The Cleveland Indians saw one of their minor league affiliates get dropped on Friday, while another was essentially promoted.
Goodbye Mahoning Valley Scrappers, hello Lynchburg Hillcats. It was announced today that the Major League squads, the Indians included, will see 40 teams cut from the official minor league development process. Before 2021, most, if not all, major league teams had seven minor league affiliates. One team at Triple-A, one team at Double-A, usually three teams at Single-A (Upper, Lower, Short Season), a domestic rookie team, and a foreign rookie team.
Now, the short-season clubs will be eliminated going forward. Because of this, there was a dramatic shakeup that affected every team and its minor league affiliates. The distance between clubs was part of the reason for the decision, one that doesn’t affect the Indians that much as three of its top-four clubs are all within two hours of Cleveland and all five of their top levels were in Ohio.
For that reason, the affiliates in Columbus, Akron, and Lake County will all remain as part of the Indians system. Lake County, however, was upgraded from Single-A to Class-A Advanced. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers were a casualty from the Indians system and were replaced by the Lynchburg Hillcats. Part of the reason for this was the MLB’s repurposing plans for the Scrappers.
They weren’t the only teams affected, as the Associated Press (via ESPN) writes;
"The New York-Penn League, which started in 1939, was eliminated and the Pioneer League, founded the same year, lost its affiliated status and became an independent partner league. The Appalachian League was converted to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores."
The Scrappers will join other area teams from the now-defunct New York-Penn League to form the new MLB Draft League. This is the NBA’s Summer League and the NFL’s combine smashed together, as it’ll be a league for draft-eligible players to showcase their skills before the draft. The draft is also undergoing some changes, changing the date of the Draft from June to July, to sync up with the All-Star Game festivities.
The reason for all this, as the Associated Press states, is due to the Professional Baseball Agreement being ended by Major League Baseball. The PBA was part of the agreement between the MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), the organization that ran the minor leagues since 1901. The NAPBL is now closing down, and the Majors will control the minor-league systems from their base of operations in New York. The man running the things for these clubs will be Peter Woodfork, who will oversee everything to do with the minors. Woodfork’s official title within the MLB hierarchy is the senior vice president of minor league operations and development.
Minor league baseball will look different in 2021 but may actually be more streamlined, and more efficient. Let’s all just hope that all the cities who lost their affiliate and aren’t already redirected into a new purpose like the Scrappers find a way to stay operational for the sake of the cities they reside in.