It’s been a while since we’ve seen a minor league baseball game. The 2020 MiLB season was lost because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the status of 2021 is still uncertain as the pandemic continues. However, planning for the minor leagues is still underway. Earlier this year, MLB announced their decision to take control of the minor leagues and restructure them. Small pieces of information have been coming out since then, but nothing substantial has been confirmed yet. That could come as early as next week, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America reports that MLB is nearing their decision on the minor league teams.
Though the full details are not known, the structure of the leagues appears to be set. There will be the same four top levels, with leagues in each level. Here’s how the Baseball America report breaks down the leagues:
- Triple-A: East and West
- Double-A: Central, South, and Northeast
- High-A: Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northwest
- Low-A: California, Florida, Carolina/South Atlantic
Triple-A would be split between East and West, which is similar to their current alignment (International League in the East, Pacific Coast League in the West). Double-A would retain three divisions, which is similar to the current format (Texas, Southern, Eastern). However, at the High-A and Low-A levels, more moving will occur. For the most part, High-A and Low-A will be switching teams. The Midwest and Northwest leagues will move from Low-A/Short Season to High-A, and California and Florida will shift from High-A to Low-A. As for the other leagues, they will feature mostly a mix of teams from the Low-A South Atlantic and High-A Carolina leagues. This isn’t a hard rule, as some teams will shift much more drastically (Fresno is one example, who has been given an ultimatum to either accept Low-A affiliation or be dropped), but most appear to stick in their current leagues/areas.
What would this mean for the Brewers current affiliations? That’s still up in the air, and we would have to see how the leagues play out to know for sure. There’s a report out from a Fox TV station in San Antonio that the Missions will be going back to Double-A baseball, but that is currently unconfirmed. No word on Biloxi, but they would seem to be a good fit to stay in the South league for MiLB. Should both San Antonio and Biloxi be Double-A teams next season, the Brewers would probably prefer to stick with Biloxi due to the longer relationship with them, but we haven’t confirmed how affiliations will be assigned yet. That will likely come out with the announcement on the structure of the leagues.
As for Wisconsin and Carolina, that’s a bit more unclear. The Timber Rattlers would likely stick in the Midwest league, and jump up a level to High-A. However, the Mudcats have two potential landing spots: the Mid-Atlantic High-A league and the Carolina/South Atlantic Low-A league. Early rumors suggest that both the Mudcats and Timber Rattlers could end up in the same level, which would force the Brewers to choose one (per Brewer Nation). However, a follow-up rumor put the two in different levels (per Matt Eddy of Baseball Amercia), which would allow the Brewers to keep both affiliations. That would be the preferred alignment for the Brewers to keep both, since the Timber Rattlers are an ideal affiliation for the Brewers, and the Mudcats are owned by the team.
Next week should be a big week for the minor leagues. We will find out information on how the leagues will be set up, as well as what affiliations the Brewers will have to figure out. It looks like there will be some movement, but how much is still to be determined. All of that is set to play out soon.