Legends On Deck

MiLB Realignment: Triple-A Edition

There are many things we could say about the year 2020.  One of the things we missed the most was the Minor League Baseball season.  This season, Minor League Baseball teams (at all levels) will begin their season on May 4.  The change in the start of the minor league season seems to make some sense, as franchises now have an extended Spring Training and some additional weeks to assign players.

For over half a century, the International League and the Pacific Coast League has been considered Triple-A level, one step below MLB.  These International League had included teams primarily from the eastern part of the United States (and at times Canada).  For many years, the International League included teams like the Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Lynx.  The league’s origins claim to stretch as far back as the Eastern League (1892).  Teams competed for the Governor’s Cup, awarded to IL champion, dating back to 1933.  The league’s affiliation with Triple-A level baseball goes back to 1946.

The Pacific Coast League began play as early as 1903.  In the early parts of the 20th Century, the PCL was considered to be the premiere league outside of the American and National Leagues.  It included teams like the San Francisco Seals, Oakland Oaks and Portland Beavers.  Players like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio played there early years in the PCL.  This changed when the Giants and Dodgers left New York for California.  Nevertheless, the Pacific Coast League remained a Triple-A affiliated league for over six consecutive decades.

During the lost season of 2020, Minor League Baseball underwent major restructuring.  The International League and Pacific Coast League leave their storied past behind, to give way to a new Triple-A system.  Here’s what the new format looks like:

Triple-A East

Northeast Division

Buffalo Bison (Blue Jays)

Leigh Iron Pigs (Phillies)

Rochester Red Wings (Nationals)

Scanton-Wilkes Barre Railriders (Yankees)

Syracuse Mets (Mets)

Worcester Red Sox (Red Sox) – New affliliation

Southeast Division

Charlotte Knights  (White Sox)

Durham Bulls (Rays)

Gwinnett Stripers (Braves)

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)

Memphis Red Birds (Cardinals)

Nashville Sound (Brewers)

Norfolk Tide (Orioles)

Midwest Divison

Columbus Clippers (Indians)

Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)

Iowa Cubs (Cubs)

Louisville Bats (Reds)

Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals)

St. Paul Saints (Twins)

Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers)

Triple-A West 

East Division

Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies)

El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres)

Oklahoma City Dodgers (Dodgers)

Round Rock Express (Rangers)

Sugar Land Skeeters (Astros)

West Division

Las Vegas Aviators (Athletics)

Reno Aces (Diamondbacks)

Sacramento River Cats (Giants)

Salt Lake Bees (Angels)

Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)

It is unclear exactly how the new postseason format will work for Triple-A, especially considering the unequal number of teams in the Triple-A East and Triple-A West.  Plans have yet to be released.  There are some franchises new to Triple-A entirely.  The Sugar Land Skeeters and Saint Paul Saints come from independent leagues.  The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp were part of the Double-A Southern League.  The Worcester Red Sox are a brand new franchise all together.  Lots of changes to keep up with all across Minor League Baseball as we head into Opening Day 2021.

Brian Koss
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