This past week we learned that the Appalachian League would become a wood bat summer league for college players. Within the announcement it was noted that the league would be a premiere league for the top 320 players in college from the freshman and sophomore classes, as identified by USA Baseball. The league released a video, which you can see here, it was emphasized more than once that the league would be for college freshman and sophomores.
That point of emphasis missed me the first time or three that I watched the video. I watched it numerous times to try and pick up what all was being said. But that part about who would be in the league really jumped out to me once I read a piece at 406 MT Sports from Greg Rachac (Who also writes for the Billings Gazette) on Wednesday night. Rachac quoted Billings Mustangs owner Dave Heller about several possible options for the Pioneer League moving forward. One of those options was this:
A third (and more likely) scenario would be that the league becomes a wood bat college prospects league made up of draft-eligible juniors and seniors.
This seems to be the most likely scenario. It fits in very well with the Appy League plan, and emphasis. While the league probably won’t land college guys that feel comfortable as top few round players, guys who may have been injured and missed time but are now healthy may opt to go play there to show what they’ve got and try to improve their draft stock. You may see plenty of 4th+ round guys looking to go out there and do the same thing – try and improve their draft stock – in a slightly different environment than they had in college.
The draft has been held in June forever. But it was announced last month that the draft was going to be moved to All-Star week in 2021. That move would make a lot of sense if the plan is to try and showcase college players for a draft, particularly one that would follow their regular season that can run into June depending on how deep into the College World Series their team advances. If this plan turns out to be one where the Pioneer League becomes the “Junior and Senior” college wood bat summer league, permanently moving the draft to All-Star week should be expected.
The Appy League has officially made the transition. It’s already been announced that their league will be 52 games and would begin June 2nd. The Pioneer League could probably work on a similar schedule if the draft is going to fall in that mid-July range that the All-Star game tends to fall in each year.
For now, the league is still holding out hope that they will be saved and remain affiliated with Minor League Baseball – who is still negotiating with Major League Baseball for a new Professional Baseball Agreement (the agreement that puts in writing how the relationship between MLB and MiLB works) – that seems like a pipe dream more than anything else right now given all that we know about MLB’s plan for contraction and how it’s played out to this point.