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Rays prospects and minor leagues: Minor league baseball makes long-awaited return

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Minor leaguers will take the field for the first time since Sept. 2019.

Most Valuable Prospects v Chicago White Sox Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Welcome back to minor league baseball. After the pandemic led to the cancelation of the entire 2020 season, prospects will be back on the field in real games Tuesday night. There have been a lot of changes since 2019, including some of the Rays’ affiliates: Charlotte is out, and Bowling Green has moved up a level:

Durham Bulls (Triple A)
Montgomery Biscuits (Double A)
Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class A-Advanced)
Charleston RiverDogs (Class A)

Minor League Baseball is structured differently. Gone are the International League, Southern League, Florida State League, and Midwest League. In are the ... Triple-A East, Double-A South, High-A East, and Low-A East. Cool.

The idea of the restructuring was to reduce travel, and that is especially true this season. Durham plays in a seven-team division but won’t even play one of the six other teams this season. Schedules are standardized now — each team will play a six-game series that runs from Tuesday-Sunday with an off day Monday.

The on-field product will be different as well, with each level experimenting with different rule changes. Baseball America’s Josh Norris had a rundown of all the changes in March. Some of the highlights include:

At Triple-A, the size of bases will increase from 15-by-15 inches to 18-by-18 inches.

At Double-A, efforts will be made to limit shifting and the ways teams can position their infielders. All teams must have at least four players on the infield during play, which is defined as having both feet “completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt.”

High-A teams will implement a rule which was in play in 2019 in the Atlantic League. In these leagues, pitchers will be required to disengage the rubber completely before throwing to any base.

Across Low-A, pitchers will be limited to two step-offs or pickoff attempts per plate appearance.

Finally — and least importantly — there will be changes here. The minor league recaps will move to weekly updates on Tuesdays that summarize the previous week and preview the next week of games. I have a format in mind to start the season, and feedback will be used to make necessary changes.

This week’s games

Durham

Tuesday, May 4 @ Memphis 7:45 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Wednesday, May 5 @ Memphis 7:45 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Thursday, May 6 @ Memphis 7:45 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Friday, May 7 @ Memphis 8:10 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Saturday, May 8 @ Memphis 7:15 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Sunday, May 9 @ Memphis 3:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)

Montgomery

Tuesday, May 4 @ Tennessee 7 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Wednesday, May 5 @ Tennessee 7 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Thursday, May 6 @ Tennessee 7 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Friday, May 7 @ Tennessee 7 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Saturday, May 8 @ Tennessee 7 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Sunday, May 9 @ Tennessee 2 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)

Bowling Green

Tuesday, May 4 @ Greenville 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Wednesday, May 5 @ Greenville 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Thursday, May 6 @ Greenville 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Friday, May 7 @ Greenville 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Saturday, May 8 @ Greenville 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Sunday, May 9 @ Greenville 3:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)

Charleston

Tuesday, May 4 v. Myrtle Beach 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Wednesday, May 5 v. Myrtle Beach 12:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Thursday, May 6 v. Myrtle Beach 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Friday, May 7 v. Myrtle Beach 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Saturday, May 8 v. Myrtle Beach 6:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)
Sunday, May 9 v. Myrtle Beach 5:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.TV)

Scouting the opposition

Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis)
0-0
Offense: Haven’t played yet
Pitching: Haven’t played yet
Top-30 prospects: LHP Matthew Liberatore (2), LHP Zack Thompson (5), RHP Angel Rondon (14), RHP Junior Fernandez (23)

Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
0-0
Offense: Haven’t played yet
Pitching: Haven’t played yet
Top-30 prospects: C Miguel Amaya (4), 3B Christopher Morel (9)

Greenville Drive (Boston)
0-0
Offense: Haven’t played yet
Pitching: Haven’t played yet
Top-30 prospects: LHP Jay Groome (6), LHP Chris Murphy (15), RHP Brayan Bello (20), RHP Jake Wallace (28)

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)
0-0
Offense: Haven’t played yet
Pitching: Haven’t played yet
Top-30 prospects: SS Ed Howard (5), IF Yeison Santana (17), SS Luis Verdugo (18), OF Jordan Nwogu (24), OF Yohendrick Pinango (26)