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.

21 Responses

  1. Scott N

    Is Louisville likely to stay as Reds affiliate? Is it considered in market?

    • Chin

      I think Louisville is a safe bet to stay with the Reds. If Ballpark Digest’s report is correct (and that’s a solid source), the AAA changes are:

      Out: Fresno (Nationals), San Antonio (Brewers), Wichita (Marlins)
      In: Jacksonville (Marlins), St. Paul (Twins, leaving Rochester), Sugar Land (Astros, leaving Round Rock).

      Assume the Rangers go back to Round Rock, opening Nashville.

      That leaves Nashville and Rochester open (with Milwaukee and Washington needing new homes). I don’t see a reason why the Reds would leave Louisville for either of those two, though Nashville is kinda the gold standard of AAA affiliates. I guess we could see a few teams swap around, but I think AAA will be pretty stable, aside from the above.

      • Doug Gray

        I’d agree that it’s probably a safer bet, but unlike Dayton, it’s not something they alone really control. There could be changes.

    • Doug Gray

      Very few teams are actually “in market” for a big league team. Louisville is not in the Cincinnati market. But, I’d say that Louisville is probably more likely to remain with the Reds than not.

  2. Tom

    I hate what’s happening to the pioneer league.

    Had a great time at a Missoula ospreys game sipping brew and enjoying the sites with a decent size crowd.
    I’ll always remember Paul Goldschmidt crushing a homerun not knowing he’d be “Paul Goldschmidt”.

    What can be done?

    Perhaps each city should host 10 days worth of tournaments where the whole league is there. “The Missoula Cup”, “The Billings Invitational Crown”. Home team hosts. Points accumulate for where teams finish each tourney and build toward the championship tourney which rotates each year and is the last tourney of the year.

    Less travel. Shorter maintenance and employment impact for each park. More like a festival / fairground event with economic benefits for the area. Could even be tied to the county fair in some cases. Hotels fill up. Restaurants and local business do better. All the players in town for autographs for kids. Scouts can see more in short period.

    Anyway, just having fun imagining how to fix this mess.

    • James K

      I agree something should be done to save the Pioneer League. Billings has a great ball park and many enthusiastic fans. Another suggestion I raised earlier was to cut to four cities and give them two teams each, choosing the cities with the best parks and best attendance. That would greatly reduce the travel time. And I don’t see why a major league team couldn’t assign some of their prospects to one of these teams.

  3. MK

    Wonder what will happen to the wood bat college leagues already in operation. Those communities have significant financial commitments in their communities as well.

    • DaveCT

      In particular, the Cape Cod League is about as iconic a collegiate league there is. Top talent, great environment, big crowds due to it being a perennial vacation destiny.

    • Doug Gray

      The “MLB plan” is the Appy League gets freshmen and sophomores, the Cape Cod League gets juniors, and the NYPL would get seniors. The other college leagues get the scraps of the “lesser rated” prospects.

      • DaveCT

        That seems consistent with the past, re the Cape League getting juniors.

        Semi regular plug for you to go check it out sometime, Doug. You’ll go every year.

  4. Scott Ledridge

    What’s the news on Chattanooga? I just saw in the local paper that the Lookouts will be playing in 2021, but maybe not in their home park. I’ve heard the new ownership wants a new stadium in the past. I don’t have a subscription, so I don’t know what the article has to say about anything.

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t have a subscription there either but could read the entire article.

      There’s no word on what’s happening with Chattanooga.

    • Chin

      I may be wrong, but I think the article is jumping the gun on Chattanooga’s future. They’re interpreting the Lookouts being safe based on a tweet from Rob Wooten, which said he’s the Lookouts’ 2021 pitching coach. But it probably would’ve been more accurate for him to say he’s the 2021 “AA” pitching coach. I think teams are still going to reference the most recent structure until the new affiliates are announced. The Nationals’ transactions page still has them (as of late October) moving players on and off the Fresno Grizzlies roster, but Fresno is almost certain to be a Rockies(?) ‘A’ affiliate in 2021.

      Chattanooga’s major issue is they don’t have the space to expand to meet the coming new facility standards. Unless they’re able to prove they’re making significant progress on a new stadium, I think they’re still in big trouble.

      • Doug Gray

        I heard this second hand, but someone said that the owner of the Lookouts was asked about this yesterday and he said he had not heard anything.

  5. Jon

    No, I think you’re wrong about the cal-league. I fully expect the league to remain high A. MLB has already said low A and rookie ball going to alternative training site.

  6. J

    So, Dayton could be high A next year? That’ll mean the team won’t be stripped of talent by mid-year anymore

    • Doug Gray

      I’m not sure why you would think that being at a different level that players won’t be promoted if and when they deserve to be.

  7. James Phillips

    Big surprise here in the Hudson Valley as the Yankees have informed the Renegades they are going to get the single A affiliate starting next year. That’s a huge boost for the organization as they were a part of the now dead NY-Penn league.

    The Yankees are moving on from their Trenton, NJ and Staten Island teams.

  8. Redsvol

    Has anyone heard whether the TN Smokies will retain their double AA team – currently a Cubs affiliate. Great place to watch a game.