The Florida Complex League, From the Changes to Opening Day
Monday afternoon, the long awaited return of the Florida Complex League came, as yesterday begun the slate of games for some of the top young stars, some of which are making their pro debuts. Before we dive deep into all the changes and the start of the 2021 season, we must back track to earlier in the year.
Before the start of Spring Training, the MLB would release their official Minor League Baseball revamps, revealing which teams would make the cut and stay affiliated and which teams would be moved to a Collegiate or Independent level. Unfortunately for 42 MiLB teams, they would no longer stay affiliated with a MLB club, with some teams futures being up in the air. For the remaining 120-affiliated minor league clubs, we would see them move all around, as teams would shift to new leagues, changing the complexion of Minor League Baseball as we know it. However, for two leagues, they would overall stay the same, the two being, at the time Gulf Coast League, and its Arizona counterpart, the Arizona League. Both leagues would keep the same premises as in previous years, with teams playing at their parent club’s spring training complexes and some teams fielding up to two squads, however the leagues would both make a slight change, as the leagues would be renamed. Now the Gulf Coast League is the Florida Complex League, and very similarly, the Arizona League would become the Arizona Complex League.
Now with the slight changes made by the MiLB, MLB organizations still made some changes for the 2021 season in the Florida Complex League. Some of the changes that organizations made were the reductions and additions of FCL teams fielded for the season. For the 2021 year, the Orioles and Pirates are both fielding two squads in the FCL, a first for both organizations Rookie Ball Complex teams. The Pirates will be fielding the FCL Pirates Black & Gold squads, with the two squads differentiating themselves by using one of the Pirates team colors. The Orioles FCL teams are named in a similar format as they will be fielding the FCL Orioles Black & Orange squads. Even with the addition two extra FCL teams(the Pirates and Orioles both fielded teams before the addition of an extra FCL squad), the Phillies and Yankees both reduced their FCL squads being in the mix this year from two to one, as both teams had an East & West squad. Also for the season, there will be 3 divisions, with teams being placed based on their location and teams will only play teams that are in their division, which are usually geographically close in proximity, similar to the way the MLB handled the scheduling for 2021 Spring Training.
With all the changes now covered, there’s a lot to get into when it comes to the actual play on the field. As I mentioned at the beginning, this league is set to feature some young, highly touted prospects in the game, some of which are in the MLB Top 100. One of the big names that will stand out is the #24th ranked prospect in the MLB, and the #1 prospect in the Yankees organization, Jasson Dominguez. Dominguez, a international signee for the Bronx Bombers back in 2019, is getting his first lick of professional baseball with the FCL Yankees. For Dominguez, their are many eyes on him, not only in the Yankees organization, but with the fans and the media. Dominguez signed a $5.1 million dollar deal with the Yanks and many compare Dominguez to Bo Jackson, Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle at only the age of 18. That may sound like a lot of hype for a guy who has barely gotten his career started, but he does posses an impressive bat and is great in the field. So far he has not lived up in his first two games with the FCL Yankees, as he is 0 for 3 with 2 punch-out’s and him getting on base via walks 3 times so far, but I assure you, we will see Dominguez at some point this season start to click and maybe even get up to Low A with Tampa. But even though Dominguez may be one of the, if not, the top name in this league, there are other exciting names that will be taking the field this Summer at the complexes. Blaze Jordan (#10 Red Sox Prospect), Roberto Campos (#10 Tigers Prospect), Brennan Malone (#7 Pirates Prospect), and Nick Bitsko (#9 Rays Prospect) are just a few prospects that should make a impact on their respective FCL squads. Even though I’ve only named a handful of players to watch in the FCL, their will be guys who will blossom during the year and make a name for themselves.
So far through 2 games, 5 teams remain undefeated (FCL Nationals, FCL Phillies, FCL Pirates & Orioles Black, FCL Braves) with 7 teams still looking to get into the win column on the season (FCL Tigers East & West, FCL Marlins, FCL Cardinals, FCL Red Sox, FCL Orioles Orange, FCL Twins). The FCL Red Sox and Braves have had no luck up to this point being delayed due to weather the last two days, with yesterday’s opening day contest in North Port being limited and finalized in 7 innings and today’s game in Fort Myers being suspended and being resumed on July 26th. The FCL Astros also put up the most runs yesterday on the season so far, with 13 being the score to beat right now.
Obviously, its only been two days, but get ready for a fun and exciting 2021 FCL season. There will definitely be a lot of storylines, hot and cold streaks, and the occasional Florida thunderstorm or afternoon shower, but it will for sure be nice to see the new talent get there first crack at the pro level. As for fans, you may not be able to see the games in person, unless your the FCL Orioles and Rays, but you get to follow the stars of tomorrow and maybe get to say that you followed a Hall of Famers career on the backfield of my team’s Spring Complex.
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