In a 2021 Minor League Baseball Perspective from TalkNats.com, and that’s talking Washington Nationals Baseball.com, we have a whole new look South Atlantic League Baseball grouping and here it is….And again, if you thought 2020 has been crazy, with NO Baseball, wait until you see this new possible lineup for the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the new SAL/Sally League…
The SAL teams for 2021, with MLB doing their best to down-size and change the league landscape, of Minor League Baseball…
Asheville(Detroit), Augusta(San Francisco), Carolina(Milwaukee), Charleston(San Diego), Columbia(Washington), Down East(Texas), Fayetteville(Texas), Greensboro(Cleveland), Greenville(Boston), Hickory(Cincinnati), Kannapolis(Baltimore), Myrtle Beach(Chicago Cubs), Rome(Atlanta), Winston-Salem(Chicago White Sox)….
(This is all speculation, but it is an interesting look at what Minor League Baseball might look like, in 2021.)
**********Let’s take a look at how our local league landscape could be shaping up for 2021, and again, this is all speculation, but for many, this would be improvement of what the SAL was in the past.**********
South Atlantic League
The South Atlantic League still exists, but it’s sort of merged with the Carolina League and has definitely shifted to the south. It stays at a fourteen-team size, which means those awkward seven-team divisions again, maybe something like this:
Asheville, Winston-Salem, Hickory, Rome, Augusta, Greenville, Kannapolis
Greensboro, Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Charleston
(I would think some how, some way, you have to get Greensboro in there with WS, HIC, Kannapolis, and Asheville.)
This is a tricky one, because the Carolina and South Atlantic leagues have a number of clubs that underperform in terms of attendance or are big geographic outliers, yet are unlikely to go anywhere.
Although they draw terribly, Hickory and Down East are both owned directly by the Texas Rangers; we assume that with a new focus on geographic compactness to reduce travel time, the Rangers will need to sell one of those franchises as they move into the same league. MLB would likely get some complaints from Rangers ownership if they devalued one or both of those clubs by cutting them from the affiliated model.
Rome is in a similar position, but its awkwardness stems more from being well outside the rest of the teams’ geographic area. Every other team in this grouping is in North or South Carolina or, in the case of Augusta, right on the border of South Carolina. Rome is all the way across Georgia from Augusta. But it’s owned directly by the Atlanta Braves, so the chances that it will be de-affiliated are nil.
So we’re left with some different changes. Officially, it’s the South Division teams from the Carolina League that join the South Atlantic League here: Carolina, Down East, Fayetteville, Myrtle Beach, and Winston-Salem. In exchange, five teams exit the South Atlantic League.
Nats-affiliated Hagerstown is an obvious cut for reasons aforementioned. Geographic outliers West Virginia and Lexington, which lack Rome’s ownership connection, are also facing the axe because it’s just too awkward to fit them into this league, even though they play in nice stadiums and Lexington draws well. Delmarva and Lakewood move into the new Mid-Atlantic League.
The odd team out ends up being Lynchburg of the Carolina League, which is a geographic outlier and a relatively poor draw in a small, elderly ballpark.
While predicting affiliations at this point is basically just throwing darts, we’ve given the Nats a new affiliation with Columbia, currently a farm team of the Mets. That’s because the Mets are already committed to another affiliate at this level, in the demoted Florida State League.