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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

2/12/2021 : Minor League Restructure Complete

MLB officially announced the new structure of the minor leagues today. The key concepts of the new plan are geographic proximity for most teams to their affiliates and a commitment to improved facilities. For the players in addition to improved facilities they will be receiving pay increases ranging from 38 to 72 % depending on level of play. 👍😎.

Here are some notes from JJ Cooper in his Baseball America article today ...

“With just two months until the season is slated to begin, 2021 appears set to be a transitory year. Some Minor League Baseball officials are being retained for this season to help aid the transition. MLB is in the process of hiring regional supervisors who will fill the roles previously handled by league offices.

Kurt Hunzeker, the one-time MiLB Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, has been hired by MLB to be MLB’s VP of Minor League Business Operations. He will be working with a business affairs committee of minor league owners on prioritizing strategies for sponsorships, ticketing initiatives, digital rights and other national sales of the minor leagues.

There will be fewer minor league players as each organization will be capped at 180 players on rosters for domestic (U.S. and Canada) leagues. The players that remain will be paid more than they were in the past. MLB has bumped the minimum salary for a rookie ball player to $400 a week and $500 a week at the Class A level. Double-A minimum salaries will begin at $600 a week and Triple-A will begin at $700 a week. Before, the minimum salary for rookie and Class A players was $290 a week, Double-A’s minimum was $350 and Triple-A’s was $502. MLB teams can opt to pay their players more than that (as long as it is uniform across the board), but they cannot pay them less. The uniformity of the pay scale is because teams are not allowed to offer extra inducements to draftees/signees beyond their capped bonuses. But paying all players at a level above the minimum rate is not viewed as an extra inducement.

As we have reported before, MLB teams will be allowed to have 180 minor league players during the season, expanding to 190 for the offseason. The rules on roster limits at the various levels will be loosened. Although the exact final details remain to be worked out, MLB teams will be given more flexibility to construct rosters as they wish. So if a team wants to have a 27-player Triple-A roster with extra bullpen arms, they can. If a team wants to have a six-man rotation in Class A and wants to carry an extra starting pitcher on a 26-to-28 man roster, they are likely to be allowed to do so.

The upper limit of team rosters has not been yet been determined as best Baseball America understands, but the idea is to let MLB teams set the rosters as they best see fit. Similarly, teams will be allowed two Arizona/Gulf Coast League clubs if they want, but if they do so, they still have to remain within the 180-player total limit.

Now that the 120 PDLs have been signed, MLB is expected to announce the 2021 schedules next week. They are expected to announce start dates for Triple-A games beginning in early April, while Double-A and Class A leagues will be set to begin on May 4. Because of social distancing concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of minor leaguers will have to wait until after MLB spring training ends to begin their spring training.

Even the name of the minors is in transition ... MLB is expected to sell branding rights much like the NBA has the Gatorade-sponsored G League. For now, MLB will call the minors its player development system.”

So ... in regards to the Phillies ...

The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs will be part of the six team Northeast Division of the Triple A East League. The majority of their games will be played against the five other teams ( Buffalo, Rochester, Scranton/WB, Syracuse and Worcester ) in that division, probably even more so in 2021 so as to limit travel due to Covid.

The Reading Fightin’s will be part of the six team Northeast Division in the Double A Northeast League. They will predominantly play their games against Binghamton, Hartford, New Hampshire, Portland and Somerset.

The Jersey Shore Blue Claws officially move up to the High-A classification. They will play in the North division of the High-A East League as part of a five team grouping with Aberdeen, Brooklyn, Hudson Valley and Wilmington.

Clearwater’s Threshers are now in the Low A classification. They will play in the six team western division of the Low-A Southeast League. Bradenton, Dunedin, Fort Myers, Lakeland and Tampa will be their division mates.

The Gulf Coast League will continue to exist ... just likely not in it’s current form, especially so for the 2021 season. A regional like schedule akin to what’s being done for the Spring Training Grapefruit League is most probable. The number of “Complex Level” teams has been left to each team’s choice. The Phillies have yet to decide whether they will field multiple complex teams ... again for 2021 it’s likely a mute point as minor league ST camp will probably go from April till early May and be followed by an elongated Extended Spring Training Camp. The state of the pandemic will have direct impact on the events of this summer, flexibility is key.

That’s it for now ... at least we have an official minor league structure in place 😎.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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