The Detroit Tigers announced that Toledo, Erie, West Michigan and Lakeland would return as the organization’s top four MiLB affiliates, as the announcements regarding the 2021 MiLB reorganization begins.
The only change: the West Michigan Whitecaps become the Tigers’ High-A affiliate with the shift of the Midwest League, and the Lakeland Flying Tigers becomes the Tigers’ Low-A affiliate with the shift of the Florida State League.
“Player development has never been more important to our organization than it is today, and after a significant review process with each of the clubs and Major League Baseball, we’re excited to invite these affiliates to move forward as part of the Tigers family,” said Al Avila, Detroit Tigers Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. “These clubs play a key role in our long-term plan for sustainable success, to ensure our players are in the best position for growth and development to become impactful contributors at the Major League level. I’d also like to thank the affiliate owners, executives, state and local government officials, and the overall community in each of these markets. Their passion for the game is one of our sport’s greatest assets and is something they should be very proud of.”
The Tigers will have four rookie level teams in addition to the full-season affiliates listed above: two squads based at the TigerTown Complex in Lakeland, and another pair at the club’s Dominican Academy.
“All of us with the Tigers player development department know how fortunate we are to have such great partners at our affiliates, and look forward to continuing these relationships,” said Dave Littlefield, Detroit Tigers Vice President of Player Development. “Each of them stands out across Minor League Baseball for having quality baseball facilities and passionate fan bases, and we’re hopeful to continue having our players develop there for years to come. Moving the Whitecaps to be our Advanced A affiliate will improve our organization’s efficiency in significant ways, including having our High A and Double A affiliates closer to each other, while putting our Single A and Rookie League teams at the same world class complex in Lakeland.”
These invitations mark the first potential changes to Detroit’s full-season affiliate lineup since the 2001 season, when Erie joined the system replacing Jacksonville at the Double A level. Toledo, with a ballpark located just an hour from Comerica Park, has been the club’s Triple A affiliate since 1987; Lakeland has hosted at least part of a season at either the Advanced A or Single A level since 1967; and West Michigan has been Detroit’s Single A location since 1997.