2021 Minor League Baseball – Invitations Sent

Today the list of 2021 Minor League Baseball Player Development Licenses (PDL) were sent to teams.  The list represents what MLB wants MiLB to look like next year, but each of the teams needs to agree to those terms.  While for most it is an obvious decision, it is not out of the question that some teams will choose to not sign and another team will need to be found.  I’m going to assume that this is what 2021 will look like and I’ll provide updates as things change.

The link above doesn’t contain everything, but I’ll fill in the rest based on other sources.  It’s also unclear what the league structures will be, so I’ll make my best guesses there.

At the AAA level, things fell out pretty much as people expected with the only remaining question marks being Nashville and Round Rock affiliating with the Brewers and Rangers respectively.  While some thought that the Rangers returning to a Texas AAA affiliate was obvious, others pointed out that the Brewers left Nashville on bad terms previously.

At AA, the biggest surprise was the Diamondbacks going to Amarillo since I was unaware of that being a possibility, but since San Antonio needed a new partner, the Padres aren’t too illogical since they were there in the not too distant past.  We also received confirmation that while there were early rumors about Bowling Green jumping to AA, Chattanooga did make the cut and Bowling Green will stay at a lower level.

I was saying previously that the High A / Low A distinction was a jumbled mess and I was assuming that they would try to break up some of the overlap.  It doesn’t look like that was quite the case as High A will stretch from New York to Georgia on the east coast.  And based on that, and the natural separate of teams, I’m going back to assuming that there will be a Mid-Atlantic League and a Carolina League, each with six teams.  Interestingly, of the 2019 Carolina League that consisted of ten teams, only two will remain at High A (Wilmington and Winston-Salem) and six will drop to Low A.  I’m also going to assume that Lake County goes to the Mid-Atlantic League and Bowling Green remains in the Midwest League, but one of those two teams would have to join a league on the east coast.  And the South Atlantic League appears to have only two previous members with the same affiliations as last time.  Some of the affiliations did move around from previous guesses, but I don’t think there are any that seem too out of place.

Note: I originally had Asheville as Astros High A, then changed it to Fayetteville, but it looks like Asheville is correct, so I updated it back to the original.

Red denotes changes.  Blue denotes ownership stake.

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
Rochester Red Wings – Twins Nationals
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Yankees
Syracuse Mets – Mets
Toledo Mud Hens – Tigers
Worcester Red Sox – Red Sox

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 – 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
Chattanooga Lookouts – Reds
Jackson Generals – Diamondbacks
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – MarlinsMove to International League (AAA)
Mississippi Braves – Braves
Montgomery Biscuits – Rays
Pensacola Blue Wahoos – Twins Marlins
Rocket City Trash Pandas – Angels
Tennessee Smokies – Cubs

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

Carolina League (High A)
Asheville Tourists – Astros
Carolina Mudcats – BrewersMove to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Down East Wood Ducks – RangersMove to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros – Move to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Frederick Keys – Orioles
Fredericksburg Nationals – Nationals
Move to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates
Greenville Drive – Red Sox
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians – Move to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – CubsMove to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Rome Braves – Braves

Salem Red Sox – Red SoxMove to South Atlantic League (Low A)
Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox

Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Aberdeen IronBirds – Orioles
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets
Hudson Valley Renegades – Yankees
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies
Lake County Captains – Indians – Move from Midwest League?
Wilmington Blue Rocks – Royals Nationals

Midwest League (Low A) (High A)
Beloit Snappers – A’s Marlins
Bowling Green Hot Rods – Rays
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
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 Carolina League (High A)
Augusta GreenJackets – Giants Braves
Carolina Mudcats – Brewers
Charleston Riverdogs – Yankees Rays
Columbia Fireflies – Mets Royals
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros

Fredericksburg Nationals – Nationals
Greensboro Grasshoppers – PiratesMove to Carolina League (High A)
Greenville Drive – Red SoxMove to Carolina League (High A)
Hagerstown Suns – Nationals
Hickory Crawdads – RangersMove to Carolina League (High A)
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – PhilliesMove to Mid-Atlantic League (High A)
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
Lexington Legends – Royals
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Cubs

Rome Braves – BravesMove to Carolina League (High A)
Salem Red Sox – Red Sox

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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34 Responses to 2021 Minor League Baseball – Invitations Sent

  1. Thomas A Mills says:

    Listened to interview with owner of Jax Jumbo Shrimp. He says the invite do not specify the league you’ll be in. That will be decided later.

  2. Iron Horse says:

    Looks good, Mike! The biggest question marks at this point are definitely the alignments of AAA and High A. Your 16 IL/14 PCL team split in AAA makes sense, though I’ve heard rumors of a 20 IL/10 PCL team split and even the creation of a new central league at the AAA level. In terms of divisions, one tough nut to crack in most scenarios is how best to split the 6 teams that are currently in the IL North Division.

    I agree that your placement of Bowling Green in the MWL and Lake County in the MAL makes the most sense. Whether a separate Carolina League persists or it simply become the MAL South(ern) Division is still up for grabs. Either way could work IMO. A more minor point, but it’s also unclear exactly how the divisions will look in the Low A SAL.

    PS: You still have SAL teams listed as moving to the MAL but which you actually now have in the Carolina League.

  3. Thomas A Mills says:

    Is it safe to assume that MLB will wait to see who accepts before making Leagues/Divisions because swapping teams might upset the dividing point(s)?

  4. Iron Horse says:

    It’s likely that they may wait until then, Thomas. I would wager though that it won’t take all that long for all the teams who received offers to accept.

    Assuming all affiliation offered are accepted, some interesting facts about this realignment:

    97 MiLB teams retain the same MLB affiliation as in 2020
    20 MiLB teams have a different MLB affiliation than in 2020
    43 MiLB teams lost their MLB affiliation
    3 unaffiliated teams gained an MLB affiliation

    And here’s the breakdown of changes in classification:
    AAA (30): AAA 27, AA 2, A 1
    AA (30): AAA 1, AA 27, unaffiliated 2
    A+ (30): A+ 2, A 24, unaffiliated 4
    A (30): A+ 19, A 5, unaffiliated 6
    A- (22): A+ 9, unaffiliated 13
    R+ (18): unaffiliated 18
    unaffiliated (3): AAA 2, AA 1

    It’s interesting how Class A+ and A traded places for the most part. This of course is largely due to the California and Florida State Leagues being demoted and the Midwest League being promoted, but also to the 6 South Atlantic League teams that jumped up to A+ and the 7 Carolina League teams that dropped to A.

  5. Mike McCann says:

    Thanks for pointing out that discrepancy. I also realized that I inadvertently had Fayetteville and Asheville swapped, and I did confirm on the MiLB site that they are going with Fayetteville at High A and Asheville at Low A. So that’s all been fixed now.

    It does sound like they will wait until the teams are all agreed upon to decide the league structures. I wouldn’t expect there to be many changes, but it’s possible that some decisions are made easier if the teams were different. For example, if one of the Midwest League teams didn’t join, then Bowling Green and Lake County could remain and the new team would likely fit into the east coast footprint. But I really have no idea which teams would choose not to accept their invitation.

  6. Iron Horse says:

    Seems to be conflicting info about the placement of Asheville and Fayetteville. Geographically, I think Asheville makes more sense at High A and Fayetteville at Low A, as indicated the MLB site: https://www.mlb.com/news/new-minor-league-affiliates-for-2021

    But as you note, the MiLB site has them the other way around: https://www.milb.com/milb/news/tracking-major-league-baseballs-new-player-development-structure

  7. Al says:

    I think milb.com’s tracker may be incorrect about Fayetteville and Asheville. MLB.com and Baseball America’s trackers both have Asheville and High and Fayetteville at Low. Geographically speaking, it would be very strange to have Asheville separated from Rome, Greenville, and Hickory. Also if Bowling Green is added to the MAL/Carolina as rumored, Asheville would be their closest neighbor.

    Iron Horse, I appreciate that breakdown. Many affiliations were maintained that were rumored to be changing at various times. I think the biggest surprise is that there weren’t that many last minute surprises. Like Mike, I was most surprised about Amarillo/San Antonio, but we’ve usually seen bigger surprises than that during the even-year PDC swap seasons that we will now miss. I guess we’ve grown accustomed to the changes since this process has dragged on for the past 14 months.

    Not to rehash the discussion from yesterday too much, but the minor league teams won’t get to read the PDL teams until a few weeks from now, and some may not be able to meet the financials once those are known. JJ Cooper compared it to buying a house sight unseen, and not every team has the wherewithall to do that. It’s possible that all 120 will be able to meet the terms, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Re: divisions and structure, Cooper just posted an article (paywall) that has some insight. I’ll still have that subscription for a few more weeks. Here are some highlights:

    “Triple-A is expected to have two leagues, a 10-team league on the East Coast and a 20-team Midwest/West Coast League.” No mention of league names. Hmmm.

    “Bowling Green will move to the Mid-Atlantic League.”

    “Bowling Green is not an ideal geographic fit for the league, as it is 270 miles from the nearest other team in the Southern Division of the league and more than 350 miles from some of the other teams in the Southern Division.”

    “But the bigger problem is that the league (as currency constructed) has a seven-team Southern Division (Asheville, Bowling Green, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory, Rome and Winston-Salem) and a five-team Northern Division (Aberdeen, Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, Jersey Shore and Wilmington).”

    He goes on to talk about how excessive travel can be ameliorated with creative scheduling, but ends with this:

    “And until there is an even number of teams in each division, there is unlikely to be an easy fix.”

  8. Al says:

    Sorry for the typos–not on my A game today–and also Rome would be Bowling Green’s closest neighbor, not Asheville.

  9. Chin says:

    The article on the Astros’ website says the invite to Asheville was for High-A.

    Anyone care to take a stab at AAA per BA’s article, with one league of ten teams on the East, and the remaining twenty in another league? Looks kinda clunky to me.

  10. Al says:

    Looks very clunky!

    One possibility is Jacksonville not being in the east. I don’t know much about Jacksonville’s air travel options, but maybe there was a deal where if they were promoted, they would have to spring for long flights for all road trips, with Nashville as closest neighbor.

    Other than that…if you slide Gwinnett over to the Nashville side, you end up with odd-numbered clusters.

  11. Mike McCann says:

    I did update the list to put Asheville back to High A and Fayetteville at Low A. Interesting that the MLB and MiLB sites are misaligned.

    As far as leagues go, I’ll have to go back through the comments and see what interesting ideas we had for the three AAA leagues. I think that if you combined the west and central options, that would match what is being discussed as the 20 and 10 team leagues. Although when we did the 20 and 10, it was a midwest / east coast league with 20 and the west coast had 10.

    At this point, I still wouldn’t be surprised if they stuck with four High A leagues because those two MAL divisions are quite stretched out. But agree that they would need to address the five and seven split that they have with Bowling Green in there. I still like Lake County there instead of Bowling Green, but as I mentioned, if any of the currently planned teams fall through, the problem may fix itself. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to switch two teams between High A and Low A in the future to make the leagues fit a little better geographically, like swapping Salem and Greenville as an example.

  12. Justin says:

    A 10-team IL doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, at least. In addition to having to lose the IL West (Columbia, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Toledo) you’d then have to lose one additional team to accommodate Jacksonville into the IL. Who do you lose? Gwinnett? That makes zero sense unless the thought is their proximity to Atlanta would make flying out less of a hassle and that they’re still somewhat close enough to Nashville, Memphis, et al. I think Mike’s 16/14 split makes a hell of a lot more sense than 10/20. Just for the sake of the thought exercise here’s what I came up with if that were to happen:

    International League:

    North Division
    Buffalo Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays)
    Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Philadelphia Phillies)
    Rochester Red Wings (Washington Nationals)
    Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees)
    Syracuse Mets (New York Mets)
    Worcester Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)

    South Division
    Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox)
    Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays)
    Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins)
    Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles)

    Pacific Coast League:

    West Division
    Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics)
    Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks)
    Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants)
    Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels)

    South Division
    Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado Rockies)
    El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres)
    Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers)
    Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers)
    Sugar Land Skeeters (Houston Astros)
    Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners)

    North Division Option 1
    Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
    Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs)
    Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
    St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins)
    Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

    North Division Option 2
    Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
    Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs)
    Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
    St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins)
    Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

    East Division Option 1
    Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
    Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves)
    Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)
    Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
    Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers)

    East Division Option 2
    Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves)
    Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
    Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)
    Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
    Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers)

    I don’t hate it quite as much as I thought I might…

  13. Justin says:

    Doh. Made an oopsie and put Tacoma in the wrong division than I intended. Let’s try this as the PCL instead.

    Pacific Coast League:

    West Division
    Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland Athletics)
    Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks)
    Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants)
    Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels)
    Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners)

    South Division
    Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado Rockies)
    El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres)
    Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers)
    Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers)
    Sugar Land Skeeters (Houston Astros)

    North Division Option 1
    Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
    Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs)
    Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
    St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins)
    Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

    North Division Option 2
    Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
    Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs)
    Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
    St. Paul Saints (Minnesota Twins)
    Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

    East Division Option 1
    Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
    Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves)
    Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)
    Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
    Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers)

    East Division Option 2
    Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves)
    Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
    Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)
    Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
    Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers)

  14. Dave says:

    Great work Mike. The 16/14 IL/PCL alignment makes sense to me. Adding a 3rd AAA league hearkens back to the old affiliated American Association, which never seemed to be a good fit, unless the MLB powers that be really want to cut down on PCL travel.

    The one thing I can’t get over though, is, if one of MLBs big issues for the make-over was substandard minor league facilities, the push of so many former short season teams to High-A. I’ve been to a lot of short-season parks, and most of them are pretty basic, with few of the amenities MLB seems to want for their players. If those parks are moved up two or three levels, how long will it be before MLB starts to complain that those communities will need to step up and pay for facility upgrades if they want to keep their teams? I can’t imagine that will be well received. Of course, they’ll have plenty of cities they can threaten to move to.

  15. Al says:

    Dave, I think you’re right that there will be a bunch of teams that are unable to meet the standards in the long-term. Heck, it may even lead to a reduction to 90 teams down the line, which supposedly some MLB teams favor. The thing I don’t yet understand is if the PDLs are for ten years, is there an opt out on either end? Will we still see a bunch of relocations this decade?

    One thing to note about the levels is that there is basically no difference between High A and Low A now. Sure, the quality of play is going to be a bit higher due to players dropping off, but with only 180 total minor league roster spots, that difference will be reduced. Heck, even 22-year-old college draftees usually spend at least a half season at low A.

    I’ve seen a lot of lamenting about the Cal League and FSL being “demoted” to Low A and the NWL and MWL being “promoted,” but it has nothing to do with facilities, attendance, or anything resembling merit. When JJ Cooper broke the story about the High A / Low A flip-flop back in the summer, he noted that some MLB teams that own their FSL teams pushed to have the FSL shifted to Low A. This was because they wanted their young prospects (especially teenage international players) to spend two full years in the spring training complex–one in the GCL and one in the FSL. Beyond that, it seems that geography and making the puzzle fit were the main reasons. (Even though the MAL/SAL/Carolina puzzle has changed so much that the Cal League probably could have stayed at High A. Oops!)

    Another possible factor–and this is pure 100% speculation–may have to do with scheduling based on weather. The Low A leagues are now generally in warmer climates where spring baseball is more feasible, while a lot of High A teams have rainy and snowy and frigid April/May seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes the norm for Low A to begin their season around the same time as MLB, and then High A starting up like a month later. On the back end, maybe High A could continue into September. Any Low A players ready for a mid-summer promotion could then slide up to High A while the others could break for the year or go back to the complex for more training. This is half-baked idea, but staggered scheduling may provide MLB teams with more options for player placement throughout the year.

  16. Thomas A Mills says:

    I listened to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp owner on 2 local sports stations today. He made a point of saying how Jax would be playing NFL cities like Charlotte, Indy, Buffalo. He’s the one that said International League and then corrected himself and said the invite did not specify a league.

    So it doesn’t appear that he agreed to take the short straw of always traveling out west.

  17. Al says:

    Good catch Thomas! That’s funny that the owner spilled the beans that way. It’s anyone’s guess how this plays out. The IL had such a nice divisional cluster setup for so many years – it’s a shame that it’s going to sloppy however they end up slicing it.

  18. Iron Horse says:

    If the IL has 16 teams as in Mike’s setup, you can have a decent 4-division split:

    EAST: Durham, Lehigh Valley, Norfolk, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
    NORTH: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Worcester
    SOUTH: Charlotte, Gwinnett, Jacksonville, Nashville
    WEST: Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Toledo

    The East Division is a bit awkward, and the North Carolina teams are separated, but overall, it’s not bad IMO.

  19. Al says:

    It’s not bad at all, but the IL is apparently going to have ten teams.

  20. Al says:

    The Midwest League’s divisions are going to a little rough too. Not nearly as bad as the MAL situation, but losing three western division teams means that one from the east needs to switch over. South Bend is the only half-reasonable option, but it’s inefficient for them to be in the same division as Cedar Rapids and Wisconsin but not Fort Wayne and the Michigan teams.

    West: Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Beloit, Wisconsin, Peoria, South Bend
    East: Great Lakes, Lansing, West Michigan, Fort Wayne, Lake County, Dayton

    It was interesting to read this article (https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/four-factors-dominate-list-of-119-minor-league-teams/) as it pointed out that the main factor for the 120 was a general rule that if an MLB wanted to keep an affiliate, they could. There were a few exceptions like Augusta and the Giants, but for the most part this held true. That’s why Bowling Green is still around despite the ridiculous travel problem in the MAL. The Rays just wanted to keep them.

    With their goal of reducing travel days for players, I’m surprised the MLB office didn’t take a firmer hand in making sure that divisions would be balanced. Maybe we’re missing some piece of the puzzle yet.

  21. Iron Horse says:

    I can’t imagine that rumor of a 20 PCL/10 IL team split is true. The other way around would at least be a bit more logical.

    IL EAST (or IL NORTH): Lehigh Valley, Rochester, Scranton/W-B, Syracuse, Worcester
    IL NORTH (or CL EAST): Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Toledo
    IL SOUTH: Charlotte, Durham, Gwinnett, Jacksonville, Norfolk
    IL WEST (or CL WEST): Iowa, Memphis, Nashville, Omaha, St. Paul

    PCL EAST: Albuquerque, El Paso, Oklahoma City, Round Rock, Sugar Land
    PCL WEST: Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Tacoma

    Sucks to separate Buffalo from the other Northeast teams. The 4 divisions of the IL can alternately be arranged into 2 leagues of 2 divisions each (with “CL” for “Central League” serving as a placeholder name for the new league). In the case of 3 AAA leagues, a 10-team IL would actually make some sense. And then you could swap Buffalo and Gwinnett, though I don’t know how you’d divide the IL. Maybe 6/4 like Justin suggested.

  22. Chin says:

    So, uh, interesting (conspiracy) theory dumped into the last paragraph of a Ballpark Digest article on the future of the Lowell Spinners:

    “Beware a next step where the Red Sox reluctantly step in to sponsor a MLB Draft League team in 2021 while regretfully cutting ties with the Spinners while relocating the Salem Red Sox to LeLacheur Park for the 2022 season.”

    https://ballparkdigest.com/2020/12/10/red-sox-well-fight-to-keep-baseball-in-lowell/

    So, he’s saying Boston is letting independently-owned Lowell get cut and then they’ll try to influence Lowell’s ownership into opting for a MLB Draft League team over an Independent League team? After a year, they’ll request to move the team they own in Salem to Lowell, booting the Spinners? And I guess the MLB Draft League team would be easier to uproot then a team in the Frontier League? Am I reading this right?

    I mean, that would help the imbalance in the MAL, promoting Salem/Lowell and then dropping Greenville to the SAL (sorry for segregating you, Rome) to make the division six in the North. But this is a wild suggestion.

  23. Iron Horse says:

    That’s an interesting idea, Chin. I don’t know why the Red Sox couldn’t just buy out the Spinners and move Salem to Lowell for 2021.

    So in High A, we have the Northwest League plus the following:

    CAROLINA (6): Asheville (HOU), Bowling Green (TBR), Greensboro (PIT), Hickory (TEX), Rome (ATL), Winston-Salem (CHW)

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

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

    And as for the Low A SAL:

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

    I like it. Much better than having to shoehorn Lake County into the Mid-Atlantic (let alone Bowling Green).

  24. Chin says:

    Yeah. I almost wonder if MLB is aware and they’re just going to roll with the 5/7 regional split in the MAL for next season because they know it’ll be corrected in 2022. Not sure how realistic it is, but fun to discuss.

    JJ Cooper just corrected his article from yesterday, and noted that AAA will be split into a ten-team Western league, with the other twenty East and Midwest teams in the other league. That makes a lot more sense. Still challenging getting nice, neat divisions in the International League, but it good to get that clarification.

  25. Iron Horse says:

    A possible 3-division solution to a 20-team IL. Here we just keep the existing 3 divisions in place and add 3 teams to the South and 3 to the West.

    NORTH (6): Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Scranton/W-B, Syracuse, Rochester, Worcester
    SOUTH (7): Charlotte, Durham, Gwinnett, Jacksonville, Memphis, Nashville, Norfolk
    WEST (7): Columbus, Indianapolis, Iowa, Louisville, Omaha, St. Paul, Toledo

    Schedule’s a bit awkward, but you can make 144 games:

    6-team North:
    12 G x 5 division mates = 60 G
    6 G x 14 other teams = 84 G

    7-team divisions:
    11 G x 6 division mates = 66 G
    6 G x 6 teams in North = 36 G
    6 G x 7 teams in other division = 42 G

  26. Jason says:

    I just can’t see MLB creating another Triple A League or putting the majority of teams in 1, here is how I think it will end up:

    IL: (16 teams)
    North: Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Rochester, Scranton, Syracuse, Worcester
    West: Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, Toledo
    South: Charlotte, Durham, Gwinnett, Jacksonville, Norfolk

    PCL: (14 teams)
    West: Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Tacoma
    Central: Iowa, Memphis, Omaha, St. Paul
    South: Albuquerque, El Paso, Oklahoma City, Round Rock, Sugar Land

  27. Al says:

    Hey guys, sorry I took that IL-at-10 typo and ran with it. Cooper’s a reliable source but anyone can make mistakes. I guess that especially happens when a person is publishing like five articles in one day.

    So we’ll probably have the 20/10 IL/PCL split that Mike proposed like a month ago.

  28. Al says:

    There was a clarifying note about the Pioneer League today. Boise will take the place of Northern Colorado in 2021. The Owlz are apparently sitting out the season while the new ballpark is constructed. Presumably by 2022, that rumored return to the Orem area will be in place and the league can go from 8 to 10 teams.

  29. Iron Horse says:

    Another potentially interesting fact. Of the 42 teams that were on the original list to be cut that leaked out around a year ago, 6 were extended affiliations:

    Beloit, Binghamton, Chattanooga, Daytona, Erie, Tri-City (NWL)

    And of the teams that weren’t on the list, 7 were not (yet?) invited to affiliate:

    Boise, Charlotte, Kane County, Pulaski, Trenton, Tri-City (NYP), West Virginia (NYP)

    (The discrepancy is due to the invite of independent Somerset, which was not mentioned at the time.)

  30. Al says:

    That’s interesting – I still can’t believe Binghamton made the cut. The power of having politicians on your side.

    When the list of 42 came out, I tallied them up by MLB parent. The Reds had the most with four. Part of that was skewed by the fact that Cincy (and the Royals) had two Rookie Advanced affiliates, and they lost them despite reportedly wanting to keep them around. Heck, the Reds won a bidding war to buy Greeneville just a few years ago.

    But that list of 42 (which we were never supposed to see) was based on surveys that MLB teams completed in summer 2019, so having Daytona and Chattanooga on there wasn’t a good look for the Reds. Now it looks like Cincinnati will retain all four of their top affiliates.

  31. Thomas A Mills says:

    Reds fan here. And live 75 minutes from Daytona. I’m still holding my breath to see if Daytona and Chattanooga can meet the requirements. Possibly over course of a couple years.

  32. Al says:

    Yeah, the Lookouts’ owner went public in the spring saying their clubhouses could not be physically expanded because they’re on the edge of a cliff or river bank. Maybe they’ll work out some alternate plan or push for a new stadium again.

  33. Dave says:

    Jason:
    I came up with basically the same IL/PCL layout that you did, although I went for only two divisions in the PCL. I think there are too many teams in the East for a 10 team IL, and a 20 team IL moving Iowa, Omaha and St. Paul to the IL stretches the boundaries a little too much. Unfortunately, this leaves Memphis the outlier.

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