Major League Baseball's long-rumored overhaul of the minor-league system continued on Monday, with the league announcing a pair of developments: the formation of a "MLB Draft League" and the repurposing of the Pioneer League.
The so-called "MLB Draft League" will afford a summer-league opportunity to draft-eligible players hoping to improve their stock. The Draft League intends to field six teams who play a 68-game season in locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey. MLB's sales pitch to prospects notes that they'll receive "unprecedented visibility to MLB Club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes."
The Draft League's creation comes months after MLB repurposed the Appalachian League into a wooden-bat league for collegiate freshmen and sophomores, or individuals who aren't yet eligible for the draft. It's also the latest step in MLB's quest to control every aspect of American baseball, from the majors on down. MLB cut more than 40 affiliated minor-league teams following the 2020 season.
Here's a list of the five teams currently in the draft league as well as their former MLB affiliates:
- Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland)
- State College Spikes (Cardinals)
- Trenton Thunder (Yankees)
- West Virginia Black Bears (Pirates)
- Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies)
MLB announced that the Pioneer League will lose its affiliate status in favor of being known as a "league partner," the same designation placed upon other notable independent leagues, including the Atlantic League, the American Association, and the Frontier League. MLB's press release notes that each of those leagues cover different regions, with the Pioneer League set for action in Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Colorado.
Here are the teams in the Pioneer League:
- Billings Mustangs (Reds)
- Grand Junction Rockies (Rockies)
- Great Falls Voyagers (White Sox)
- Idaho Falls Chukars (Royals)
- Missoula PaddleHeads (Diamondbacks)
- Ogden Raptors (Dodgers)
- Northern Colorado Owlz (Angels)
- Rocky Mountain Vibes (Brewers)
MLB's press release notes that these announcements are "both part of MLB's broader efforts to modernize player development while preserving baseball in the local communities in which it is currently played." Whether one accepts that premise depends largely on how one feels about MLB's efforts to trim the amount of jobs available in affiliated ball without necessarily losing control over the franchises, players, and individuals who will lose out as a result.