Minor league baseball

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Minor league baseball

abbreviation MiLB
League foundation 1869
Teams 240
Country countries United StatesUnited States United States Canada Mexico Dominican Republic
Dominican RepublicDominican Republic 
Website milb.com
^ Major League Baseball

Minor League Baseball ( milb ) is a collective term of all US Baseball -Profiligen below the top league , the Major Leagues . The individual leagues are run as independent companies, but the best-known are members of an umbrella organization, which is also called minor league baseball. These leagues work closely with major league teams ( franchises ) and are called affiliates . Some leagues, the so-called Independent Leagues (independent leagues), have no connection to the Major League and are therefore not a member of the umbrella organization Minor League Baseball. The minor leagues are classified according to skill level in " Triple-A " (AAA), "Double-A" (AA), "Single-A" (A) and "Rookie Leagues" (R).

There are currently 20 leagues with 246 clubs in small towns and suburbs of major cities spread across the United States and Canada, 17 of them in the governing body of minor league baseball. Each of these minor leagues, which are connected to the majors, is composed of independent and separately managed teams, which, however, are all directly linked to a major league team. These affiliates have the task of developing players and introducing them to the major league, where they are then appointed as required. Minor league baseball is therefore also called the farm system , and the minor league teams are called farm clubs or farm teams . This term, originally contemptible, came about when the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals , Branch Rickey , began organizing baseball teams in small towns in the 1930s in order to “breed players”.


See also: history of baseball

Baseball developed from a recreational activity to a professionally organized sport in the mid to late 19th century . Teams were founded and formed the first leagues. These leagues merged until there were over 35 major leagues spread across the United States. The first teams began to pay their players and thus initiated the professional baseball.

The most powerful of these leagues was the National League , which had teams in New York City , the then media capital of the USA. What caught the attention of New York journalists was widely considered to be the best and greatest in the country. As a result, the teams of the National League received a lot of influx from the densely populated districts of Manhattan or Brooklyn , which gave them a lot of money and thus a huge advantage over other teams and leagues. They started buying in players from other leagues and had those contracts signed that gave the league the right to determine when and where players would play baseball until the players retired. The players were practically owned by the league. These contracts soon became known as the Reserve Clause and were one of the most hated aspects of baseball, both by the players and by the other leagues who spent their money promoting talent only to be snatched away by the National League . Thus the National League became the first major league .

In the late 1890s , the President of the Western League , Ban Johnson , decided to challenge the National League . In 1900 he changed the name of the league to the American League and promised to sign the National League players who were unhappy with their salary and contractual clauses. This resulted in a regular war between the two leagues, which came to a head in 1901 , which worried the owner of the Eastern League , Patrick T. Powers , and other independent league owners. Fearing that the conflict could spread to their leagues, representatives of several independent leagues met on September 5, 1901 at the Leland Hotel in Chicago , Illinois . In response to the war between the two major leagues, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NABPL or NA for short) was founded - the organization that is now an umbrella organization under the name of Minor League Baseball . Powers became the first President of NABPL, whose headquarters were located in Auburn , New York . Fourteen leagues (the Eastern League , Western League , New England League , New York State League , Pacific Northwest League , Southern Association , Three-I League , North Carolina League , Connecticut League , Cotton States League , Iowa-South Dakota League , Michigan State League , Missouri Valley League and the Texas League ) signed the agreement and played with the new rules from the 1902 season.

The aim of NA at that time was to guarantee the independence of the affiliated leagues. However, many independent leagues preferred not to join the NA and continued to work on their own, fearing the NA would become a new major league and thus endanger their independent status. In 1903 the battle between the American and National League ended in an agreement. NA was involved in the negotiations and negotiated rules according to which players from the NA leagues could be acquired by the major leagues. NA became involved because players were stolen from clubs in other leagues, for which the club received only a small amount of compensation, if at all. The agreement of 1903 guaranteed these clubs compensation in the future if they sold players they had discovered and promoted to other leagues. No NA team was required to sell players, but many used the money as a major source of income.

However, the leagues still defended their independence, they still saw themselves as separate sports companies - no more and no less. Many of NA's stars were just as good in the eyes of many journalists as many major league stars. The status of the Independent Leagues, however, appeared to be jeopardized when the Supreme Court in 1922 granted baseball organizations special immunity from antitrust law , which in effect allowed the American and National League to run the Independent's affairs. In 1925, the Major Leagues set a flat rate for NA players of US $ 5,000 . This was mainly directed against the Baltimore Orioles , then a triple-A team whose owner Jack Dunn refused to sell outstanding players like Babe Ruth or Lefty Grove to the majors for years .

The term minor was rarely used, and when it was, mostly only by major league sports journalists until Branch Rickey developed the first modern farm system in the 1930s . The then Commissioner of Baseball , Kenesaw Mountain Landis , didn't like Rickey's idea at all, and so he fought against it. However, the Great Depression in the United States forced major league teams to put in place similar structures to ensure a steady supply of players, as many of the Independent and NA teams could not afford it without the help of major league teams to remain active and several leagues stopped playing. The NA leagues were subordinated to the majors and thus became the first real minor leagues . With the exception of the Pacific Coast League , which tried to become a third major league on the west coast , the leagues kept their names, but were economically and politically completely dependent on the National and American League .

During the Second World War there were many professionals in the US Army , which is why the number of teams and leagues continued to decline. From 1945 to 1949 , the number of leagues in NA rose again briefly from twelve to 59. Since then, the number has decreased again and so today there are only 17 minor leagues in NA, which in 1999 officially renamed itself to minor league baseball . The Minor League Baseball managed to this day the minor league system, but there are still some leagues that are independent of the patronage of the Federation in operation.

Players in the minor leagues

A baseball team in the Major Leagues consists of 40 players. Of these, however, only 25 play for the actual major league team, the other 15 players play in a division of the minor leagues with an affiliate of the team, usually Triple-A (the top tier). This enables players to play every day instead of constantly sitting on the bench. The 40 players of the banns are members of the players union Major League Baseball Players Association . The 15 minor league players are mostly at the lower end of the major league tariff table , but they are covered by all union rules and agreements. The remaining minor league players who are not among the 40 players are also under contract with the major league team to which their minor league team belongs, but they have no union. They usually work for a lot less money, with players in higher grades usually making more money than players in lower classes.

Every year there are drafts in which the major league teams select new talent from the high school and college teams, which they can then sign exclusively. The order in which the teams are allowed to select players is different every year and still depends on several factors. These players are - if they agree - signed, for which they sometimes receive bonuses or other compensation, which in rare cases can even run into the millions. You are then tied to this club for several years, which then determines where the player is used, mostly with affiliates in the lower minor league classes such as rookie or single-A. The players then move up within the minor league, depending on their talent, until one day they may be appointed to the major league team. It is not uncommon for minor league players to be exchanged or sold. However, these then usually enter the higher classes of the Minors.

The farm system today


Two or three leagues together form one of the different classes, which are graded according to the skill and progress of the players.

  • Triple-A (AAA) - This is the highest class among the Minors, mostly these teams are located in the big cities that do not have a major league club. The 15 major league players who are not used in the top division usually play here, which is why Triple-A is sometimes referred to as a parking lot , as many top players are kept ready for emergencies. From September 1st, a team will be allowed to use its full line-up of 40 men in the Major League, which means more rested and fresher players for the play-offs . For teams that have no prospects of the play-offs, this means the chance to judge their players for the next season.
  • Double-A (AA) - Mostly represented in medium-sized cities, this class is almost only a short transit station on the way to the majors. Many players are promoted directly from the AA teams to the major league. Most of the players in this class come from the lower leagues, only a few new players jump straight into the Double-A-Ball, mostly veterans from foreign leagues who already have gaming experience.
  • Single-A (A) - Many A-teams are based in small towns or suburbs of metropolitan areas and are responsible for fine-tuning the talents, i. That is, they mainly work on the control of the pitchers (throwers) and the consistency of the batter (batsmen). The class has been divided into two sub-classes since the minor league baseball single-A restructured in 2002, but this has not changed the promotion of players as most teams continue to act as if there were still three classes:
    • High-A - The California League , Florida State League and the Carolina League continue to play at a higher level than the rest of the single-A teams. They are therefore located directly under Double-A. High-A is usually the second or third level of promotion for players, but there are also some lateral entrants, e.g. B. outstanding new players who either already have college experience or who have attracted particular attention in foreign rookie leagues, may play here. a. Japanese, Koreans and Australians their first season.
    • Low-A - Good new players get in here and play together with promoted players. Complete seasons are played. The Low A leagues include a. the South Atlantic League and the Midwest League .
  • Short-Season Leagues - Short-season leagues , from June to September, are played here. The late start should give teams the time to sign new talents and then deploy them immediately under league conditions. Mostly late newcomers or beginners from last season who were not yet ready to move up or for whom there was no place in higher classes play here.
    • Short Season A - Consists of the New York Penn League and the Northwest League and is the highest class of the Short Season Leagues. 22 major league clubs have affiliates here . College players typically start their careers here.
    • Advanced Rookie League - Consisting of the Appalachian League and the Pioneer League , mostly high school players arrive here and join the players who are in their sophomore year. For some teams, the Advanced Rookie Leagues represent the highest Short Seasion League, other teams use them as an entry-level league and do not maintain a team in the actual Rookie League.
    • Rookie League - The lowest tier of the minor leagues, consisting of the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League , and also with short seasons. The teams consist of newly signed players, for example high school teams, and players who come from the Dominican Summer League , Venezuelan Summer League or the Mexican Academy League , i.e. from South and Central America.

Up until the 1950s there were B, C and D leagues in addition to the classes mentioned above (and even an E league for half a season). The B-Class corresponds to today's rookie class. The other classes disappeared over the years as the leagues had to give up play due to a lack of financial resources. One reason was the nationwide broadcast of major league games on television, which is why interest in the lower leagues fell.


The MiLB currently belongs to a total of 19 different leagues.

class league Location
AAA International League United StatesUnited States United States
Mexican League MexicoMexico Mexico
Pacific Coast League United StatesUnited States United States
AA Eastern League United StatesUnited States United States
Southern League United StatesUnited States United States
Texas League United StatesUnited States United States
High A California League United StatesUnited States United States
Carolina League United StatesUnited States United States
Florida State League United StatesUnited States United States
A. Midwest League United StatesUnited States United States
South Atlantic League United StatesUnited States United States
Short season A New York - Penn League United StatesUnited States United States
Northwest League United StatesUnited States United States , CanadaCanadaCanada 
Rookie advanced Pioneer Baseball League United StatesUnited States United States
Appalachian League United StatesUnited States United States
Rookie Arizona League United StatesUnited States United States
Gulf Coast League United StatesUnited States United States
Dominican Summer League Dominican RepublicDominican Republic Dominican Republic
Off-season Arizona Fall League United StatesUnited States United States

Rise of the player

The Director of Player Development (responsible for player development) assesses their players together with the coaches and managers in spring training camps. Both the players in the majors' spring camp and the minor winter training camp will be assigned to the minor leagues by the major league club at the end of the spring training season. The director and the general manager usually determine which leagues newcomers are to, mostly in short season leagues, which start in June after their contracts have been signed. The farm system is in constant flux, and the assessment of the players is a continuous process. The Director of Player Development and his managers are constantly discussing and assessing how the players are doing in the various classes. A player's promotion and relegation within the minor leagues are determined by several factors, above all his personal performance and injuries, of course, but also the good performance of other players in higher and lower classes.

The players usually play complete seasons for the team they were assigned to, unless they are promoted to a higher class ( called up ), demoted to a lower class ( sent down ) or completely removed from the farm system ( released ). In the past, the dismissal from the minor leagues marked the end of this player's professional career. Today it happens that such a player plays one or two seasons in an independent league, in which many scouts (observers) are on the road and may recommend the player to another major league team.


There are a few notable deviations from the classes of the farm system:

  • Rehabilitation - Injured players can be transferred to the minor league to cure their injuries. However, the players are not necessarily sent to triple A clubs, but mostly to a team that is geographically not far from the major league team. It can happen that a major league star is sent to a single A league to build up because the team is based in a suburb or a nearby small town.
  • Minor League Free Agency - Like all professional baseball players, minor league players whose contract has not been renewed after three years can transfer to the Free Agency , so they are no longer tied to a club. Some of these free agents then play in the independent minor leagues for a few seasons before eventually joining another team's farm system a few years later. Most of the time, players go to the free agency because they think they will not get any further in their careers, as the major league teams prefer to swap their players for high-paying stars from other clubs instead of promoting triple-A or double-A players. They prefer to look for a new club instead of waiting for a star to be called up to the Major Leagues due to an injury.
  • Variations in the Classification System - Player classification is more of a rough rule of thumb these days, especially when it comes to player eligibility for promotion. New players start in all classes of the farm system, although it is only in rare cases that a newcomer starts in a triple A league. In addition, more and more players are being promoted directly from the Double-A teams to the majors without spending time in the Triple-A, which is why AAA has two suitable nicknames: First, it is called Parking Lot by many sports reporters because it It can easily happen that a player is “parked” at a triple A club in the event that a major league player injures himself. Sometimes AAA is also referred to as the third major league, as the level of play is excellent, because many AAA players want to prove their talent and play particularly motivated.


Major league clubs enter into affiliation agreements with several minor league teams to promote their players in all classes. Every team in the majors has an agreement with a triple A team, a double A team, at least two single A teams, and most have at least one rookie team in the US.

Single-A used to be divided into High-A and Low-A again, but this was repealed by minor league baseball in 2002, but this does not prevent major league clubs from continuing to carry out the promotion of players according to the old system so the California and Carolina League are still at a higher level. 22 major league teams still have one team each in a short A league and in a US rookie league. Teams that do not have a short A team instead have two affiliates in the rookie leagues. Some clubs do have several rookie teams, especially if they have one in Mexico , Venezuela or the Dominican Republic . Some of the South and Central American rookie teams are also jointly controlled by two major league teams.

Affiliations are contracts that generally run for two or four years. The major league clubs pay the players' salaries, the minor league clubs take care of everything else and cover the other costs. However, the affiliations can change. On the one hand this can have financial or competitive reasons, on the other hand it can happen that a minor league team moves and joins a new major league team. The longest continuous affiliation has existed since 1958 between the Baltimore Orioles and the Bluefield Orioles , a rookie team in the Appalachian League .

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