Kevin Reichard of Ballpark Digest is reporting some new information on what’s happening behind the scenes with the restructuring of Minor League Baseball for the 2021 season. His reporting notes that the California and Florida State League’s are both moving to the Low-A level – something that’s been rumored as being on the table in the past, as well as Advanced-A getting the Midwest League, Northwest League, Carolina League, and a new “Mid-Atlantic League”.
While teams in Major League Baseball may have a good idea of who their affiliates will be in 2021, we don’t. Unless rules are changed, which would work against team owners in MLB, we do know that a team like the Dayton Dragons will remain affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds due to their proximity to the city of Cincinnati. They are technically in the Cincinnati “market”, and thus the Reds have the rights to allow them to have a team and it would be a terrible business move to allow another Major League team to have an affiliate there and build a fan base there.
What that means is that the Cincinnati Reds are seemingly going to have a new Advanced-A affiliate. But that it’s not really going to be a new teams, either. It’s certainly possible that they could have a new Low-A affiliate that’s an old friend, too. With the Florida State League moving to Low-A, there’s a chance that the Daytona Tortugas could be that team.
Of course, we do know that they were on the list of teams that were up for elimination a year ago when the list came out, too. While that list has reportedly had changes to it, we don’t know what those changes were. Reichard’s reporting, though, has the Florida State League dropping to 10 teams from 12, and the context clues there suggest Daytona would be on the outside of that given that they were on the “cut” list and the league is still expected to drop two teams. As of now, though, there’s been no update as to what the future holds for the Tortugas.
The biggest news, perhaps, is that despite all of the promises that Major League Baseball was going to help teams who didn’t get to keep their affiliation out in a way that would help them keep baseball in their towns, at least according to Reichard’s reporting at Ballpark Digest – they aren’t extending any help to the teams that made up the Pioneer League. That includes the Billings Mustangs.
It’s felt like we’ve known for a long time that the Pioneer League would be losing their affiliations. The long travel, not fitting into any other leagues with the elimination of non-complex level rookie ball – the writing was on the wall. But once we heard that the New York-Penn League was being offered up a “wood bat collegiate summer league” for seniors, it really left the Pioneer League options being limited to becoming an independent league, pretty much.
Baseball America reported last week that we may find out the new format/teams of the minor leagues in a few weeks. It’s going to look quite a bit different than it has in the past. New leagues, new levels for old teams and leagues, new affiliations – all of it – it’s going to take some getting used to.