2021 Arizona Fall League Slated For Mid-October Return

Image credit: (Photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

After a year off, the Arizona Fall League is coming back in 2021. 

Major League Baseball’s finishing school for prospects will be slightly shorter this year, but the format will be largely the same. Sources have told Baseball America that the league will begin on Oct. 13 and end with the championship game on Nov. 20.

All told, the AFL regular season will last 30 games and will take place at all of the league’s usual sites: Salt River Fields, Peoria Sports Complex, Surprise Stadium, Scottsdale Stadium, Camelback Ranch and Sloan Field. 

The sites for the championship game and the Fall Stars Game—which will take place on Nov. 13—have not been determined.

Each of the six AFL teams—Salt River, Peoria, Surprise, Mesa, Glendale and Scottsdale—will have 35-man rosters with seven prospects apiece from five MLB clubs per roster. In other words, Salt River might have seven prospects from the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Twins, Marlins and Rays. 

All of this comes with the caveat that things could be tripped up depending on the trends in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For now, though, these are the tentative plans. 

The timing of the league is different from 2019, when it shifted its schedule earlier to create less of a layoff between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the AFL season. In that iteration, the AFL began on Sept. 18 and ended on Oct. 26. 

Things are obviously different this year because of the late start of the minor leagues due to the coronavirus pandemic—Opening Day was May 4—and the cancellation and subsequent revival of minor league playoffs, which now are slated to run until Sept. 26. 

This year, the end of the minor league playoffs and the opening of the AFL campaign creates a 17-day gap. By comparison, the gap between the 2018 Triple-A Championship Game—the last MiLB game in a traditional season—and the opening of that year’s AFL slate was 21 days. 

Minor leaguers across the sport missed out on valuable developmental time in 2020 while sports and the world went through various states of shutdown during the pandemic. Now, with the return of the Fall League, teams will have 30 more games where their prospects can make up for lost time. 

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