a question mark. (It’s like, come on, man. If he doesn’t really know for sure, there should be a question mark.)

    For all the faults, Reichard does seem to have a read on placement for a bunch of these teams outside the affiliated minors, which makes sense given the focus of a lot of BPD reporting. The Frontier League seems ready to absorb teams in New England – maybe Vermont, Tri-City, Norwich, Lowell + Lexington, WV Power, and maybe some Midwest League teams?

    Speaking of the MWL, I have no idea how to interpret the note about Beloit. If it’s the Astros, does that mean that Quad Cities merely going to another team? Or going to a partner league? Ugh. I respect Mike’s skepticism about the whole affiliate dance. Bring on whatever Monday announcements we may get!

  22. Chin says:

    I think Reichard is just messing with us now.

    On the tracker:
    Nashville:
    Future Team – Brewers, mystery team?
    Status – Interesting twist

    Round Rock:
    Future Team – Rangers
    Status – Interesting twist

  23. Thomas A Mills says:

    I will say that an “interesting twist” would be announcing their intention to expand in the in the next couple years, as we previously discussed.

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