MLB Proposes Converting New York-Penn League To Summer Wood Bat Circuit

A month ago, Major League Baseball announced the Appalachian League had agreed to become a summer wood-bat league for rising college freshmen and sophomores. Now, MLB is seeking to get New York-Penn League teams to buy into a similar plan.

In a teleconference with the NYPL’s teams, MLB laid out a proposal to create a roughly 60-game league aimed at attracting draft-eligible college players. Under MLB’s proposal, the NYPL’s teams would pay league dues to Prep Baseball Report, the national showcase and scouting service, which would be responsible for organizing and operating the league.

Major League Baseball and Prep Baseball Report both declined comment.

The new league would be another potential addition to a crowded summer wood-bat circuit. Under the proposal, MLB would try to route rising freshmen and sophomores to the Appalachian League. Rising juniors would be encouraged to head to the existing Cape Cod League and the NYPL would be the top destination for draft-eligible rising seniors.

In the past, those delineations have not been this precise. Many top rising sophomores have headed to the Cape Cod and Northwoods leagues. Others play in many of the various wood-bat leagues around the country. The degree of MLB’s influence in encouraging players to join its preferred leagues is unclear.

The new league would not have been a realistic option under the old, early-June draft format, but with the draft moving to all-star weekend—which is always the second weekend in July— there would be time for draft-eligible players to play five to six weeks in a summer college league in the lead-up to the draft after their college season ends.

The league would likely begin at the very end of May or start of June and would provide around 40 days from the start of the season until the draft.

One remaining question is what would happen to the league after the draft. If the draft remains in early July, the league could face significant issues retaining players for the second half of the season. Other undrafted players who hoped to be drafted might also opt to leave before the end of the season, which would likely be in early August.

The initial presentation left a number of NYPL team officials looking for more information because several concerns owners and operators viewed as significant were left unanswered. 

The length of the proposed license—three years—raised worries among owners that franchise values would be further diminished by not having long-term security.

The number of game dates also quickly emerged as a concern. The NYPL currently plays a 76-game schedule. The proposed replacement aims to be a 60-game season, cutting eight home dates per team. For successful teams, that could mean an immediate loss of between a $250,000-$500,000 in revenue.

Unlike the Appalachian League, which had 10 teams in similar situations, NYPL teams have different needs and desires. Some of the NYPL teams might not even need to consider whether to join a new league, as some may still end up among the 120 affiliated clubs.

MLB is not expected to announce which 120 teams will remain in full-season affiliated ball until after the election, and it’s possible no such announcement will be made for several more weeks.

Among those not among the 120, there was a general opinion among owners and operators that this proposal would be a more appealing option for smaller markets. 

For smaller-market teams, the loss of dates would be offset by the relatively low costs of the league. In the initial proposal, teams would pay roughly $85,000 in league dues to PBR, plus the costs of housing, travel and other ancillaries. An amateur league would also allow teams to not worry about paying players, which had not been a team cost in the past.

Some of the larger market teams in the NYPL might instead look at the option of joining an independent league. 

In those leagues, teams will be responsible for paying players salaries and worker’s compensation, adding costs that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that may be offset by the larger number of playing dates. Atlantic League teams play 140 games (70 home dates) while the American Association (100 games) and the Frontier League (96) also play significantly more games than the proposed 60-game NYPL season.

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