2021 Minor League Baseball – Invitations Accepted and Leagues Defined

Today it was announced that all 120 minor league teams that received invitations have accepted, which isn’t really a surprise.  What was more surprising is that the league structure contained generic league names and not the previously used names.  The speculation is that they haven’t decided on the league names yet and may go to sponsored league names.  It is disappointing if this restructuring appears to be leading to the loss of these historic league names, yet not that shocking.

Note that the leagues are the same as what I listed previously, but they have different names based on level and geographic location.

Here are the leagues that were announced by MLB:

Triple-A East
Buffalo Bisons – Blue Jays
Charlotte Knights – White Sox
Columbus Clippers – Indians
Durham Bulls – Rays
Gwinnett Stripers – Braves
Indianapolis Indians – Pirates
Iowa Cubs – Cubs
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – Marlins
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Phillies
Louisville Bats – Reds
Memphis Redbirds – Cardinals
Nashville Sounds – Brewers
Norfolk Tides – Orioles
Omaha Storm Chasers – Royals
Rochester Red Wings – Nationals
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Yankees
St. Paul Saints – Twins
Syracuse Mets – Mets
Toledo Mud Hens – Tigers
Worcester Red Sox – Red Sox

Triple-A West
Albuquerque Isotopes – Rockies
El Paso Chihuahuas – Padres
Las Vegas Aviators – A’s
Oklahoma City Dodgers – Dodgers
Reno Aces – Diamondbacks
Round Rock Express – Rangers
Sacramento River Cats – Giants
Salt Lake Bees – Angels
Sugar Land Skeeters – Astros
Tacoma Rainiers – Mariners

Double-A Central
Amarillo Sod Poodles – 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

Double-A Northeast
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

Double-A South
Biloxi Shuckers – Brewers
Birmingham Barons – White Sox
Chattanooga Lookouts – Reds
Mississippi Braves – Braves
Montgomery Biscuits – Rays
Pensacola Blue Wahoos – Marlins
Rocket City Trash Pandas – Angels
Tennessee Smokies – Cubs

High-A Central
Beloit Snappers – Marlins
Cedar Rapids Kernels – Twins
Dayton Dragons – Reds
Fort Wayne TinCaps – Padres
Great Lakes Loons – Dodgers
Lake County Captains – Indians
Lansing Lugnuts – A’s
Peoria Chiefs – Cardinals
Quad Cities River Bandits – Royals
South Bend Cubs – Cubs
West Michigan Whitecaps – Tigers
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Brewers

High-A East
Aberdeen IronBirds – Orioles
Asheville Tourists – Astros
Bowling Green Hot Rods – Rays
Brooklyn Cyclones – Mets
Greensboro Grasshoppers – Pirates
Greenville Drive – Red Sox
Hickory Crawdads – Rangers
Hudson Valley Renegades – Yankees
Jersey Shore BlueClaws – Phillies
Rome Braves – Braves
Wilmington Blue Rocks – Nationals
Winston-Salem Dash – White Sox

High-A West
Eugene Emeralds – Giants
Everett AquaSox – Mariners
Hillsboro Hops – Diamondbacks
Spokane Indians – Rockies
Tri-City Dust Devils – Angels
Vancouver Canadians – Blue Jays

Low-A East
Augusta GreenJackets – Braves
Carolina Mudcats – Brewers
Charleston Riverdogs – Rays
Columbia Fireflies – Royals
Delmarva Shorebirds – Orioles
Down East Wood Ducks – Rangers
Fayetteville Woodpeckers – Astros
Fredericksburg Nationals – Nationals
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers – White Sox
Lynchburg Hillcats – Indians
Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Cubs
Salem Red Sox – Red Sox

Low-A Southeast
Bradenton Marauders – Pirates
Clearwater Threshers – Phillies
Daytona Tortugas- Reds
Dunedin Blue Jays – Blue Jays
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels – Twins
Jupiter Hammerheads – Marlins
Lakeland Flying Tigers – Tigers
Palm Beach Cardinals – Cardinals
St. Lucie Mets – Mets
Tampa Tarpons – Yankees

Low-A West
Fresno Grizzlies – Rockies
Lake Elsinore Storm – Padres
Modesto Nuts – Mariners
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Dodgers
San Bernardino Inland Empire 66ers – Angels
San Jose Giants – Giants
Stockton Ports – A’s
Visalia Rawhide – Diamondbacks

 

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27 Responses to 2021 Minor League Baseball – Invitations Accepted and Leagues Defined

  1. Dave A. says:

    The generic league names suck and blow history completely out of the water, but I think they’re just placeholders until they can get sponsorships in place, like the NHL did.

  2. Iron Horse says:

    Maybe they’ll take all the existing league names and just replace “League” with “Association”…

  3. Al says:

    Iron Horse, you mentioned in another post that the Hagerstown Suns have ceased operations. I’ve seen that mentioned a few times in different places but can’t find an official announcement or article that says they are shutting down. Do you have a link?

  4. Iron Horse says:

    This article on Ballpark Digest indicates the owner folded the team: https://ballparkdigest.com/2021/02/03/new-hagerstown-ballpark-yet-again-on-tap/

  5. Chin says:

    What a weird situation. So the owner of the Suns of the SAL pretty much just walked away without any sort of announcement. But the city is still trying to keep baseball in town, have new ownership lined up, and there’s a standing invite from the Atlantic League, contingent on the city getting a new park. No baseball in Hagerstown this summer, but hope for the future.

    https://www.journal-news.net/journal-news/hagerstown-gets-conditional-ballclub-in-atlantic-league/article_24f731ea-47e2-56ca-935d-60f72346e159.html

  6. Al says:

    Thanks guys. Must have missed that.

  7. Justin says:

    Not surprised, Chin. Their last FB post was June 30, 2020 and their last IG post was April 9th. Not even an announcement to their fans about not getting an invite/PDL.

  8. Al says:

    Frontier League announced their schedule today and it looks like neither the Legends not the Power are a part of it. Legends have a press conference scheduled for tomorrow. I wonder if they’ll do some similar to Salem-Keizer.

  9. Al says:

    Atlantic League for Lexington. That’s a bit of a surprise as they are fairly geographically distant from the other teams. Maybe the AL’s longer season was more appealing than the Frontier League.

    The Legends put the Atlantic League at seven teams. I have to wonder if Charleston, WV will be the eighth. Charleston is reasonably close to the PA/MD teams as well as the NC teams in the south. Not to mention that they would help bridge the gap to Lexington.

  10. Chin says:

    I was surprised Lexington passed on the opportunity to share a league with Florence, but maybe the Frontier League wasn’t interested?

    There have been rumors about West Virginia also joining the Atlantic League.

    The last line in that article I posted the other day said the AL hopes to get up to twelve teams (with Hagerstown in a year or two one of the additions).

  11. Al says:

    That’s interesting. The jump from 7/8 to 12 means there will be more teams added, whether this year or otherwise. I have to wonder if that will include some former NY-Penn markets. Norwich seems the most likely in terms of geography, but the Atlantic League has high facility standards, so I’m not sure they’d make the cut. Similar story for Vermont or Auburn. Lowell is of course a wildcard. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of that rumor of Salem being moved to Lowell in a the future.

  12. Chin says:

    Yeah, curious about Norwich and Vermont as well. Auburn, I’m surprised they haven’t landed in a college league of some sort already. (I’m leaving everything as is, but while proofing my post, I was tooling around on Wikipedia and ended up on the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League page; Auburn is listed as a “future team”.)

    Frederick and Trenton seem like good fits for the Atlantic League. I wonder if they initially agreed the the draft league with the notion that they were two of the first teams in line in case another team rejected an affiliation invitation, with the draft league agreements easier to break than one with the Atlantic or Frontier Leagues. Now that the 120 are official, maybe they’ll look to make a change after this season.

    I know that Lowell theory is a little silly, but the stupid 7-5 divisions in that league keeps me holding on to it as a logical way to even out the divisions.

  13. Al says:

    Good catch on Auburn. Here’s the reference article. https://auburnpub.com/sports/doubledays/auburn-finalizing-agreement-to-join-perfect-game-collegiate-baseball-league/article_781794d5-27f2-5ac2-9b93-1f0e0ea48611.html

    I don’t think think the Salem/Lowell switcheroo is too far-fetched. Greenville could drop to Low A easily enough. We’ll see.

  14. Chin says:

    Thanks for the link. Sounds like Auburn is no longer community owned. Is Rochester the last remaining community owned team?

    I noticed this morning that New England Collegiate Baseball League is currently at an odd number of teams, and that Lowell (formerly a member), Norwich and Vermont all fall within their footprint (Vermont would be the most remote, but still well within the Northern Division). I wonder if that’s where they all land? Their home parks may be a little too nice for a league that also has teams hosted at high schools, but there aren’t a lot of options left.

  15. Chin says:

    West Virginia Power officially a member of the Atlantic League now. They’re also reconfiguring the divisions into a more logical North/South alignment.

    JJ Cooper tweeted that the “Partner” Leagues are now set. When prompted, he said he may have some reporting soon on Vermont’s future. I’ll assume Lowell and Norwich probably have a similar fate to Vermont’s.

    As an aside, I jumped from Ballpark Digest’s story on this to the affiliate dance page, and Lowell’s status is listed as “Look for shift to full-season ball in 2022”.

  16. Al says:

    West Virginia came out of this pretty well, all things considered.

    Yeah, those former NY-Penn teams seem destined for summer collegiate. Maybe Lowell will only last one year before joining High-A East.

    I wonder if we’ll get the official names for the affiliated leagues before the seasons start.

  17. Al says:

    Vermont is headed to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Boy, for all the talk last year about MLB finding placement for the teams left out, it seems like many of these teams are just left to their own devices.

  18. Chin says:

    Yeah, hopefully we’ll see some reporting on what happened behind the scenes and why a good number of teams had to struggle to find homes.

    Also looks like no baseball in Lowell this year, along with more speculation about affiliated ball returning: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/02/25/sports/pro-baseball-home-lowell-spinners-unlikely-this-season-mayor-says/

  19. Iron Horse says:

    The Lancaster Jethawks have folded: https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2021-03-10/lancaster-minor-league-jethawks-rob-manfred-pecos-league

    And since it seems as if the Lowell Spinners are at least going on hiatus for 2021, only the fates of the Norwich Sea Unicorns and Jackson Generals are still up in the air. Things don’t look good for either team.

  20. Al says:

    Thanks for the link! I think it’s safe to say that the Generals are toast. They lost their stadium lease when they lost MLB affiliation. Baseball may return to Pringles Park at some point but it would be a new team.

    https://ballparkdigest.com/2021/01/21/milb-teams-face-lease-issues-with-mlb-reorg/

  21. Iron Horse says:

    The addition of the Vermont Lake Monsters gave the Futures League 8 teams, but one of the existing teams, the North Shore Navigators, is now departing: https://ballparkdigest.com/2021/04/13/north-shore-navigators-return-to-necbl/

    With 7 teams again, it seems like there’s an opening in the Futures League for the Norwich Sea Unicorns…

  22. Iron Horse says:

    And as I guessed: https://ballparkdigest.com/2021/04/27/sea-unicorns-join-futures-league/

    So that’s about it. Seems pretty clear that Jackson and Lowell won’t be fielding teams this year, but I do expect Lowell to replace Greenville in the High-A East in 2022, with Greenville in turn supplanting Salem in the Low-A East.

  23. Chin says:

    Okay, I know Mike has probably been enjoying the peace and quiet after we bombarded this place for months, but I was reading about the Atlantic League this morning. Anyone else see this recent article saying Staten Island and SALEM VIRGINIA are being considered expansion sites for the Atlantic League?

    https://www.silive.com/sports/2021/06/atlantic-league-prez-says-island-will-be-given-franchise-in-2022-and-this-star-will-be-part-owner.html

    And another, that says SI and Salem are “on board” for the Atlantic League in 2022?

    https://lancasteronline.com/sports/local_sports/despite-roster-shortfall-barnstormers-atlantic-league-cant-wait-to-get-started/article_fdf53d1e-bd5b-11eb-8f1e-5ba2062cdd73.html

    (I had to register to read that Lancaster Online article.)

    Seems like more evidence of Lowell getting a team back.

  24. Mike McCann says:

    That’s pretty interesting. We had all speculated that a return to Lowell was likely, but I didn’t expect to figure it out from an article mentioning that Salem would be getting an Atlantic League franchise. Since the AtL is now a partner league, I suppose it means that the Red Sox aren’t forced to sell their stake, but still would expect that. I’m assuming that the reason that the Red Sox kept Salem instead of Lowell is because of their ownership stake in Salem and this will allow them to divest themselves of that franchise and partner with Lowell again. I guess they couldn’t get all of the pieces in place to do that for 2021, although I’m sure that Staten Island would have liked to have played in 2021 also.

  25. Chin says:

    Yeah, it’s hard to figure out. Could definitely be that the current team will transition to “Indy” (hate saying “partner league”) like Lexington, West Virginia, etc., and the license will transfer to the Spinners. And I would imagine the Red Sox would then divest.

    Is Lowell still in existence? They’re not playing this year, and Wikipedia refers to them in the past tense (though it’s Wikipedia, so not the best source). The easy answer then would be they don’t currently exist, and the Red Sox are moving the team they own to a vacant market, with an expansion team moving in to Salem.

    The timing is weird. Why didn’t this just happen at the get-go?

  26. Mike McCann says:

    I mentioned partner league since there is now an official tie to it, unlike in previous years. I think my preferred term will be ‘unaffiliated’ since they are no longer independent of MiLB. Right now, the Lowell team doesn’t exist, so it sounds like Salem will relocate there, although really it’s Greenville relocating to Lowell and then Salem relocating to Greenville, since Lowell would have to become the High A team. There has to be more to this whole situation than what we are aware of, and maybe sometime we’ll find out more details as to why Lowell didn’t have a team in 2021.

    I do expect to see more scenarios like this as time goes on due to the stadium standards that MLB has mandated. I think that most teams will make the needed upgrades, but I wouldn’t be surprised if teams that currently have unaffiliated teams upgrade their facilities to get affiliated teams (assuming they don’t already meet the standards) and you see teams switching between leagues in that manner. I don’t foresee all of the current affiliated teams making it to 2030.

  27. Chin says:

    Definitely, we have three new cities this year because teams relocated, moves put in place well before the reorganization. And with teams up against a timeline to improve the facilities, have to imagine there are plenty of communities that will line up to lure teams with brand new facilities.

    Thanks as always for the great info.

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