New teams. New parks. New brands.
A lot has changed since the last time we saw game action across the minors in 2021. To get you up to speed, we have a quick synopsis of the changes below.
FRANCHISES ON THE MOVE
Worcester Red Sox
The Triple-A Red Sox affiliate relocated from Pawtucket, R.I., to central Massachusetts and is now
about a 45-minute drive to Fenway Park.
The Nationals’ former High-A Potomac affiliate moved about 30 miles south on Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg, Va., and joined the Low-A East League.
Rocket City Trash Pandas
The Mobile franchise kept its Angels affiliation and Double-A status but relocated nearly 350 miles north on Interstate 65 to Madison, Ala., outside Huntsville.
Wichita Wind Surge
The former New Orleans franchise moved to Wichita, Kan., and dropped from Triple-A to the Double-A Central League while also changing affiliations from Marlins to Twins.
INDIES TURNED AFFILIATED
St. Paul Saints
Twins • Triple-A East
The former independent American Association club joins affiliated baseball as the Twins’ new Triple-A club. The Saints play at CHS Field, which is a 15-minute drive to Target Field in Minneapolis.
Yankees • Double-A Northeast
The Yankees severed their affiliation with Double-A Trenton to partner with Somerset, formerly of the independent Atlantic League. Somerset is about 20 miles closer to the Bronx than Trenton was, but the Yankees’ primary focus was on improved facilities for their
Sugar Land Skeeters
Astros • Triple-A West
The Astros bring their Triple-A operation from Round Rock to the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. The Skeeters, formerly of the independent Atlantic League, play at Constellation Field, a 35-minute drive to Minute Maid Park.
TEAMS OPENING NEW PARKS TO FANS
Fredericksburg Nationals, Low-A East
LF: 326 CF: 402 RF: 327 Capacity: 7,000
Rocket City Trash Pandas, Double-A South
LF: 326 CF: 400 RF: 326 Capacity: 7,500
Wichita Wind Surge,Double-A Central
LF: 340 CF: 400 RF: 325 Capacity: 10,000
Worcester Red Sox, Triple-A East
LF: 330 CF: 403 RF: 320 Capacity: 9,508
All full-season minor league teams will be playing six-game series this season. Barring weather postponements, there will be 60 games a day each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 55 games each Wednesday. Only Triple-A West will be playing on Mondays, making for a light five-game schedule.
Until Major League Baseball-mandated pandemic restrictions are relaxed, minor league players and staff will be kept strictly separated from fans. That means there will be no on-field promotions between innings, no bat boys and bat girls, no autographs at the dugout or many of the other player-fan interactions that have long been part of the minors. The hope is that some restrictions may be eventually relaxed if the vaccination rate rises and the pandemic wanes.
To see MiLB’s full list of Covid-19 protocols, click here.
Triple-A will continue to use the same baseball as Major League Baseball in 2021. The ball is largely handmade in Rawlings’ factory in Costa Rica. Double-A and below will use the minor league ball, which is machine-made in China. Teams are allowed to use any inventory they ordered for the canceled 2020 season. Some teams shipped their 2020 baseballs back to their parent MLB club, while others retained them, so the 2021 season will likely see a mix of 2020 and 2021 minor league baseball.