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MLB Invites 120 Teams To Join Minor Leagues In 2021

On the second Wednesday in December, Major League Baseball took yet another step toward completing the most dramatic change in the minor leagues in at least half a century.

On Dec. 9, MLB invited 120 minor league teams to join its Professional Development Leagues. While there had been talks between negotiating teams from Minor League Baseball and MLB for many months, this pivotal moment, which will shape the structure of the minor leagues, was a unilateral decision. MiLB had no significant input into which teams were invited to be affiliates and which ones were not.

That appears to be by design. After months of talks, MLB made it clear it is setting up its own system. Based on feedback from minor league clubs, MLB has been willing to tweak aspects of the rules and guidelines it will use, but the structure has been set up by MLB and MLB alone.

As 2020 ended, there was no certainty that the 120 teams MLB invited would be the same 120 that take the field in 2021. To join MLB’s system, minor league teams will have to agree to sign a 10-year Professional Development License. They will also have to waive any right to sue MLB.

It’s possible some teams will balk, either by simply refusing to sign individually or by banding together as a group to attempt to get some aspects of the PDLs altered.

But nobody Baseball America talked to in the lead-up to or aftermath of the Dec. 9 invitation had any doubts that MLB will field a minor league system of its own design going forward. The questions revolve around whether it will be with the 120 teams that were invited or whether some teams will decline, in which case MLB would replace them with willing teams.

Below is the full list of 120 teams MLB invited to join the minors in 2021.


Baseball America has been able to confirm the 120 invitations. They are:

Arizona DiamondbacksRenoAmarilloHillsboroVisalia
Atlanta BravesGwinnettMississippiRomeAugusta
Baltimore OriolesNorfolkBowieAberdeenDelmarva
Boston Red SoxWorcesterPortlandGreenvilleSalem
Chicago White SoxCharlotteBirminghamWinston-SalemKannapolis
Chicago CubsIowaTennesseeSouth BendMyrtle Beach
Cincinnati RedsLouisvilleChattanoogaDaytonDaytona
Cleveland IndiansColumbusAkronLake CountyLynchburg
Colorado RockiesAlbuquerqueHartfordSpokaneFresno
Detroit TigersToledoErieWest MichiganLakeland
Houston AstrosSugar LandCorpus ChristiAshevilleFayetteville
Kansas City RoyalsOmahaNorthwest ArkansasQuad CitiesColumbia
Los Angeles AngelsSalt LakeRocket CityTri-City (Wash.)Inland Empire
Los Angeles DodgersOklahoma CityTulsaGreat LakesRancho Cucamonga
Miami MarlinsJacksonvillePensacolaBeloitJupiter
Milwaukee BrewersNashvilleBiloxiWisconsinCarolina
Minnesota TwinsSt. PaulWichitaCedar RapidsFort Myers
New York YankeesScranton/Wilkes-BarreSomersetHudson ValleyTampa
New York MetsSyracuseBinghamtonBrooklynSt. Lucie
Oakland AthleticsLas VegasMidlandLansingStockton
Philadelphia PhilliesLehigh ValleyReadingJersey ShoreClearwater
Pittsburgh PiratesIndianapolisAltoonaGreensboroBradenton
San Diego PadresEl PasoSan AntonioFort WayneLake Elsinore
San Francisco GiantsSacramentoRichmondEugeneSan Jose
Seattle MarinersTacomaArkansasEverettModesto
St. Louis CardinalsMemphisSpringfieldPeoriaPalm Beach
Tampa Bay RaysDurhamMontgomeryBowling GreenCharleston, S.C.
Texas RangersRound RockFriscoHickoryDown East
Toronto Blue JaysBuffaloNew HampshireVancouverDunedin
Washington NationalsRochesterHarrisburgWilmingtonFredericksburg

If every team accepts their invitations, which is not a given and will not be completed for some time, here is how the various leagues would be divided. The names of these leagues are also likely to be determined, but in the case of leagues that have long been known by their current names, we used them for now as placeholders. So the Texas League may or may not be known as the Texas League under the new system, but almost all the teams in the new league will be coming from what was the Texas League.

Triple-A would have one 20-team East/Midwest league and one 10-team West league if all teams accept their invitations and sign the Professional Development Licenses.

CharlotteEl Paso
ColumbusLas Vegas
DurhamOklahoma City
IndianapolisRound Rock
JacksonvilleSalt Lake
Lehigh ValleySugar Land
St. Paul

Double-A will have three leagues, one if the upper Midwest/East, one in the South and one in the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas area.

Eastern LeagueSouthern LeagueTexas League
BinghamtonChattanoogaCorpus Christi
Northwest Arkansas
HartfordRocket CitySan Antonio
New HampshireTennesseeSpringfield

High Class A will see several leagues shuffle. The previously short-season Northwest League teams join high Class A and the Midwest League's teams will be moving up from low Class A. The 12-team Mid-Atlantic League is likely to have the most difficult travel. If all 12 teams sign their PDLs, it will have a seven-team division in the south and a five-team division in the north, which means there will always have to be intradivisional play.

High Class A
AshevilleCedar RapidsEverett
Bowling GreenDaytonHillsboro
BrooklynFort WayneSpokane
GreensboroGreat LakesTri-City (Wash.)
GreenvilleLake CountyVancouver
Hudson ValleyPeoria
Jersey ShoreQuad Cities
RomeSouth Bend
WilmingtonWest Michigan

Low Class A will have three leagues. The California League moves down from high Class A to low Class A, as does the Florida State League. The league in the Southeast will be comprised of many teams from the South Atlantic League but also some teams that are switching over from the Carolina League.

Low Class A
CaliforniaFlorida StateSouth Atlantic
Inland EmpireClearwaterCarolina
Lake ElsinoreDaytonaCharleston, S.C.
Rancho CucamongaFort MyersDelmarva
San JoseJupiterDown East
VisaliaPalm BeachFredericksburg
St. LucieKannapolis
Myrtle Beach

There are 12 full season affiliated teams that did not receive invites.

Double-A: Jackson Generals (Southern), Trenton Thunder (Eastern)

High Class A: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Florida State), Florida Fire Frogs (Florida State), Frederick Keys (Carolina), Lancaster (California)

Low Class A: Burlington Bees (Midwest), Clinton LumberKings (Midwest), Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic), Lexington Legends (South Atlantic), Kane County Cougars (Midwest), West Virginia Power (South Atlantic)

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