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New MLB Draft League set for ‘21 season

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Ben Cherington Leaves Red Sox Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The remaking of minor league baseball continued Monday when Major League Baseball announced the formation of the MLB Draft League – a league established to give draft-eligible players a chance to display their talents prior to the annual amateur draft.

The league is expected to feature six teams and five of those teams were announced Monday, including one with a direct connection to the Pirates. That team is the West Virginia Black Bears, which had been part of the Class A short-season New York-Penn League.

The Black Bears will be joined in the new venture by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the Trenton Thunder and the Williamsport Crosscutters. A sixth team is expected to be added to the league, which will start play sometime in the late spring.

According to MLB.com, the new league will be the first in the country established to give draft-eligible players the opportunity to play in one organized league. The Draft League will feature a 68-game schedule, half of which will be played prior to the MLB draft, which this year will take place during the All-Star break in July.

According to MLB.com, Draft League players will receive increased visibility to MLB scouts both through in-person scouting and what it refers to as “state-of-the-art scouting technology.”

The establishment of the new league comes on the heels of the Appalachian League’s transition to a wooden-bat summer league for rising college freshman and sophomore players. That change, announced in September, affected another Pirates’ minor league affiliate, as the Bristol Pirates had operated as a Rookie League franchise there.

It’s not known how, or if, the Pirates’ full-season affiliates – the Indianapolis Indians, Altoona Curve, Greensboro Grasshoppers and Bradenton Marauders – will be affected by the ongoing restructuring of minor league baseball.

The new Draft League will be sanctioned by MLB and operated by an amateur scouting service known as Prep Baseball Report.

The MLB Office of the Commissioner, in a news release issued Monday, said that additional announcements pertaining to other MLB-sponsored leagues as well as licensed affiliates, will be forthcoming.