Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 8

I keep telling myself that I’m not going to make any more updates, but then I hear some piece of information that makes me want to guess more.

Today it was announced that some of the teams that aren’t making the 120 team cut would be included in the MLB Draft League.  This includes four NY-Penn League teams (Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, West Virginia Black Bears, and Williamsport Crosscutters) and the Trenton Thunder from the AA Eastern League.  While I was thinking that maybe Trenton would be included in the High A Mid-Atlantic League, this confirms that they will not be.  And since Aberdeen wasn’t on this list, I suspect that means that they will remain in affiliated ball.  To complete the MLB Draft league, the best guess is that the Hagerstown Suns will be joining also to make six teams.

It was also announced that the Pioneer League would become an independent MLB partner league.  So really the term independent doesn’t apply anymore if they have a connection to MLB, but it sounds better than unaffiliated minor league.  The only change from the existing Pioneer League is that the Orem Owlz are moving to Windsor, CO to become the Northern Colorado Owlz.  Still disappointed with the z at the end of their name.

Since it’s being speculated that the A’s will be putting their High A team in Lansing with the Blue Jays staying in Vancouver, I figured I’d make some more updates to the Midwest League.  There’s additional speculation about the Astros going to Beloit and the Royals going to Quad Cities, so if you do that, the Rays would be in Kane County based on how I have it.  The Rays High A team has been difficult for me since they best belong in the Mid-Atlantic League, but there’s no obvious teams to move to the Midwest League since the Rangers and White Sox aren’t going anywhere.  Then again, maybe Bowling Green isn’t leaving the Midwest League and the Rays remain there and some other MWL team is getting cut instead of Chattanooga.

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 Astros?
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 Rays?
Lake County Captains – Indians Move to Mid-Atlantic League?
Lansing Lugnuts – Blue Jays A’s?
Peoria Chiefs – Cardinals
Quad Cities River Bandits – Astros Royals?
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

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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79 Responses to Update on 2021 Minor League Baseball – Revision 8

  1. Chin says:

    Yeah, wait and see at this point.

    The Mets’ mlb.com beat writer just tweeted out Binghamton AA/Brooklyn H-A/St. Lucie L-A (which we already knew) for some reason. Maybe it’s go time, and we’ll start hearing stuff starting now.

    https://twitter.com/AnthonyDiComo/status/1336449049197678596

  2. Iron Horse says:

    Seems to be little sense in having a “Mid-Atlantic League” that stretches down to Georgia. At the moment, it looks to me like we’ll indeed have 4 High A leagues:

    CAROLINA (6): Asheville (HOU), Greensboro (PIT), Greenville (BOS), Hickory (TEX), Rome (ATL), Winston-Salem (CHW)

    MID-ATLANTIC (6): Aberdeen (BAL), Brooklyn (NYM), Hudson Valley (NYY), Jersey Shore (PHI), Lake County (CLE), Wilmington (WSN)

    MIDWEST (12)
    EASTERN: Dayton (CIN), Fort Wayne (SDP), Great Lakes (LAD), Lansing (OAK), South Bend (CHC), West Michigan (DET)
    WESTERN: Beloit (MIA), Bowling Green (TBR), Cedar Rapids (MIN), Peoria (STL), Quad Cities (KCR), Wisconsin (MIL)

    NORTHWEST (6): Boise (COL), Eugene (SFG), Everett (SEA), Hillsboro (ARI), Spokane (LAA), Vancouver (TOR)

    And in Low A, we still have 3 leagues, with the California and Florida State Leagues looking the same as in Mike’s 11/30 update.

    SOUTH ATLANTIC (12)
    NORTHERN: Carolina (MIL), Delmarva (BAL), Fredericksburg (WSN), Kannapolis (CHW), Lynchburg (CLE), Salem (BOS)
    SOUTHERN: Augusta (ATL), Charleston (TBR), Columbia (KCR), Down East (TEX), Fayetteville (HOU), Myrtle Beach (CHC)

    I expect that the Mid-Atlantic and Carolina Leagues, even if separate, may still play some interleague games, if only for variety’s sake.

    I have Boston affiliates Salem and Greenville trade places for geographic reasons. Strangely, this leaves Winston-Salem as the only team to remain in the Carolina League from 2020. The South Atlantic League here is composed of more current Carolina League teams than current SAL teams (7 to 5).

    Also note that I brought back Bowling Green from the dead/unaffiliated, since Kane County looks to be the new “last man out” of the Midwest League. Keeping Kane County and kicking out Beloit would seem more logical to me.

    Of course, who knows if it will actually end up this way.

  3. Chin says:

    Well, Reichard’s at it again. He has:

    -Boise out of affiliated ball, moving to Pioneer League. Rockies to Tri-City, Angels to Spokane, Giants to Eugene.

    -Frederick back out. He has them possibly joining the MLB Draft League.

    -Nationals in Wilmington…for LOW-A

    -Braves in Augusta. I’ll guess this is Low-A, otherwise the Giants probably would’ve fought to stay here if High-A was an option.

    -Bowling Green as Rays High-A affiliate, but new league.

    So East Coast High-A, either two leagues, or one league with two divisions?:
    Carolina?: Asheville (Astros), Bowling Green (Rays), Greensboro (Pirates), Hickory (Rangers), Rome (Braves), Winston-Salem (White Sox)?

    MAL?: Aberdeen (Orioles), Brooklyn (Mets), Fredericksburg (Nationals), Hudson Valley (Yankees), Jersey City (Phillies), Salem (Red Sox)?

    SAL?: Augusta (Braves), Carolina (Brewers), Charleston (Rays), Columbia (Royals), Delmarva (Orioles), Down East (Rangers), Fayetteville (Astros), Greenville (Red Sox), Kannapolis (White Sox), Lynchburg (Indians), Myrtle Beach (Cubs), Wilmington (Nationals)?

  4. Al says:

    Thanks for summarizing all of that Chin.

    Is that the 3rd or 4th team rumored for Spokane? Your conspiracy theory about the wrong Los Angeles may come true!

    With Lexington and the Power gone, I did not see BG as an option for the SAL/MAL. But looking at the map, they’re actually closer to Rome and Asheville than their nearest neighbors in the MWL. So if they’re sticking around at Single-A, better there than in the MWL. Plus it helps get the MWL down to twelve. Still a surprise for sure.

    Wilmington to the Nats at Low-A? That seems very inefficient, but we’ll wait to see what the final maps look like.

    Boise to the Pioneer “Dream League.” Will they add a tenth team or roll with nine?

    Also – Fresno appears to be headed to the Cal League. Same as it ever was.

  5. Chin says:

    Sounds like they’ll try to get an “expansion” team in Utah to replace the departing Owlz, so that plus Boise gets them up to ten. https://twitter.com/julie_jag/status/1333573974446411776

    Bowling Green is kinda in a no-mans land regardless of its league, but man it’s a haul from there to the four northernmost MAL sites. Does that hint to two six-team leagues?

  6. Chin says:

    …and Reichard says Augusta will be High-A. So I give up!

    https://twitter.com/ballparkdigest/status/1336502749463277571

  7. Al says:

    Yep. I’m going to wait till we get all the pieces before trying to put this puzzle together. And I’m much more interested in the supposed MLB tweets coming tomorrow than I am about Reichard’s random comments. He has led us astray one too many times.

  8. Chin says:

    If anyone’s been spending the morning refreshing Twitter waiting for news, The River Dogs updated their Twitter header to “1:00 pm”. I don’t know if that means all teams will announce at the same time?

  9. Chin says:

    Per Cooper, Frederick is out and heading to the draft league:
    https://twitter.com/jjcoop36/status/1336683943719022594

  10. Al says:

    From the Frederick article:

    “The addition of Frederick to the MLB Draft League also provides a pair of “parked” teams for MLB that could fill in any holes that come open.

    There is no guarantee that all 120 invited teams will end up signing the Professional Development License contract. If not all do, Trenton and Frederick have two viable facilities in convenient geographical situations that provide back-up plans in the case any East Coast team declines to sign.”

  11. Chin says:

    That’s really interesting. Frederick for sure hits South Atlantic, Carolina/Mid-Atlantic, and Eastern League territories. If Wilmington ends up at Low-A as suggested by BD, I guess Trenton could technically cover all territory, too.

    I wonder if they’ve planned the same for other regions? Seems likely most could just fall back to cut teams, like Lancaster in California or Boise in the Northwest. But I wonder what they would do if something wonky happened in the Texas League? Highly unlikely, but fun to think about.

  12. Al says:

    Chin, I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday. I’m trying not to do too many “what-ifs” but…..what if three Texas League teams declined their invite? It’s unrealistic, but you can see how the whole house of cards can tumble if teams decline.

    You mention the Cal League. Now that we (supposedly) know PDLs are going to be ten years, I can’t for the life of me imagine an MLB team being forced into forging a decade-long pact with Lancaster. It would be hypocritical of MLB to keep such an undesirable facility around while letting other better ones leave. If Fresno really wants to play chicken, it brings up that possibility of Visalia being vulnerable. I’ve mentioned a few times that Visalia seems to be safe, but if it came down to axing them (or Stockton, Rancho, etc.) or keeping Lancaster around for another ten years, I think it could go either way. Not to mention – a six-team Cal would free up some possibilities in the east, including the possibility of four leagues at each Single-A level.

    As for the axed teams, I can almost squint and see MLB setting up a Draft League West for teams in Cal and Oregon.

    (OK no more what-ifs)

  13. Skokiejoe says:

    Charleston Riverdogs Class A Tampa Bay confirmed
    Fredick Keys out confirmed

  14. Justin says:

    Something funky in the TL? Maybe New Orleans assuming an ownership group could be found? Prior to all of this there were rumors that you’d see the Jackson Generals relocate to NOLA (and owned by the former owners of the Baby Cakes, maybe?). New Orleans is kind of a middle ground between the Southern League and Texas Leagues (lest we forget at one point Jackson, MS was a TL market)

    Shreveport also used to be a TL market but I have no idea of the condition of Fair Grounds Field or if there’d be an ownership group in place.

  15. Chin says:

    Yeah, good point on Lancaster. They’re one of the prime examples of MLB’s argument for making these changes, so keeping them around would be a bad look. So Fresno says no and takes Visalia down with them, and then Frederick and one of the southern teams ticketed for High-A drops down to Low-A, with Trenton going to High-A?

    You lose one team from the Texas League, I guess you could push Arkansas into the Southern and bring back Jackson? Or bump Bowling Green and Frederick/Trenton takes their spot at High A?

  16. Chin says:

    Per the Nats’ Athletic beat writer Britt Ghiroli:

    AAA: Rochester
    AA: Harrisburg
    High-A: Wilmington
    Low-A: Fredericksburg

    https://twitter.com/Britt_Ghiroli/status/1336692855734210560

    And thrilled my local affiliate will be with the Rays and their top farm system!

  17. Al says:

    Justin, there were rumors this spring that New Orleans was coming back in 2021, but they never got beyond the rumor phase. It’s buried in here:

    https://ballparkdigest.com/2020/04/13/milb-were-in-the-endgame-now/

    I wonder if they’re holding out for a new stadium and return when PDLs come due in ten years. The SL is a great geographic fit for NOLA, but with a new ballpark, it’s easy to see them at Triple-A again. Maybe with a team like the Rays.

  18. Al says:

    That’s a nice list for the Nats. So much for Reichard’s rumor about Wilmington at Low-A. I assume Charleston is Low A?

  19. Justin says:

    I would think so, Al – Reichard intimates Bowling Green at High A so the ladder would be:

    MLB – Tampa Bay
    AAA – Durham
    AA – Montgomery
    A+ – Bowling Green
    A- – Charleston

    As a Bulls fan I’ll respectfully disagree about losing the Rays affiliation 😉

  20. Chin says:

    Rays’ beat guy confirms Justin’s post. So Charlotte is out of the FSL.

    Jays beat guy has Buffalo-New Hampshire-Vancouver-Dunedin.

  21. Justin says:

    No real surprises on the list. Looks like Fresno still doesn’t know what they want to do and that the 120th license depends on that decision.

  22. Chin says:

    I’m a little surprised to see the Padres leave Amarillo, but they were in San Antonio for a long time, so a reunion isn’t crazy.

  23. Nats Nut says:

    Nats’ affiliates for 2021 will be:

    AAA: Rochester
    AA: Harrisburg
    High A: Wilmington
    Low A: Fredericksburg

    https://www.mlb.com/nationals/news/nationals-minor-league-affiliates-for-2021

  24. Al says:

    I wonder if it was a case of Padres leaving Amarillo or Diamondbacks refusing San Antonio. San Diego had a good thing going with the new ballpark close to El Paso. Strange.

    Kudos to Chin – you were the first person I saw suggest Rome at High A and it looks like the MAL South/Carolina will be those western SAL teams after all.

  25. Iron Horse says:

    Looks like it’s shaken out pretty much as in my last guess from yesterday, with the exception of Spokane to COL, Tri-City to LAA, and Boise out of the NWL instead of Tri-City. What remains to be seen at the moment:

    – Fresno vs. Lancaster for the Rockies’ Low A California League affiliate (I assume Fresno)
    – For the Astros’ affiliates, whether Asheville will end up in High A and Fayetteville in Low A or vice versa (I’m assuming the former)
    – And of course, the composition and divisional alignments of several leagues, notably the IL and PCL in AAA and the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and (possibly) Carolina Leagues in High A. Per BPD, Bowling Green is headed for the Mid-Atlantic, but there’s already a cluster of 6 High A teams in the Carolinas and Georgia, while the Northeast only has 5 High A teams. So I’m sticking with Lake County in the MAL (or MAL North if there’s no separate Carolina League) and Bowling Green in the MWL for now.

  26. Justin says:

    Iron Horse – the BA article already spells out your point #2. Asheville is High A and Fayetteville is Low A.

  27. Iron Horse says:

    Thanks, Justin. I couldn’t get past the BA paywall.

  28. Al says:

    Fresno will be Low A for the Rockies. Gotta admire their feistiness but it was a losing battle from the start. At least Fresno will have pro ball and Giants/Dodgers fans will get to prospects when Sam Jose and Rancho roll into town.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/TaubGVWire/status/1336776522170916866

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