Minor leagues get a reset with 120-team regional alignment


The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has reorganized its minor leagues in a 120-team regional alignment.

MLB released a plan Friday for two Triple-A divisions, and three divisions each for Double-A, High-A and Low-A. Forty affiliates were dropped from 2019, the last season under the old minor league system, and the remaining teams were offered the 10-year licenses in December. All 120 accepted by Wednesday’s deadline

The leagues have not yet been named. Major league owners, Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff have not decided whether to retain the traditional names of the leagues, such as the International and Pacific Coast at Triple-A, the Eastern, Southern and Texas at Double-A and the California, Florida State and South Atlantic, which had been at Class A.

For now, MLB is calling the minor league groupings Triple-A East and West, Double-A Central, Northeast and South, High-A Central, East and West, and Low-A East, Southeast and West. There are geographic subdivisions within each league.

Triple-A teams for now remain scheduled to open 144-game schedules at the start of April but are likely to be pushed back until the start of May because of the pandemic.

Double-A teams, scheduled for 138 games each, and High-A and Low-A teams, with 132 games apiece, are for now slated to open in early May.

Top minor leaguers probably will spend April at alternate training camps, used by MLB teams to keep potential callups in shape last year, when the entire minor league schedule was canceled due to the virus.

Regular-season schedules are to be announced next week. Schedules will be regionalized and include six-game series to reduce travel and cut expenses, a person familiar with the planning told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.

Minor league postseason formats have not yet been determined because of the pandemic.

Each franchise’s top four affiliates will include one team apiece at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A. Additional clubs are allowed at spring training complexes and in the Dominican Republic.

MLB ended the Professional Baseball Agreement that governed the relationship between the majors and minors. The minors are being run from MLB’s office in New York under the supervision of Peter Woodfork, MLB’s new senior vice president of minor league operations and development, taking over from the Florida-based National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which had governed the minors since 1901.

The New York-Penn League, which started in 1939, was eliminated and the Pioneer League, founded the same year, lost its affiliated status and became an independent partner league. The Appalachian League was converted to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores.

MLB said big league teams will be an average of 200 miles closer to their Triple-A affiliates, allowing most to be within driving distance of their parent team, and that PDL licenses will improve facilities.

Salaries for players with minor league contracts are rising 38 percent to 72 percent. The weekly minimum rises from $290 to $400 at rookie level, $290 to $500 at Class A, $350 to $600 at Double-A and $502 to $700 at Triple-A. For players on 40-man rosters on optional or outright assignment to the minors, the minimum is covered by the Major League Baseball Players Association collective bargaining agreement and rises from $46,000 to $46,600 for a player signing his first major league contract. For a player signing a second or later major league contract, the minimum increases from $91,800 to $93,000.

Including four partner leagues of teams that are not big league farm teams — the Atlantic League, American Association, Frontier League and Pioneer League — and a pair of showcase leagues of players preparing for the following amateur draft — the Appalachian League and MLB Draft League — MLB’s system for 2021 will have 179 teams in 17 leagues in 43 states. Add in the two spring training complex leagues — the Arizona League and Gulf Coast Leagues — and there will be 209 teams in 19 leagues in 44 states and four provinces.

2021 Minor League Teams List

NEW YORK (AP) — The 2021 minor league teams and alignment, announced Friday by Major League Baseball. No decision has been made on league names:

Triple-A East

Midwest — Columbus Clippers (Indians), Indianapolis Indians (Pirates), Iowa Cubs (Cubs), Louisville Bats (Reds), Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals), St. Paul Saints (Twins), Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers)

Northeast — Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies), Rochester Red Wings (Nationals), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees), Syracuse Mets (Mets), Worcester Red Sox (Red Sox)

Southeast — Charlotte Knights (White Sox), Durham Bulls (Rays), Gwinnett Stripers (Braves), Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins), Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), Nashville Sounds (Brewers), Norfolk Tides (Orioles)

Triple-A West

East — Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies), El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres), Oklahoma City Dodgers (Dodgers), Round Rock Express (Rangers), Sugar Land Skeeters (Astros)

West — Las Vegas Aviators (Athletics), Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), Sacramento River Cats (Giants), Salt Lake Bees (Angels), Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)

Double-A Central

North — Arkansas Travelers (Reds), Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals), Springfield Cardinals (Cardinals), Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers), Wichita Wind Surge (Twins)

South — Amarillo Sod Poodles (Diamondbacks), Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers), Midland RockHounds (Athletics), San Antonio Missions (Padres)

Double-A Northeast

Northeast — Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Yankees), Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies), New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays), Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox), Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies), Somerset Patriots (Yankees)

Southwest — Akron RubberDucks (Indians), Altoona Curve (Pirates), Bowie Baysox (Orioles), Erie SeaWolves (Tigers), Harrisburg Senators (Nationals), Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)

Double-A South

North —Birmingham Barons (White Sox), Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds), Rocket City Trash Pandas (Angels), Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)

South — Biloxi Shuckers (Brewers), Mississippi Braves (Braves), Montgomery Biscuits (Rays), Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins)

High-A Central

East_Dayton Dragons (Reds), Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres), Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers), Lake County Captains (Indians), Lansing Lugnuts (Athletics), West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers)

West_Beloit Snappers (Marlins), Cedar Rapids Kernels (Twins), Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals), Quad Cities River Bandits (Royals), South Bend Cubs (Cubs), Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers)

High-A East

North — Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles), Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets), Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees), Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies), Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals)

South — Asheville Tourists (Astros), Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays), Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pirates), Greenville Drive (Red Sox), Hickory Crawdads (Rangers), Rome Braves (Braves), 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

Central — Carolina Mudcats (Brewers), Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers), Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Astros), Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (White Sox)

North — Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles), Fredericksburg Nationals (Nationals), Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians), Salem Red Sox (Red Sox)

South — Augusta GreenJackets (Braves), Charleston RiverDogs (Rays), Columbia Fireflies (Royals), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)

Low-A Southeast

East — Daytona Tortugas (Reds), Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins), Palm Beach Cardinals (Cardinals), St. Lucie Mets (Mets)

West— Bradenton Marauders (Pirates), Clearwater Threshers (Astros), Dunedin Blue Jays, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Twins), Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers), Tampa Tarpons (Yankees)

Low-A West

North — Fresno Grizzlies (Rockies), Modesto Nuts (Mariners), San Jose Giants (Giants), Stockton Ports (Athletics)

South — Inland Empire 66ers (Angels), Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers), Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks)

By Paul Wager