Sunset in Hagerstown
Yesterday, MLB took another step closer in its hostile takeover of MiLB as it announced the formation of the “MLB Draft League,” along with the long-rumored conversion of the Pioneer League into an independent league.
The MLB Draft League will begin with five teams – four from the NYPL (Mahoning Valley, State College, West Virginia, and Williamsport), and Trenton, formerly of the Eastern League. The Hagerstown Suns (pictured above) are rumored to be among the candidates for a sixth team to even out the circuit, though Ballpark Digest also notes that the Orioles affiliate that gets dropped from the troika of Frederick, Bowie, and Delmarva is another possibility.
Unlike the Pioneer League, the MLBDL (ugh) will be yet another collegiate wood-bat league, focusing on draft-eligible juniors and seniors. It will run from late May to mid-August, presumably (primarily?) with players from also-ran colleges and junior-college players. The league will be run by Prep Baseball Report, which has no experience and, as previously reported, operating costs will be higher in 2021 (or 2022) than in years past. Current NYPL owners are reportedly unenthusiastic.
For those of you having trouble following the new world order of collegiate wood-bat leagues, BA explained it thusly:
The Appalachian League is now designed for incoming freshmen and rising sophomores. Rising juniors are ticketed for the Cape Cod League, still seen as the premier summer league. Then, rising seniors and graduated seniors would play in the Draft League.
Meanwhile (back at the ranch)…
The Pioneer League will become another “Partner League,” providing MLB with analytical data in exchange for MLB support via joint-marketing [insert Tommy Chong reference here], ticketing, and sponsorships along with “initial funding.”
Between the conversions of the Applachian League and Pioneer League and MLBDL, the number of “SOL” teams has been reduced by 23 teams out of a potential 43 (160 in 2019, plus Sugar Land, Somerset, and St. Paul, minus “The 120”).
This brings us back to Fresno, which claims that MLB has given it more time to negotiate its demotion from AAA to Low-A. It’s unclear what this means because, to paraphrase Ballpark Digest again, Frenso (and the Grizzlies) has no leverage and no contract; MLB’s offer is simply an invitation to join the California League under its new system.
Stay tuned, as it appears that MLB is nearing closer to revealing the final breakdown of the new MiLB this week – perhaps as soon as today.