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So the Indians lost Mahoning Valley as an affiliate, likely because they couldn't justify MV's inclusion at Low A geographically (it wouldn't fit in the Carolina, Florida, California or "Mid Atlantic" league). Mahoning was given something of a life raft by becoming part of the MLB draft league, a draft showcase league for prospects between college and the now later draft date. They get one of 6 spots along with Williamsport, West Virginia Power, Frederick Keys, Trenton Thunder, and State College Spikes.
The Appalachian League continues on as a wood bat summer college league. The Pioneer League becomes an independent league. That leaves a few odd teams out looking for new homes:
Lowell (Massachusetts) Red Sox
Hagerstown (Maryland) Nationals
Burlington (Iowa) Angels
Clinton (Iowa) Marlins
Kane County (Illinois) Diamondbacks
Lexington (Kentucky) Royals
Charlotte (Florida) Rays
West Virginia (Charleston) Mariners
(North Port) Florida, Braves
Salem-Keizer (Oregon) Giants
Staten Island (New York) Yankees
Batavia (New York) Marlins
Auburn (New York) Nationals
Norwich (Connecticut) Tigers
Tri-City (New York) Astros
Vermont (Burlington) A's
Lancaster (California) Rockies*
Boise (Northwest) Rockies
Speculatively, the remaining NYPL teams are a tighter geographic fit and could function as an independent league. That would be 4 NY teams, Norwich, Lowell... and maybe Hagerstown and Vermont if they want to expand a bit.
Lexington, Kane County, and the two Iowa teams might fit in the frontier league?
Both Florida teams will just fold. The fire frogs didn't even have a home stadium set before 2020. Obviously nobody is going to be running independent games in Tampa's minor league complex in Charlotte.
Lancaster, assuming they aren't given a California League invite if Fresno refuses, will be a good addition to one of the western independents like the Pecos league.
I don't see much of a future for the Salem-Kaizer team or Boise. Unless the newly independent Pioneer league doesn't mind traveling that far.
For my own reference, here's what's happened with those contracted teams:
- Hagerstown and Staten Island folded outright
- Kane County joins the American Association
- Burlington and Clinton join the collegiate summer league the Prospect League
- Lowell, Vermont, Lexington, Lancaster, West Virginia (Charleston, fka Power), and Norwich have not announced new plans
- Salem-Kaizer decided to start a new league with 4 teams playing out of its stadium
- Batavia joined the collegiate summer league known as the Perfect Game league, along with a team from Auburn that might not be canonically the Doubleday
Tri City joined the Frontier League
- Boise joined the Pioneer League
That Perfect Game Collegiate League will feature, I believe, 15 teams from New York State, including Batavia and Auburn from the most recent NYPL as well as teams in Niagara Falls, Jamestown and Watertown. Those three towns had NYPL teams in the past and Watertown used to be a Cleveland affiliate. Also, Watertown has one of the worst stadiums in America!
it’s very unclear how this new league will do. I’m not convinced that very many college players will want to bother, especially with the pandemic not being fully resolved. In any case, it will be nice for me to be able to see baseball so close to home - Batavia is 20 minutes away.
The new alignment of what used to be the International League will mean that Columbus won’t be playing in Buffalo, Rochester or Syracuse.
I have an increasingly hard time liking MLB and it’s continuous efforts to kill the sport.
I don't really understand why they killed NYPL, which was generally a well-drawing circuit with stadiums that were mostly built in the late 90s or later. Like the Pioneer League - makes sense, it's so geographically scattered. Appy league - terrible draws, no history, old stadiums. The NYPL was nice! They could have kept it, trimmed some other teams or just trimmed the Florida State League, which is just the GCL but sells tickets.
I think the AAA East still will play cross-divisionally, so Columbus should still be going up there. Otherwise they would have named it AAA Central or something. But we'll see!
I am surprised that only 3 teams joined an independent league.
Some further updates:
No plans announced for the Jackson Generals, who have a lease that requires them to play at AA or above, so it's not clear there is a path forward
Vermont Lake Monsters join the Futures League (more collegiate summer ball)
Lexington and West Virginia join the Atlantic League. Those are big ones because that league is essentially being considered the AA/AAA holding ground, and the league usually requires you to have AA or above standards. Any teams making the Atlantic League should be considered candidates for a future AA or AAA team.
Where the American association is considered between High A and AA, and the Frontier League is considered between low and High A.
This leaves Lowell, Jackson, Lancaster, and Norwich as the only teams left in limbo.