There’s been a lot of changes that have taken place since we last saw minor league baseball being played at the end of the 2019 season. The biggest, though, was the elimination of the non-complex level rookie league teams. That led to new affiliations for many of the remaining teams, changes in the levels for some of the teams, and many leagues being altered.
For the Cincinnati Reds, they kept all of their full season affiliates that they had previously been with. The Louisville Bats will remain their Triple-A team. The Chattanooga Lookouts will remain as their Double-A team. It’s the Advanced-A and Low-A situation that changed. The two teams remain that same, but the Dayton Dragons will now be the Advanced-A affiliate, while the Daytona Tortugas are now the Low-A affiliate. Cincinnati will also keep their teams at the complex in Goodyear, Arizona and in the Dominican Republic.
Don’t expect changes any time soon – teams all signed 10-year licenses. Where there could be, and will be some changes, are the league names. Currently Major League Baseball, which is now running Minor League Baseball, is simply referring to the new leagues by geographic designations and levels. That could change before the start of the season.
Let’s dive in and see how things break down for the four Cincinnati Reds affiliations:
Triple-A Louisville Bats
The Bats will be in the “Triple-A East” league, which features a total of 20 teams that are divided up into three divisions. Louisville will be in the “Midwest” division of the league with the Columbus Clippers, Indianapolis Indians, Iowa Cubs, and Omaha Storm Chasers. Omaha had been in the Pacific Coast League in the past, so this is a new addition to both the league the Bats are in, as well as their division.
Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts
The Lookouts are now in the “Double-A South” league. It is one of three Double-A leagues that now exist, and it’s the smallest of the group, consisting of just eight teams. Chattanooga is in the “North” division with the Birmingham Barons, Rocket City Trash Pandas, and the Tennessee Smokies.
High-A Dayton Dragons
The Dragons are moving up a level and will now be in the “High-A Central” league that will consist of 12 teams. Dayton will be in the “East” division along with the Fort Wayne Tincaps, Great Lakes Loons, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, and West Michigan Whitecaps. For the most part this league is the former Midwest League, but not everyone is returning.
While this level was often referred to as High-A in the past, officially it was Advanced-A. That seems to have changed now as MLB is referring to it as High-A.
Low-A Daytona Tortugas
The Tortugas are moving down a level and will now be in the “Low-A Southeast” league that will consist of 10 teams. Daytona will be in the “East” division that will be made up of four teams, while the “West” division will have six teams. The Tortugas will be in the “East” along with the Jupiter Hammerheads, Palm Beach Cardinals, and the St. Lucie Mets.
If you want to see the full breakdown of the 120 teams, the full leagues, and divisions here you go (you can click the image to see it at a higher resolution):
The 2021 season does bring some good news – at least for the players that are still around. This will be the first season in which the pay raise goes into effect that takes the players from poverty level wages that often were below minimum wage and offers them nearly twice that (it depends on which level one is at as to the precise pay).
The schedules for minor league baseball are not ready yet. From those I’ve talked to, though, it sounds like they should be coming in the next week or two. Baseball America is reporting that the schedule has dates that “could best be described as being written with a dry-erase marker. All those dates are subject to change and there are plenty of as-yet-unknowable factors that will affect the start date of the minor league season.”
As things sit now, the minor league seasons is tentatively scheduled to begin in early May and will run into mid-September. This was first reported back in early January and is of no real surprise.
Another interesting wrinkle is that MLB may be attempting to sell the naming rights to the entire entity. They haven’t been referring to it as “minor league baseball”, but instead the “player development system”. The thought is that they could be looking to sell the branding rights in a similar fashion to how the NBA has done with the G-League, which is sponsored by Gatorade.
Baseball America has a rather thorough article up this morning about many of the changes that are going to be happening. You need to be a subscriber to read it all, but if you are – go check it out because there’s a lot of little things going on.