NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball is creating a minor league level for top eligible draft prospects.
The wood-bat MLB Draft League is launching with five teams and could add a sixth, MLB said Monday. Teams will play a 68-game regular season that includes an All-Star break that would coincide with the draft in early July.
Teams are being awarded to communities that lost franchises as MLB moved to shrink the affiliated minor leagues from 160 to 120 teams this offseason following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement, which governed the relationship between the majors and minors. MLB has planned to eliminate the separate governing body of minor league baseball.
The founding members of the MLB Draft League are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey: the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the Trenton Thunder, the West Virginia Black Bears and the Williamsport Crosscutters. MLB said it is in discussions with a sixth team that it hopes to announce soon.
The league will be operated by Prep Baseball Report — a scouting, events and media organization focused on youth ball — and former Cape Cod League coach Kerrick Jackson has been appointed president.
MLB said in a statement that players will “receive unprecedented visibility to MLB club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Prep Baseball Report and the founding members of the MLB Draft League to create a one-of-a-kind league that will attract the nation’s top players who are eligible for each year’s MLB Draft and allow local fans to see top prospects and future big-league stars in their hometowns,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball economics and operations. “This announcement continues MLB’s commitment to preserving and growing baseball in communities around the United States.”
MLB announced in September that the Appalachian League, formerly a Rookie-level affiliated league, would be transformed into a wood-bat college summer league.