NEW YORK – Major League Baseball creates a minor league for top-ranked prospects leading up to the summer draft.
Wood-bat MLB Draft League launches with five teams and may 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 assigned to communities that lost franchises when MLB moved to shrink the affiliated minor leagues from 160 to 120 teams this offseason after the expiration of the professional baseball deal that governed the relationship between the big and minor. MLB has planned to eliminate the separate governing body for minor league baseball.
The founding members of the MLB Draft League are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey: Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, Trenton Thunder, West Virginia Black Bears and Williamsport Crosscutters. MLB said it is in talks with a sixth team that it hopes to be able to announce soon.
The season runs roughly from late May to mid-August divided into halves. The first half will be a showcase for players from high school, college and junior college. After a multi-day break for the draft, rosters will be rebuilt with the best players transferred by MLB teams still interested in signing.
The start of the season overlaps with the College World Series, meaning some of the best college players cannot attend until after opening day, similar to other college leagues like the Cape Cod League.
The league is run by Prep Baseball Report ̵
MLB said in a statement that players will “receive unprecedented visibility for MLB club scouts through both personal observation and advanced scout technology and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.”
Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball economics and operations, calls this venture a “unique league” that allows fans to “see top prospects and future major league stars in their hometowns.” He adds that MLB is committed to “preserving and cultivating baseball in communities around the United States.”
MLB announced in September that the Appalachian League, formerly an affiliated league at the rookie level, would be transformed into a summer league in wood-bat college.