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MLB Draft League to launch with five teams

Minor League Baseball logoAfter weeks of pitched negotiations and wooing, the new summer-collegiate MLB Draft League will launch with just five teams, with a potential sixth team to be announced in coming weeks.

The founding members of the MLB Draft League will be the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the West Virginia Black Bears, the Williamsport Crosscutters and the Trenton Thunder. All but the Thunder were part of the Short Season A NY-Penn League; Trenton had been the Yankees affiliate in the Class AA Eastern League.

Earlier today Kerrick Jackson was announced as the summer-collegiate circuit’s first president.

To say there’s been a few weeks of hard lobbying by MLB officials to land more NY-Penn League and affiliated teams is an understatement. The Hagerstown Suns have been mentioned as the sixth team in the mix, as well as whatever Baltimore Orioles farm team does not make the cut, while there was also talk of a northern division–which is still possible–made up of the likes of Tri-City and Lowell, as well as existing summer-collegiate teams in Brockton and Pittsfield. (When the final 120 teams are announced, some formerly affiliated teams may consider the switch to the MLB Draft League.) Some former NY-Penn League teams, such as the Staten Island Yankees and Vermont Lake Monsters, are expected to explore opportunities in the Frontier League and the Atlantic League, while owners like Miles Prentice in Norwich are still considering their options.

The plan is for the MLB Draft League to be focused on top prospects eligible to be drafted by MLB teams that summer. With the 2021 MLB Draft moved back to July and being held as part of All-Star Week, draft-eligible players will have an opportunity to showcase their abilities and gain exposure to MLB clubs and fans next summer, according to an MLB press release. Also part of the MLB Draft League: and educational programming designed to prepare players for careers as professional athletes. PBR will provide support for the league’s staffing, player and coach recruitment, on-field operations and administrative functions.

There has been a considerable lack of enthusiasm among the NY-Penn League owners for the MLB Draft League: the new circuit will be run by an operator, Prep Baseball Report, with no experience running a league, while doing so at considerably higher costs than the NY-Penn League. MLB and Prep Baseball Report did not prepare any estimates for what revenues teams could expect and instead pointed to Elmira, which has fared better hosting a summer-collegiate team than an MiLB team, and Madison, widely regarded as the leader in summer-collegiate ball when it comes to revenues and attendance. But, of course, not every summer-collegiate team can be the Mallards on the business side.

“We are thrilled to partner with Prep Baseball Report and the founding members of the MLB Draft League to create a one-of-a-kind league that will attract the nation’s top players who are eligible for each year’s MLB Draft and allow local fans to see top prospects and future big-league stars in their hometowns,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Economics & Operations, via press statement. “This announcement continues MLB’s commitment to preserving and growing baseball in communities around the United States.”

“We are honored to work with these ownership groups and Major League Baseball to assure the future of impactful, high-level baseball to the region and continue the legacy of deep community involvement from all of these teams,” said Sean Duncan, President of Prep Baseball Report, via press statement. “With more than 150 scouts and operations personnel coast-to-coast at the high school, collegiate and junior college levels, we take great pride in our ability to identify the nation’s top amateur draft prospects, which will ultimately make the MLB Draft League the preeminent league for draft-eligible players.”

Here’s the most up-to-date information about the current affiliation status.

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