What the potential 2021 MiLB changes could mean for the Colorado Rockies minor league affiliates
Late last week, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America reported that Major League Baseball could be revamping the way that Minor League Baseball is as soon as the 2021 season.
The proposals that Major League Baseball has made to make the minor league experience better for players is something that would be a drastic change if it comes to fruition in 2021.
Some of their proposals include making minor league affiliates closer in proximity to the major league club that they are affiliated with, increasing the salaries of minor leaguers, and eliminating about 40 MiLB teams who are not located near a MLB team or have to poor of facilities for minor leaguers.
For the Colorado Rockies, the first proposal is one that could have a number of Rockies affiliates change cities. By looking at each minor league affiliate in baseball, few of them are within a reasonable proximity of Denver.
Of the current Triple-A teams, the closest one to the Rockies is actually where they currently reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but for driving, it is still a nearly six and a half hour drive from Isotopes Park to Coors Field.
Obviously, that is a much further drive than their previous Triple-A affiliate, which was in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is about 70 miles south of Coors Field. Colorado Springs now is a Rookie-level affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers, so perhaps, whether or not Colorado Springs is used as a Triple-A affiliate or a minor league affiliate higher than Rookie-ball, the team could once again be part of the Rockies farm system. You can read more about the possible changes for Colorado Springs, including comments from their General Manager, here.
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At the Double-A level, it’s quite obvious that Hartford, Connecticut is not within a reasonable proximity to Denver as it is about 1,900 miles away and it’s an over four hour flight to Denver (or Albuquerque, for that matter). The closest Double-A league entering the 2020 season is the Texas League and the closest team is the Amarillo Sod Poodles (and that’s not the weirdest minor league team name), which is the Padres Double-A team. The distance between Amarillo is about the same distance between Denver and Albuquerque (about 450 miles).
What could be interesting is if they decide to rid of the leagues in Double-A, as it’s the Texas League, Southern League, and Eastern League so a decent portion of MLB teams are not close to their Double-A affiliate.
For Advanced-A, the Rockies are in Lancaster, California with the Lancaster JetHawks. The driving distance between Coors Field and their stadium is exactly 1,000 miles, so it’s not exactly close. They are in the California League, which is by far the closest Advanced-A league to Denver, though. The other two leagues are the Carolina League and the Florida State League.
The Rockies have Regular A-ball in Asheville, North Carolina, which, yet again, is not close. The Asheville Tourists are in the South Atlantic League, and the other Single-A league is the Midwest League, who’s closest team to Denver is in eastern Iowa.
The Rockies Short-Season A team is in Boise, Idaho, which is the closest Northwest League team to the Rockies but still over 800 miles away. With MLB’s proposals, though, the Northwest League would become a full-season league, presumably to fill the role of minor league teams for teams on the west coast.
The Rockies Pioneer League team is in Grand Junction, Colorado, which is about 250 miles away from Denver so the proximity for them is good.
Obviously, with negotiations still in the early stages with the potential changes coming in 2021, there will be a lot of changes and developments in what may happen but if the MLB proposals happen, there will be a lot of changes coming to the Rockies minor league affiliates, much like the rest of baseball.