Phillies lose short-season affiliate to new MLB Draft League
By Matt Rappa
The Williamsport Crosscutters are no longer a minor-league affiliate of the Phillies.
Most Major League Baseball teams will see changes to their minor-league affiliates this offseason as part of the reorganization process. On Monday, the first such move was made to a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate since 2007 — the Class A Short Season’s Williamsport Crosscutters.
Starting in 2021, the Crosscutters will now be part of the MLB Draft League, comprised of five teams in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey. In addition to the Crosscutters, other founding members include the Trenton Thunder (the former Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the New York Yankees), as well as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, and West Virginia Black Bears — formerly of the New York-Penn League.
The MLB Draft League, which could have a sixth team join in the coming weeks, ensures that high-caliber baseball that features future big leaguers will remain in the respective communities for years to come. The league is the first of its kind in the U.S. that focuses on top, draft-eligible prospects. Participants will be able to showcase their talent and gain exposure ahead of the draft, set to take place during MLB All-Star week festivities next July in Atlanta.
“Plans include a 68-game regular season with an annual All-Star Break centered around the MLB Draft,” Monday’s press release states. “MLB Draft League participants 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.”
While the MLB Draft League creates an even greater interest around the draft and the All-Star Break, it comes after following the September 30, 2020, contract expiration between MLB and Minor League Baseball. As a result, MLB seeks to decrease the number of Minor League teams from 160 to 120 — as well as realign leagues and affiliations — to both improve minor league facilities (and subsequently player development) and reduce costs and travel time.
It will be difficult to not see the Crosscutters as a Phillies affiliate in 2021 and beyond, but it is good to see that they will still remain connected to MLB through the new Draft league.