With the consolidation of the MiLB, the Los Angeles Angels minor league teams changed for the 2020 season. The higher levels of minor league ball remain the same with Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A) and the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Double-A). However, the Halos invited the Tri-City Dust Devils as their High-A affiliate as the Inland Empire 66ers moved to Low-A. The organization will still field teams in both the Arizona Summer and Dominican Summer Leagues. Meanwhile, the Burlington Bees and Orem Owlz will no longer be a part of the Angels’ system.
These changes come after MLB announced it would be reducing the MiLB from 160 to 120 teams. Further, the league has closed the minor league headquarters and moved the management to the MLB offices in New York.
Angels Minor League Affiliates
Salt Lake City Bees
The Salt Lake City Bees have been the Angels Triple-A team since 2001. Previously, the Halos held an affiliation with the Edmonton Trappers, the first Canadian and Angels affiliate to win a minor league championship. The Bees rank in the top 20 for attendance in the MiLB. In 2019, the Bees drew 433,596 fans.
“The Salt Lake Bees are excited to be invited by the Los Angeles Angels to continue as their Triple-A affiliate,” Bees President/General Manager Marc Amicone said, enthused with the decision. “For the past 20 years, the Angels have been our partners in fielding competitive teams with great players and coaches.”
Given the fate of many other Utah teams, Salt Lake City preserved their baseball club.
Mobile Bay Trash Pandas
Formerly known as the Mobile BayBears, the organization changed their name to the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The team moved to Madison, Alabama for the start of the 2020 season after a change in ownership in 2017, the the same year they joined the Angels player development system. However, their opening season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the change in the team’s name brought additional revenue to the club. The organization announced in December of 2019 that they had sold over $2 million in merchandise after announcing the Trash Panda team name.
Tri-City Dust Devils
New this season to the Angels system, the Tri-City Dust Devils take over as the team’s High-A affiliate. Based out of Pasco, Washington, they served as the San Diego Padres player development team since 2015. It should be noted this is not the first time the Angels incorporated a Pasco, Washington team. The Tri-City Angels were one of the first MiLB teams for the Halos in 1963.
Inland Empire 66ers
Along with the rest of the California League, the Inland Empire 66ers saw a demotion from High-A to Low-A. However, they still remain affiliated with the Angels system continuing their role in player development since joining with the organization in 2011. Fans in San Bernardino should be thrilled to keep their MLB affiliation and baseball in southern California. Furthermore, the strength of recent Halo drafts should provide fans with plenty of entertainment and excitement.
The Owlz will join the rest of the Pioneer League teams in the creation of a new league with MLB. The Partner League will receive initial funding from MLB along with procedures for scouting and potential player transfers to MLB. However, an expiring lease has sent the Owlz out of Orem, Utah to Windsor, Colorado to become the Northern Colorado Owlz. The team will play at the Future Legends, a 118-acre sports complex under construction in the area.
For Burlington, the future is not as clear. They were not invited to any of the partnering leagues. Instead, the team owners and management remain committed to keeping baseball in Burlington by exploring other options. Joining a college wood bat league appears to the most viable plan, but the organization continues to evaluate other independent leagues.
The MLB announced over a year ago that it would be making significant changes to minor league baseball. The decision to close clubs, particularly in more rural communities, drew extensive criticism. Bipartisan Congressional lawmakers expressed their disappointment in the decision after resisting efforts to change labor rules that exempt minor league players from federal minimum wage laws.
It is uncertain whether reducing the number of affiliations for each club will save money and preserve talent. Rising costs and rising talent coming out of college drove MLB’s decision. While the Los Angeles Angels minor league change kept baseball in Salt Lake City, Madison, Pasco, and San Bernadino, these affiliation agreements are only in place until 2022. Thus, fans must continue to support their minor league clubs to send a demand signal to MLB to preserve their teams to.
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