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For 2021 the minors will be changed drastically from 2019, and not just due to COVID.

ESPN has an article up about this. A summary of the biggest changes
  • Down from 160 teams to 120 - 4 per club max
  • Some independent teams might become ML affiliates
  • No rookie and short-season Class A levels. Lower-level players will train in their major league club's spring training facilities in Arizona or Florida. So goodbye Vancouver, nice having you as a Jays affiliate but you are now on your own.
  • MLB will take over merchandising, broadcast and sponsorship rights, splitting revenues 50-50 with the minor league clubs. So expect a lot fewer fun names, a lot more teams named after the ML one.
So for us Jay fans the big question is what teams survive? Buffalo (AAA) is obvious. The Jays seem to have been on good terms with New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) and Lansing Lugnuts (A) so I suspect both of them survive too. That leaves one slot for Dunedin (A+) and that is it. Good bye Vancouver, Bluefield, and the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. The article (and others like it) don't make it clear if teams in the Dominican Summer League count as one of the 4. Before seeing short seasons are dead I figured Vancouver would survive just for the nation wide marketing efforts. I guess they could be upgraded to a full season A ball team and dump the Lugnuts, but that would be difficult to do given there isn't a western based A ball league at this time. Making Winnipeg a full season team (currently independent) and joining the Mid-West League would make more sense but who knows if that could work financially or weather wise (I used to live in Thunder Bay which wasn't really warm until late June - opening day for the college league that played there was always cold, April/May games in Winnipeg which is further north would be nightmarish).

I expect to see a lot of new indy leagues emerge from this that are very localized. In truth there really isn't a need for the massive system there is now for the majors to run, just like the draft can be cut to 20 rounds permanently (and I suspect it will be). For example, go back to 2010 and the GCL Jays had just 8 guys who eventually got to the majors (Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Sean Nolin, Shawn Hill (working his way back), Danny Barnes, Jake Marisnick, Dalton Pompey, Carlos Ramirez, Moises Sierra, and Travis Snider). I suspect all of them would've been just fine doing in-house games and heavy instruction in Dunedin on one of the many fields there. Just 5 the next year have made it, 2009 saw 11 make it. More than I expected to see to be honest. 2009 Auburn (same level of play as Vancouver) had 6 guys make it eventually. So the big question for ML teams is what this summer taught them about can you train kids at a facility just as well as you can in the minors playing in front of crowds? I suspect the answer is yes.
Minor League Changes | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
scottt - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#389873) #
Kids in the Dominican League are usually too young to play  in the minor leagues--or even travel to the US on their own..

More than a third of minor league baseball teams don't think they'll recover from the pandemic, according to a report by Sports Illustrated.

rtcaino - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#389877) #
It will be interesting to see what this looks like... If the MLB is taking over more control, they will perhaps consider that market in which the affiliate is located in and prioritize that way.

For example, for the Blue Jays, Vancouver is a very valuable market to be. Perhaps it behooves them to prioritize that relationship and fit it in somewhere within the structure.
Magpie - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:24 PM EDT (#389879) #
The Winnipeg Goldeyes currently play (in a normal season) about a 120 game season. That's about the same as what they did back in the 1960s when they were an A level affiliate of the Cardinals. That's manageable in Winnipeg- you start play in mid May, which is what the independent AA currently does. The Goldeyes did spend one year (1971) as an Expos AAA team, playing 140 games. I don't know how that went. I was there, but I wasn't paying attention. Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll. You know, the usual.
John Northey - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:38 PM EDT (#389881) #
Good point - the article scottt lists has Vancouver looking at full season ball which suggests the Jays plan to keep them. Just makes sense (perfect world they'd get a team on the east coast too - perhaps in Halifax). The question is what league would Vancouver play in? Checking maps of minor league ball there doesn't appear to be any A or A+ leagues on the west coast. We might see a batch of the current short season teams merge into a new league to create one though. The NorthWest League had 6k a game for Vancouver, easily the best in the league (24th in the minors). Spokane had 5.2k a game, everyone else was 3500 or less. Vancouver clearly could support a AA team or AAA with those crowds. Obviously the Jays won't move their AAA team out there (Buffalo is just too perfect location wise). AA has a slim shot, but I think the Jays are well situated as is there. Same with A ball in Lansing. Could they move A+ out there and make the NorthWest into an A+ league? Then Dunedin would just be a rehab and workout place (not like they ever got fans there - 2019 they were dead last with just 11,757 total for the year). Wonder if other teams would like to have A+ up there instead of in Arizona or Florida? Makes sense as the FSL has 3 teams with under 1k per game attendance (Thunder Bay's college based team gets around that), and a batch more with barely over 1k.
hypobole - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#389883) #
I would guess Vancouver gets a AAA PCL team, and it won't be the Jays.
PeterG - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 05:59 PM EDT (#389884) #
Hypobole is right. That is the only solution that will work. Vancouver will be in the PCL or not in minor league ball. It makes no sense whatsoever to be affiliated with the Jays under the proposed new structure as geography is a big part of the plan. I don't think there is much chance of MLB deviating from the current proposal.

It is unfortunate but that appears to be what is happening. I have heard rumours that the Giants are looking at a possible AAA affiliation with Vancouver.
AWeb - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 06:24 PM EDT (#389885) #
It sucks for the thousands of guys who won't get to play in the minors anymore, I mean it's really devastating to them. With the pandemic, there is no chance new unaffiliated leagues are going to form next year either. Their careers just end, and MLB will never know which longshots wouldv'e panned out in a few years, because they won't be playing anymore.

BUT... I think it makes the most sense developmentally. Baseball players get developed so slowly compared to other sports, and at least a part of that has to be that they simply don't see good enough, consistent, competition at every level. Pitching prospects are routinely "not challenged" at lower levels, to the point that they openly "work on stuff" during games because their actual best pitches at the time are simply too good. And the best hitters don't get to see enough in-game top pitches to really improve sometimes either. I mean, the way the US is going, minor leagues will be tricky in 2021 too, so it might be a moot point.

I suspect this means that teams are happy with how players are developing on the taxi squads. As long as hitters and pitchers are facing off enough times with enough variety, I think that's about all that matters. Even as a failing 12 year old ball player, the utter lack of actual batting practice against the rapidly developing pitchers pretty much doomed me. That and only having one usable eye...baseballs are hard to track with just one eye. But maybe I could've learned . But no, just practice after practice on the lousy gravel infield and bumpy grass outfield learning to be afraid of bouncing balls (it's hard to develop good fielding habits when 25-50% of balls bounce unpredictably). The end of my baseball playing days left me increasingly bitter in retrospect...
hypobole - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 06:28 PM EDT (#389886) #
Oh, and there's no way our A+ team is playing anywhere but Dunedin. Two major MLB issues with minor leagues. First - facilities which ranged from 1st class to squalor. Second -travel with some players on 10 hour bus rides. FSL is bunched and since most FSL teams are MLB, rather than privately owned, they have the best facilities. And 2 of the privately owned FSL teams are among those getting the axe.
PeterG - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 06:39 PM EDT (#389887) #
I have also heard that the Midwest League and FSL will likely flip with Lansing becoming the High A affiliate and Dunedin the Low A. This makes sense for the Jays as players can move directly from training at Dunedin to Low A also and Dunedin without the forward and back from Lansing. Also attendance is much much better in Midwest than FSL. I am not sure how the handling of the other A and Low A leagues is being handled.
Magpie - Thursday, September 03 2020 @ 06:51 PM EDT (#389888) #
Baseball players get developed so slowly compared to other sports, and at least a part of that has to be that they simply don't see good enough, consistent, competition at every level.

Strange but true. But unless you're a pitcher, actually playing the game is about the worst way to work on your skills. You spend most of your time standing around.

This probably applies, at least to some degree, in the other sports. Hockey was the only game I played seriously and it was a very, very long time ago. Even then, the games were much easier than the practices. Of course, the only way they knew what to do with a goalie back then was line up everyone on the blueline and let them take turns blasting away.

I hated practice.
John Northey - Friday, September 04 2020 @ 12:04 AM EDT (#389893) #
PeterG - great point there - make the FSL a A league and the Mid-West an A+. Keep the lowest level kids all at the same facility so you can promote/demote them as needed - ie: you decide a few draft picks are ready to play a real game so you put them in the lineup today, back to the camp the next day without changing bedrooms. The MidWest League probably would see more fans with a higher level of baseball which would be good for the Jays and the owners of those teams. FSL gets pathetic attendance anyway so make them the lowest level possible. Only problem is for rehabing major leaguers but then the level of play is secondary to just getting a chance to gain 'game feeling'. A vs A+ wouldn't mean much to them.

Hypobole is right - Vancouver has to be a AAA team, easy to fold New Orleans Baby Cakes (yes, really) who had under 3k a game and were far from the other teams. Next lowest was Reno with 4,803 a game - a few teams in the 4,800 to 5,500 range (5 teams) all of which could be moved or flipped with others (Vancover, Spokane both could be handed teams and would probably do better than the bottom of the PCL right now). Just checked and it turns out New Orleans moved to Wichita, Kansas after 2019 - whole new park it looks like. So Vancouver would need to steal another team's spot. No AAA teams were listed for contraction so this could get tricky.
ISLAND BOY - Friday, September 04 2020 @ 07:34 AM EDT (#389898) #
So... is it the Wichita Baby Cakes now ?
hypobole - Friday, September 04 2020 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#389905) #
Hey, there's a Utah Jazz.
Glevin - Friday, September 04 2020 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#389914) #
I hate Manfred and this is just another example of short-term over long-term. Maybe it is more efficient to have fewer minor league teams but taking teams away from hundreds of small towns who love baseball is not good for the game long-term. Baseball was making tons of money and this relatively small peanuts for them. It is literally a 10 billion a year industry trying to save $16 million and costing itself fans in the process. It really seems that there are very few owners who actually like baseball and way more that see it as a vehicle for making money. Manfred definitely doesn't like baseball and it's very obvious.
hypobole - Friday, September 04 2020 @ 12:09 PM EDT (#389915) #
Don't disagree with your basic point, Glevin, but minor league teams aren't blameless either. NFL franchises are notorious for uprooting their teams for better financial opportunities elsewhere. Quite a few minor league teams have been very similar in that regard.
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