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Minor League Monday: MLB Draft League

Major League Baseball is trying something new after cutting a lot of Minor League baseball teams. After a bunch of MiLB teams did not get invites from major league teams, Major League Baseball has tried to ease that gap by creating new minor league: the MLB draft league. It will consist of top draft prospects playing on what should be a 6 team team league over a 68 game season.

Right now, the league has five teams signed up:

  • Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Ohio)

  • State College Spikes (Pennsylvania)

  • Trenton Thunder (New Jersey)

  • West Virginia Black Bears (WV)

  • Williamsport Crosscutters (Pennsylvania)

We are waiting for a 6th team to be added. Given the locations of the other teams, I'd expect it to be in the north east. Here's a list of teams that did not get MLB invites, and you can see there are plenty in that region. The five current teams are all either in or right on the border of Pennsylvania, so I'd expect a team like the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to be the 6th.

MLB has moved the draft to July 11th-16th, which apparently allows draft league players a short season to try and add some points to their stock. As of right now, the 2021 draft is supposed to be 20 rounds, featuring many more players than 2020.

There's not a lot of details currently released. Kerrick Jackson was named League President, and was recent on The Rode Show podcast.

In my opinion, this whole Draft league concept is a mixed bag. On the positive side, a few MiLB teams get a second life after losing their big league partnership. Draft prospects get a chance to showcase their talents against more normalized competition right up to draft day. It is an extra chance for a lot of people to make an impression.

From a negative standpoint, it is just too small to offset the 42 teams that just got the axe. It's basically MLB saying, "well, we tried, here's the proof." There are still 36 former MiLB teams that will either have to go independent or fold. After 2020 wrecked havoc on live entertainment, those 36 remaining teams are in serious jeopardy.

For the teams that are a part of the league, they will have an uphill battle to remain afloat financially. Most of these teams had 70+ MiLB home games before. Now they'll have just 34 games to make their money. The schedule will likely be crammed in between the end of high school/college baseball season and the MLB draft, which is basically a one month window in June. Also, there's no MLB team partnership, so there's more of a disconnect from the big leagues than before. This just does not seem like a great deal for teams.

Without specifics announced yet, I'm not sure what benefits it will offer potential draftees. The season is very short, but it does give teams a chance to look at players against normalized competition. That said, if the best players are the starters and everyone else stays on the bench, I'm not sure how much opportunity some players will get. If there are 13 starting players per team (8 position and 4 pitchers), that's 78 players (assuming 6 teams). This could lead to more serious stakes for players going in rounds one through three while hurting all players who might go in rounds four and on.

Do I think it will move the needle very much for a prospect? Not really. If a big time prospect gets hurt in this league, it could be a disaster.

I'll withhold judgement until we get more details and see this new league materialize. It's an interesting idea, but I am just not sure it goes far enough to make significant impact in a positive direction for both teams and players.


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