Dec 14, 2020 - Sports

MLB unveils trimmed down minor leagues

Illustration of a series of baseball bats as a downward trending bar chart.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Major League Baseball unveiled its restructured minor league system last week, with all 30 big league clubs extending invitations to four farm teams apiece.

How it works: Under the newly configured system, every franchise will have a Triple-A team, a Double-A team, a high-Class A team and a low-Class A team, along with a variety of developmental teams.

  • In an effort to streamline geographical footprints, affiliations were also shifted among franchises.
  • For example: The Nationals' Triple-A affiliate shifted from Fresno, California, to Rochester, New York, while the Twins' Triple-A affiliate shifted from Rochester, New York to just across the river in St. Paul.

Why it matters: The number of affiliated minor league teams has been reduced from 160 to 120, altering the fate of 40 clubs.

  • Good news for some: After three decades as one of America's most successful independent teams, the St. Paul Saints are now the Twins' Triple-A affiliate. It's exciting news for the Saints, and the 10.6-mile drive between stadiums means the Twins can now call up and send down players with ease.
  • Bad news for others: The Salem-Keizer (Oregon) Volcanoes found out via social media that they would no longer be the Giants' Class A affiliate. "For a partnership of 26 years to end that way feels like a slap in the face," said CEO Mickey Walker. "I think heartbreak is an appropriate term."

The big picture: On top of the minor league shakeup, MLB is also forming its own amateur leagues for college players — a decision that has sent a chill through wood-bat college summer circuits from Cape Cod to Alaska.

Go deeper: Our May profile on the Cape Cod League

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