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Minors: MLB reorganizes its minor leagues; ESPN's farm rankings

San Diego Union Tribune logo San Diego Union Tribune 2/12/2021 Jeff Sanders
a man holding a baseball bat: Padres pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore started 2019 at high Single-A Lake Elsinore. (Cherished Memories Photography) © Provided by San Diego Union Tribune Padres pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore started 2019 at high Single-A Lake Elsinore. (Cherished Memories Photography)

Major League Baseball on Friday announced all 120 minor league teams had accepted invitations to join its revamped player development system, while revealing league structures across the country.

Locally, the Lake Elsinore Storm, formerly of the California League, will play in a Low-A West league, an eight-team circuit that features four teams in a southern division (Storm, Inland Empire, Rancho Cucamonga and Visalia) and four teams in a northern division (Fresno, Modesto, San Jose and Stockton).

El Paso will play in an eastern division of a 10-team Triple-A West league, San Antonio will compete in the southern division of a 10-team Double-A Central league and Fort Wayne will settle into the eastern division of the 12-team High-A Central league.

The branding of the leagues are expected to come at a later date. El Paso previously played in the Pacific Coast League, San Antonio in the Texas League and Fort Wayne in the Midwest League.

MLB also announced that under the new structure minor league player salaries would increase by 38 to 72 percent for the 2021 season. The new structure, which saw all four Padres affiliates agree to player development licenses through 2030, also has placed a greater emphasis on modernizing facilities, improving amenities and working conditions for players and staff and reducing in-season travel for players and coaches.

ESPN’s farm systems rankings

As expected, the Padres slipped out of the No. 2 spot in ESPN’s annual preseason farm system rankings and down to No. 7.

The system is still propped up by six top-100 prospects — CJ Abrams (5), MacKenzie Gore (13), Luis Campusano (29), Robert Hassell (45), Ha-Seong Kim (86) and Ryan Weathers (99) — but has lost much of the depth to trades aimed at making the Padres a World Series contender.

“The Padres’ approach,” ESPN Insider Kiley McDaniel wrote, “was to keep their top 50-overall types and trade almost anyone else and they basically did that, as the depth is largely gone and only one elite prospect was traded (Luis Patiño to the Rays for Blake Snell) … Look at this decline in value as a shift from farm value to roughly nine more wins in 2021 (and in future years) along with the associated increased odds of a World Series title (or more).”

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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