Minor League Baseball has a new landscape


Major League Baseball has now officially signed partnership agreements with 120 minor league clubs across the country. This comes after lengthy discussions regarding the consolidation and simplification of the minor leagues, which are now run by MLB.

Each of the 30 major league teams is affiliated with one minor league club in each of the four tiers: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A, in descending order.

I’ve compiled a color-coded map of the tiers and leagues within this revamped MiLB system. Check it out for your road trip planning!

Each tier is in a layer, which can be turned on and off in Google Maps. Each color is a league within that tier.

The shakeup, which Paul and I covered on a recent podcast, left many minor league clubs and towns abandoned. But the overall consolidation will hopefully improve the quality of the minor league facilities for the players and coaches and the gameday experience for fans.

On another recent podcast, I broke down the correlation between the baseball clubs across America and the size of their servicing airports. That data is now largely changed, so look for an updated show in the near future. But it did still leave a few major markets underrepresented in the baseball landscape, and therefore ripe for expansion: Portland, Orlando, and Las Vegas.

Given Commissioner Rob Manfred’s current pace of progress, I do expect he’ll push for expansion within the next decade. Or, if Tampa and/or Oakland fail to progress on stadium deals, we’ll likely see relocation discussions open up for Montreal and the other cities mentioned above.

Here are a few highlights of the new minor league map:

Biggest demotion: Fresno Grizzlies

A Triple-A club for 22 seasons, no western team affiliated with the Grizzlies, who were forced to sign with the Colorado Rockies as a Low-A affiliate. Their nearest divisional opponent is nearby, though–the Visalia Rawhide, which sounds more like a type of orange peel you’d cook into a pasta sauce than a baseball team that has apparently been around for decades. It’ll be an easier trip to the other farm clubs too for the Fresno players, who were previously catching red-eye flights to Washington, D.C. each time they were promoted from Triple-A in 2019. Life gets better for the Nationals organization, who had the…

Biggest relief: Rochester Red Wings

It was a mutually-beneficial agreement when the Nats signed with Rochester, who was left without a parent club after 2020 when the Minnesota Twins signed a deal to make the St. Paul Saints their new Triple-A affiliate. Now, Nats players can catch a short flight, or in an emergency, drive, to Washington. Rochester and Washington weren’t the only clubs relieved by a new deal. Just down the road in New York was the…

Biggest underdog (or underpony): Binghamton Rumble Ponies

Binghamton baseball was all but written off in 2019 when MLB released its first consolidation proposal that would cut 42 MiLB teams, mostly on the basis of infrastructure. The ponies looked further dead to rights after the pandemic forced new major-minor league negotiation. But the New York Mets signed a deal (encouraged by Sen. Chuck Schumer) not just retaining Binghamton, but keeping them as a prestigious Double-A team. Going into 2021, New York has six minor league teams (in addition to its two MLB clubs…and who knows if the Toronto Blue Jays will play in the state again?) But New York is still not the…

Most saturated state: North Carolina

The Tar Heel State has TEN…count them, TEN minor league teams. The only state with more is Florida, who has 11 and only because an entire Low-A league exists in Florida for its spring training facilities.

North Carolina has the Charlotte Nights and Durham Bulls in Triple-A, the Asheville Tourists, Hickory Crawdads, Greensboro Grasshoppers, and Winston-Salem Dash in High-A, and the Carolina Mudcats, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers in Low-A.  They also get points for some of the best team names in the minors.

Down East is located in Kinston and the Carolina Mudcats play in Zebulon, which lies partway between Raleigh and Rocky Mount.

 

Hopefully state regulations permit fans for the 2021 season. It’s been long enough. Let’s play some baseball.

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