Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 7

While I do expect that announcement will be made this week, I did want to make another attempt at where things may end up based on other possibilities out there that seem reasonable.

It sounds like Daytona will keep their team and the Charlotte Stone Crabs will be out.  That will put the Rays Low A team in Charleston, which isn’t unreasonable as they were there from 1997-2004 and will need a new affiliate since the Yankees have an FSL team.

At the High A level, it’s definitely tougher to figure out without more concrete information, but I put Asheville with the Marlins based on the Ballpark Digest speculation and kept the Rays in the Midwest League in Beloit since there weren’t any other teams in that league to choose from.  Previously I had removed Kane County since I added Quad Cities back in, but I decided that since we seem to be short a Mid-Atlantic League team that it could make sense to put Lake County in the MAL and add Kane County back in the MWL.  That makes Lake County a little bit of an outlier, but it was already an outlier in the Midwest League.  So I put the Royals in Kane County and the Braves in Wilmington.

I also removed Boise from the Northwest League, replacing them with the Tri-City Dust Devils and moving the Rockies to Spokane and Angels to Tri-City.

The other interesting piece is that Fresno needs to decide if they want a California League team since they aren’t happy about being demoted from AAA.  So right now it looks like Fresno is in line for the Rockies Low A affiliate, but if they refuse, then I would expect the Rockies to remain in Lancaster.

But even after all of this, I’m sure that there are some things here that are completely off from what will be decided and we can all discuss how we could come up with something better than what MLB decided.

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? Move from Pacific Coast League?
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? – Marlins?
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets

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

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 Royals?
Lake County Captains – Indians Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
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 Rockies?
Tri-City Dust Devils – Padres Angels?
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 (High A)?
Augusta GreenJackets – Giants Royals?
Carolina Mudcats? – Brewers
Charleston Riverdogs – Yankees Rays?
Columbia Fireflies – Mets Nationals?
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates Move to Mid-Atlantic League (High A)?
Greenville Drive – Red Sox
Hagerstown Suns – Nationals
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers Move to Mid-Atlantic League (High A)?
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies Move to Mid-Atlantic League (High A)?
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 (High A)?
Auburn Doubledays
Batavia Muckdogs
Brooklyn Cyclones – Move to Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Hudson Valley Renegades – Move to Mid-Atlantic League (High 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
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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26 Responses to Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 7

  1. Iron Horse says:

    Changes look good! My predicted alignment and affiliations are almost the same as yours now. The only places we differ are the affiliations for 3 Midwest League teams and 2 South Atlantic League teams. My reason for differing is simply to avoid conflicting with the Ballpark Digest assessment.

    Midwest League (High A)
    Beloit Snappers – Astros (BPD: “Athletics, Astros?”)
    Kane County Cougars – Rays (BPD: “?”)
    Quad Cities River Bandits – Royals (BPD: “?”)

    South Atlantic League (Low A)
    Augusta GreenJackets – Nationals (BPD: “?”)
    Columbia Fireflies – Royals (BPD: “Look to AL Central team”)

    I affiliated the Royals with Quad Cities only because it’s a bit closer to Kansas City than Kane County. This leaves Kane County for the Rays.

  2. Al says:

    Ballpark Digest tweeted new changes to the Affiliate Dance this afternoon. The only change I noticed:

    Spokane Rockies?

    Looks like more evidence that Boise will get the boot.

  3. Chin says:

    Isn’t the Spokane/Rockies update a few days old now? Or is it that the question mark a new addition?

    Has there always been a question mark next to the Diamondbacks in Visalia?

  4. Al says:

    Oops! Maybe I missed the Boise/Spokane note the other day. Mike already had it marked down.

    The question mark by Visalia has been there for a while. It was there when there were question marks by other Cal League teams Stockton and Rancho C. It is much more noticeable now that those others have lost their question marks.

    I think I mentioned this another thread but I think Visalia’s pretty safe. They got new owners about a year ago and the city pledged money for upgrades.

    https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/09/23/visalia-pay-3-6-m-keep-rawhide-recreation-ballpark-10-years/2353978001/

    Plus I’d guess that Arizona would prefer to keep them. Although a six-team Cal (if Fresno declines their invite) would help make some other puzzles fit better.

  5. Chin says:

    Right, thank you. Odd hint that the Diamondbacks wouldn’t be back. I can’t see six of the eight Cal parents leaving their current affiliates, nor would it make sense for the Diamondbacks to head to the SAL and force a non-West Coast team into Cali. Maybe Arizona’s made or is making a play for Fresno.

    The Kansas City Star speculated the Royals end up in Quad Cities and Columbia. Good call, Iron Horse. I had them there in my latest mockup as well, so great minds…

    https://www.kansascity.com/sports/mlb/kansas-city-royals/article247484820.html

  6. Chin says:

    Per both Ballpark Digest and JJ Cooper/Baseball America, the new summer collegiate “MLB Draft League” in the NY-Penn League region will be announced this morning.

    Also per Cooper, Williamsport and State College also have announcements scheduled for today. Will be worth watching for other potential announcements from teams. Aberdeen in particular, with the “High A or draft league” designation from BD. Also might offer some clarity on Lowell, and whether Trenton and Tri-City go Atlantic/Frontier or not.

    Ballpark Digest also suggests we may see an announcement on the Pioneer League.

    Today is also the deadline for Fresno.

  7. Al says:

    Thanks for that link Chin. It’s refreshing to read a well-reported newspaper article for a change, even if the writer is sort of where we all are – trying to read the BPD tea leaves. But the writer does a good job of pointing out how Dave Heller is familiar with KC from the Wilmington years.

    If Quad lands with KC, it also may explain why Houston is a possibility for Beloit. In a roundabout way, I wonder if that makes Lansing a backup for Houston if Oakland manages to stay in the MWL? But if Lansing/Toronto falls apart and the MWL needs to cut an additional team, the Lugnuts would seem vulnerable.

    Bowling Green is still a huge x-factor. I think they’re slightly more likely to stay in the MWL (and Chattanooga in the SL) but that piece of the puzzle is far from solved.

  8. Chin says:

    Yeah, getting MWL down to twelve is complicated. Feels like Houston in Beloit would make it more likely the A’s go to Vancouver.

  9. Chin says:

    Five teams announced for the new MLB Draft League, with a sixth expected later.

    Mahoning Valley
    State College
    Trenton
    West Virginia Black Bears
    Williamsport

    Trenton is s surprise. Hat tip to Ballpark Digest for having those five nailed down earlier. Any guesses as to who the sixth will be? Ballpark Digest has Hagerstown there, so maybe still negotiating?

    https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-draft-league-to-begin-in-2021?t=mlb-draft-coverage

  10. Al says:

    Yes they have been sure that Hagerstown is going to be there, so that’s my guess. The new Ballpark Digest article mentions that other area summer collegiate teams may be in play as well. I was going to suggest Johnstown Mill Rats based on geography but if they’re going with only six teams the other will probably the Suns.

    We know it won’t be the ValleyCats due to a Cooper retweet. My guess is Tri City lands in the Frontier League but if they want to go full season, the Atlantic League could be in play.

  11. Chin says:

    The Pioneer League is now officially an “independent professional MLB Partner League”, with all eight teams sticking in the league.

    https://www.mlb.com/press-release/press-release-pioneer-league-designated-mlb-partner-league

    So that’s it on what leagues are in or out. I guess it’s now on to the final 120…

  12. Chin Chou says:

    Interesting note, per Ballpark Digest: Orem is relocating to Windsor, Colorado.

  13. Chin says:

    Boom, some “news”. Sounds like A’s could be heading to Lansing with the Jays staying in Vancouver.

    https://twitter.com/susanslusser/status/1333460104188882945

    https://twitter.com/susanslusser/status/1333460494242332673

  14. Al says:

    About two years ago, the Owlz were announced to be moving to Pueblo, CO. Then the stadium deal fell apart. Here we are. The “Northern Colorado Owlz.”

    I think it’s bonkers that the Grand Junction Rockies will continue to operate. Talk about blurring the line between independent and affiliated minor leagues. I wonder if it will be sort of a backup roster extension for the MLB Rockies. Maybe the trend will catch on – a place to stash fringe players, not use up roster spots, keep them under contract at indy wages, etc. You can imagine that players would much rather play for the GJ Rockies than the NC Owlz.

    Also, no Boise for the Pioneer League! Hmmm.

  15. Justin says:

    All the weirdness involving the Nashville Sounds in the Ballpark Digest Affiliate Dance makes sense if you put the pieces together. Peter Angelos kids are now in control of the Orioles and they are Nashville based it seems like a long shot but maybe Milwaukee ends up with Norfolk and the Orioles with Nashville.

  16. Iron Horse says:

    I think they should take this opportunity to rebrand some of the leagues. For one, neither the “International League” nor the “Pacific Coast League” accurately describe the composition of teams in each league. “Eastern League” and “Western League” would be more appropriate, even if generic. In such a scenario, the AA Eastern League would have to rebrand, as the “Northeast League” perhaps. The name of the California League is not inaccurate, but the league could be compensated in a way for its demotion to Low A by being granted the “Pacific Coast League” name. At least it would more correctly describe that league than the current AAA one.

  17. Justin says:

    Sorry, Iron Horse, but there’s 134 years of history to the IL name and 117 years of history to the PCL name. I doubt either name gets changed. I mean prior to the Ottawa Lynx being added in 1993, it’d been 22 years since the International League was International when the present Columbus Clippers franchise played in Winnipeg. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see a return of the Havana Sugar Kings one day?

    As for the PCL, they had a franchise in Utah (not exactly on the Pacific Coast) as early as 1915 and had teams in Denver, Oklahoma City, Arkansas, Tulsa, Dallas and Indianapolis at various points in the ’60s.

  18. Al says:

    Chin, just saw the Lugnuts links. Slusser is a very reliable source too. Seems safe to say that the MWL will be at 14 teams and Houston seems likely for Beloit.

  19. Iron Horse says:

    I also doubt either league name will change, even though it would make sense to do so. History and tradition are powerful inertial forces to overcome, but I figure since they’re already making such a radical change to the structure of the minor leagues, why not go a bit further?

  20. Mike McCann says:

    I agree that it’s unlikely that you’ll see any league name changes at the AAA or AA levels. What I would like to see, and I have been discussing for many years, is a rename of the classifications. Without getting into too much history, they started with A, B, C, and D levels and added AA and AAA when they wanted to add levels higher than what they already had. Through this year, they had three different A levels, which we always call High A, Low A and Short Season A, even though the official names of the first two are A – Advanced and A. I would really like them to have two different names for the remaining A levels because I’ve seen many big name sources not seem to understand that there are different levels within A. I think that now would be a great time to make that change since they are eliminating two levels and I don’t think they have the same historical significance. Most likely, they keep it the way it is so that the casual fan at a Low A game doesn’t realize that they are four levels away from the majors instead of three.

  21. Iron Horse says:

    I agree that A, B, C, and D would be a lot better than AAA, AA, High A (or A-Advanced, or A+), and Low A (or A).

  22. Al says:

    Thirded!

    The high A and low A thing makes high A seem great and low A seem like the pits. A lot of people seem really upset about the Cal League getting a demotion, but the difference is barely noticeable. Occasionally you’ll have some college players skip low A and start in the FSL or whatever, but pretty much every future MLBer gets time at low A.

    There was some talk a year ago about “flattening” single A and making it one level with 60 teams. Sure would’ve helped teams like the Orioles or Braves who may have to contort to meet the demands of restructuring. Back in the nineties you’d have the A’s with two Cal League teams or the Dodgers with one there and Vero Beach as well. There’s not really a good reason to have Single-A divided so strictly. It’s caused problems for several MLB teams over the years.

  23. Al says:

    The affiliate dance was updated again today. Spokane no longer has “Rockies?” next to it, but now Boise has “Rockies?” again. Not sure where Kevin Reichard is getting this info, but it sure hasn’t helped us get a clearer picture of the future of the NWL. I’m starting to lose count of how many teams have been connected with Spokane.

  24. Mike McCann says:

    I’m not sure what’s going on either, but then again, I never really have with that site. If there was more substance to the information, you would expect it to be broadcast more widely. Or at least somewhere else other than a subtle update that nobody realizes is there. I liked the connection that Chin made between Eugene and the Giants, but between Boise, Spokane, and Tri-City, it sounds like the Angels and Rockies will end up in two of them but nobody has any information about where. Yet we still expect this to be announced this week.

  25. Chin says:

    I was going to speculate about this earlier, but my theories have been more miss than hit, so I decided not to. Apparently the Pioneer League wants to fill the void left by the Owls by adding a new team in Orem, which would require a second addition to even things out. So Boise to the Pioneer could still be a fit, though who knows what to think with Ballpark Digest’s latest update. Or I suppose they could bring Helena back into the fold. https://twitter.com/julie_jag/status/1333573974446411776

    The Twitter account that reported on Lynchburg’s demise a few weeks ago is now saying they’ll stick with Cleveland as their Low-A affiliate. https://twitter.com/indiansPro/status/1333596211086024704

  26. Al says:

    Good catch, good thought about Orem. Boise, Spokane, maybe Tri-City all close enough to the Pioneer League if any of them don’t make the cut. I can’t imagine Helena though. They were in life support when Elmore moved them and the financial situation is going to be really tight with having to pay players. Not to mention lingering Covid effects. I hope teams like Great Falls can hold on for a while. Sounds like MLB is throwing some financial support for the transition year at least.

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