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 Diamondbacks Reno Amarillo Hillsboro Visalia
Atlanta Braves Gwinnett Mississippi Rome Augusta
Baltimore Orioles Norfolk Bowie Aberdeen Delmarva
Boston Red Sox Worcester Portland Greenville Salem
Chicago White Sox Charlotte Birmingham Winston-Salem Kannapolis
Chicago Cubs Iowa Tennessee South Bend Myrtle Beach
Cincinnati Reds Louisville Chattanooga Dayton Daytona
Cleveland Indians Columbus Akron Lake County Lynchburg
Colorado Rockies Albuquerque Hartford Spokane Fresno
Detroit Tigers Toledo Erie West Michigan Lakeland
Houston Astros Sugar Land Corpus Christi Asheville Fayetteville
Kansas City Royals Omaha Northwest Arkansas Quad Cities Columbia
Los Angeles Angels Salt Lake Rocket City Tri-City (Wash.) Inland Empire
Los Angeles Dodgers Oklahoma City Tulsa Great Lakes Rancho Cucamonga
Miami Marlins Jacksonville Pensacola Beloit Jupiter
Milwaukee Brewers Nashville Biloxi Wisconsin Carolina
Minnesota Twins St. Paul Wichita Cedar Rapids Fort Myers
New York Yankees Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Somerset Hudson Valley Tampa
New York Mets Syracuse Binghamton Brooklyn St. Lucie
Oakland Athletics Las Vegas Midland Lansing Stockton
Philadelphia Phillies Lehigh Valley Reading Jersey Shore Clearwater
Pittsburgh Pirates Indianapolis Altoona Greensboro Bradenton
San Diego Padres El Paso San Antonio Fort Wayne Lake Elsinore
San Francisco Giants Sacramento Richmond Eugene San Jose
Seattle Mariners Tacoma Arkansas Everett Modesto
St. Louis Cardinals Memphis Springfield Peoria Palm Beach
Tampa Bay Rays Durham Montgomery Bowling Green Charleston, S.C.
Texas Rangers Round Rock Frisco Hickory Down East
Toronto Blue Jays Buffalo New Hampshire Vancouver Dunedin
Washington Nationals Rochester Harrisburg Wilmington Fredericksburg

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.

East/Midwest West
Buffalo Albuquerque
Charlotte El Paso
Columbus Las Vegas
Durham Oklahoma City
Gwinnett Reno
Indianapolis Round Rock
Iowa Sacramento
Jacksonville Salt Lake
Lehigh Valley Sugar Land
Louisville Tacoma
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 League Southern League Texas League
Akron Biloxi Amarillo
Altoona Birmingham Arkansas
Binghamton Chattanooga Corpus Christi
Bowie Mississippi Frisco
Erie Montgomery Midland
Harrisburg Pensacola
Northwest Arkansas
Hartford Rocket City San Antonio
New Hampshire Tennessee Springfield
Portland   Tulsa
Reading   Wichita

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
Mid-Atlantic Midwest Northwest
Aberdeen Beloit Eugene
Asheville Cedar Rapids Everett
Bowling Green Dayton Hillsboro
Brooklyn Fort Wayne Spokane
Greensboro Great Lakes Tri-City (Wash.)
Greenville Lake County Vancouver
Hickory Lansing  
Hudson Valley Peoria  
Jersey Shore Quad Cities  
Rome South Bend  
Wilmington West Michigan  
Winston-Salem Wisconsin  

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
California Florida State South Atlantic
Fresno Bradenton Augusta
Inland Empire Clearwater Carolina
Lake Elsinore Daytona Charleston, S.C.
Modesto Dunedin Columbia
Rancho Cucamonga Fort Myers Delmarva
San Jose Jupiter Down East
Stockton Lakeland Fayetteville
Visalia Palm Beach Fredericksburg
  St. Lucie Kannapolis
  Tampa Lynchburg
    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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