Everything old is new again, as on Wednesday Minor League Baseball announced that all 11 of its individual leagues will revert back to their historical names.
Prior to the 2021 season, following a larger restructuring of Minor League Baseball, these leagues were rechristened with names that simply denoted classification and region (Triple-A East, Triple-A West, etc.). This occurred because Major League Baseball was still in the process of acquiring the rights to the historical names, an endeavor that is now complete. Ten of the leagues will resume usage of a pre-existing logo, while the Triple-A Pacific Coast League is debuting a new mark. One other small change: While Triple-A, Double-A and High-A classifications carry over from 2021, Low-A has been reclassified as Single-A.
These 11 leagues, which on average are 85 years old, truly are historic. While there is a strong overlap between their current composition and that which existed prior to 2021, various changes have occurred. What follows is a league-by-league overview of Minor League Baseball's current 120-team landscape, which will spring into action early next month. The Triple-A season kicks off on April 5, with the rest of Minor League Baseball following suit on April 8.
International League (established 1884, known in 2021 as the Triple-A East)
Teams: Buffalo Bisons, Charlotte Knights, Columbus Clippers, Durham Bulls, Gwinnett Stripers, Indianapolis Indians, Iowa Cubs, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Louisville Bats, Memphis Redbirds, Nashville Sounds, Norfolk Tides, Omaha Storm Chasers, Rochester Red Wings, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders, St. Paul Saints, Syracuse Mets, Toledo Mud Hens, Worcester Red Sox.
Comprised of 20 teams, the International League stands as Minor League Baseball's largest circuit. Worcester played its debut season in 2021, after relocating from Pawtucket. Jacksonville is entering its second season as a Triple-A entity, following four decades in the Double-A Southern League. The St. Paul Saints, meanwhile, are entering their second season as the Twins' Triple-A affiliate following a long run as an independent club. Four teams -- Iowa, Memphis, Nashville and Omaha -- were members of the Pacific Coast League through 2020.
Pacific Coast League (established 1903, known in 2021 as the Triple-A West)
Teams: Albuquerque Isotopes, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Space Cowboys, Tacoma Rainiers
The Pacific Coast League, which formerly existed as a geographically disparate 16-team loop, is now comprised of 10 teams. The lone newcomers to the PCL are the recently rebranded Sugar Land Space Cowboys, a formerly independent club located just outside of Houston that became the Astros' Triple-A affiliate prior to the 2021 season.
Eastern League (established 1923, known in 2021 as the Double-A Northeast)
Teams: Akron RubberDucks, Altoona Curve, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Bowie Baysox, Erie SeaWolves, Harrisburg Senators, Hartford Yard Goats, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs, Reading Fightin Phils, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Somerset Patriots
The Eastern League's dozen clubs are spread out over nine states, located primarily in the northeast. The only recent change to this venerable circuit is the addition of the Somerset Patriots, a formerly independent club who, in 2021, replaced the Trenton Thunder as the Yankees' Double-A affiliate (the Thunder now operate in the MLB Draft League).
Southern League (established 1885, known in 2021 as the Double-A South)
Teams: Biloxi Shuckers, Birmingham Barons, Chattanooga Lookouts, Mississippi Braves, Montgomery Biscuits, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rocket City Trash Pandas, Tennessee Smokies
The eight-team Southern League is now the smallest in Double-A. The Rocket City Trash Pandas, located in the greater Huntsville, Ala., area, played their debut season in 2021 after relocating from Mobile. The other seven teams are league mainstays.
Texas League (established 1888, known in 2021 as the Double-A Central)
Teams: Amarillo Sod Poodles, Arkansas Travelers, Corpus Christi Hooks, Frisco RoughRiders, Midland RockHounds, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, San Antonio Missions, Springfield Cardinals, Tulsa Drillers, Wichita Wind Surge
The current iteration of the Texas League will look familiar to longtime observers of the circuit, which has five teams situated in Texas, two in Arkansas, one in Oklahoma, one in Missouri and one in Kansas. That team, the Wichita Wind Surge, played its debut season in 2021 as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. San Antonio, a member of the TL from 1968-2018, returned to the Double-A ranks in 2021 following two seasons in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Midwest League (established 1947, known in 2021 as the High-A Central)
Teams: Beloit Sky Carp, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Cubs, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
A Class A league through 2020, the Midwest League has moved up a level to High-A. Its 12 teams are all mainstays, having operated in the league for 10 seasons or more.
Northwest League (established 1955, known in 2021 as the High-A West)
Teams: Eugene Emeralds, Everett AquaSox, Hillsboro Hops, Spokane Indians, Tri-City Dust Devils, Vancouver Canadians
The Northwest League, classified as Class A Short-Season through 2020, is comprised of six teams with deep roots in the circuit. One of those teams is the aptly-named Vancouver Canadians, Minor League Baseball's only Canadian team (a distinction it has held since 2008).
South Atlantic League (established 1903, known in 2021 as the High-A East)
Teams: Aberdeen IronBirds, Asheville Tourists, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Brooklyn Cyclones, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Greenville Drive, Hickory Crawdads, Hudson Valley Renegades, Jersey Shore BlueClaws, Rome Braves, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Winston-Salem Dash
Like the Midwest League, the 12-team South Atlantic League has moved up a level to High-A. Several of the league's former teams are now operating in the Single-A Carolina League. Recent additions include a trio of former New York-Penn League teams (Aberdeen, Brooklyn, Hudson Valley), a pair of former Carolina League teams (Wilmington and Winston-Salem) and the Bowling Green Hot Rods (formerly Midwest League).
California League (established 1941, known in 2021 as the Low-A West)
Teams: Fresno Grizzlies, Inland Empire 66ers, Lake Elsinore Storm, Modesto Nuts, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, San Jose Giants, Stockton Ports, Visalia Rawhide
The California League, a Class A Advanced league through 2020, is exclusive to the Golden State. The only change from the 2020 iteration of the league, team-wise, is that the Lancaster JetHawks have been replaced by the Fresno Grizzlies. Fresno, a member of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League from 1998-2020, has, in a sense, returned to its roots. From 1958-88 the city was home to a California League team.
Carolina League (established 1945, known in 2021 as the Low-A East)
Teams: Augusta GreenJackets, Carolina Mudcats, Charleston RiverDogs, Columbia Fireflies, Delmarva Shorebirds, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Fredericksburg Nationals, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, Lynchburg Hillcats, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Salem Red Sox
The 12-team Carolina League, classified as a Class A Advanced circuit through 2020, is now located one rung down on the Minor League ladder. Augusta, Charleston, Columbia, Delmarva and Kannapolis were all in the South Atlantic League through 2020. The Fredericksburg Nationals played their first season in 2021, having relocated from Woodbridge, Va.
Florida State League (established 1919, known in 2021 as the Low-A Southeast)
Teams: Bradenton Marauders, Clearwater Threshers, Daytona Tortugas, Dunedin Blue Jays, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, Jupiter Hammerheads, Lakeland Flying Tigers, Palm Beach Cardinals, St. Lucie Mets, Tampa Tarpons
All 10 Florida State League teams are based in Florida, and all but one plays in a facility that also hosts its Major League affiliate during Spring Training. The lone exception are the Daytona Tortugas, whose home of Jackie Robinson Stadium is the oldest ballpark in all of Minor League Baseball. The FSL, like the California League, was classified as Class A Advanced through 2020.