It’s almost December. Do you know where your White Sox minor league affiliates are?

Minor League Baseball remains a mess, but there are signs that we may have some idea where the White Sox’s affiliates will play in 2021 before 2020 comes to its merciful end.

Baseball America has been offering comprehensive coverage of this tremendously tiresome topic, and it seems as though Major League Baseball has finally established the framework for the surviving 120 affiliates. The teams will be notified “around the first week of December” about their place in Minor League Baseball, after which Professional Development Licenses will be issued.

BA says the Triple-A and Double-A plans seem to mirror the current arrangement to some degree — two leagues for the former, three for the latter, all given the same geographical coverage — but the realignment of A-ball leagues is where it gets messy, and where may require the White Sox to find a new franchise.

There will be three high Class A leagues, one in the mid-Atlantic, one in the midwest and one in the northwest. That is a major change from the current system. Many of the teams that comprise the low Class A Midwest League are expected to move to high Class A. Teams from the short-season Northwest League are expected to become high Class A teams. And the Mid-Atlantic League is expected to be filled with teams from both the Northeast (Brooklyn and Hudson Valley have already been announced by their MLB clubs) as well as teams from the Carolinas that played in the South Atlantic and Carolina leagues in the past.

At low Class A, there will be a league in California made up of teams that largely played in the high Class A California League, one in Florida filled with teams that had played in the high Class A Florida State League and one in the southeast populated largely by teams that played in the low Class A South Atlantic and high Class A Carolina leagues.

This leaves open the possibility that Winston-Salem and Kannapolis will get spun off into separate leagues, but the Venn diagram between the Carolina and South Atlantic leagues appears to have plenty of overlap. The Dash finished 62nd out of 160 minor-league franchises in attendance in 2019, while the Intimidators finished 145th, so historically, there’s enough of a distinction between the two franchises to place one a tier above the other. Then again, Kannapolis has a shiny new ballpark and a fun new identity, so I’m not sure how much you can apply the Intimidators’ drawing power to the Cannon Ballers era.

It’s also unclear how much previous prestige will factor into realignment. Over in Fresno, it seems as though Major League Baseball is strong-arming the Grizzlies to accept a Class A assignment after 22 years of Triple-A membership. The Grizzlies’ average attendance is more than double the average California League affiliate, but MLB says no team wants its Triple-A affiliate out there. The Washington Nationals had to settle for Fresno when they lost a game of musical chairs, but this month they announced the relocation to the same time zone by aligning with the Rochester Red Wings, who became available when the Twins decided to end their affiliation after 18 years. The Twins might have found a way to tighten their system’s geography, as they’re reportedly in talks with the previously independent St. Paul Saints.

Any similar change to the White Sox system would shock the system, if only because Charlotte, Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis have been their top four affiliates since 2001, when the Sox shifted their low-A affiliate from Burlington of the Midwest League.

They haven’t even messed around with their short-season teams too much. They last changed the organization tree in 2014, when they parted ways with their Applachian League affiliate for an Arizona League team. Great Falls had been part of the White Sox’s portfolio since 2003, and might’ve continued to partner with the White Sox had the entire Pioneer League not been placed on the chopping block.

If the White Sox are lucky, the lack of the Voyagers will be the only deviation from their norm. The longest drive between any of their two affiliates is only seven hours, and with Winston-Salem owning the oldest ballpark among them at 11 years, I’d guess that the White Sox will only move if the league forces them out.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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asinwreck

Over in Fresno, it seems as though Major League Baseball is strong-arming the Bees to accept a Class A assignment after 22 years of Triple-A membership. The Bees’ average attendance is more than double the average California League affiliate, but MLB says no team wants its Triple-A affiliate out there.

Fresno is the new Honolulu. At one point, the Hawaii Islanders not only led the PCL, but all of minor-league baseball in attendance. As you might imagine, the travel logistics meant the Islanders (aside from a stable agreement with the Padres in the 70s) switched affiliations frequently. After their second go-round with the White Sox in 1987, the Islanders became the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

shaggy65

If the White Sox put an affiliate back in Honolulu I promise to get season tickets. Plus we’re the only state in the country with a COVID situation that isn’t listed as “Uncontrolled”–that should count for something. Maybe MLB should put a whole league in Hawaii!

Rick, Kenny, Jerry, are you listening?!

asinwreck

I’m bummed the Hawaii Winter League folded, especially since it was one way to have professional ball in the state without the travel issues. Even though Hilo gets rain like Buffalo gets snow, it was fun to watch the Stars.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

I believe Fresno are the Grizzlies with Salt Lake being the Bees.

dansomeone

“Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel. And in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ‘em. ‘Give me five bees for a quarter,’ you’d say.”