The minor leagues are undergoing major changes in 2021, and you can click here to read all about it. The upper minors (Triple-A and Double-A) are staying mostly the same, but the lower minors are getting a significant shakeup.
The short version: The various levels of Single-A ball are shuffling around, with some leagues moving up or down the hierarchal ladder between High-A and full-season Low-A, and the short-season Low-A level is eliminated entirely in favor of a new Draft Scouting League that focuses on that year’s draft class.
For the Oakland A’s, this means some changes in affiliation. The pairings aren’t final yet, but on Wednesday the A’s announced their official invites to four clubs:
- Triple-A: Las Vegas Aviators
- Double-A: Midland RockHounds
- High-A: Lansing Lugnuts
- Low-A: Stockton Ports
The top half of that list is the status quo, as the A’s retain their Triple-A presence in Las Vegas (since 2019) and their longtime Double-A home in Midland (since 1999).
The bottom half is new. The California League was demoted from High-A to Low-A, which took Stockton out of the running for the spot it held in Oakland’s system since 2005. However, they’re invited to stay on board in Low-A, where the A’s were previously affiliated with the Beloit Snappers.
That left a vacancy at High-A, and in fact Beloit’s Midwest League was promoted to that level, so the Snappers could have taken the spot. Instead, the A’s are planning to switch to a different member of the Midwest League, the Lansing Lugnuts. Again, it’s not final yet as this is just an invitation for now, but both sides seem into it. Meanwhile, the Snappers were invited to High-A by the Miami Marlins.
The Nuts, or Mr. Lansing if you’re nasty, were previously the full-season Low-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays since 2005. The franchise was founded in 1955 as the Lafayette Red Sox (can you guess their first MLB affiliation?), and after several rebrands and a couple of moves it finally settled in Lansing, Michigan in 1996.
The name Lugnuts carries an obvious connection to Michigan’s automotive industry, which is a big part of Lansing’s economy. Their mascot is Big Lug, a huge purple dinosaur, who was designed to look like a fun Disney character (though the dinosaur part has no specific connection).
Their excellent logo features a tough-looking cartoon lugnut (named Luggie) for the letter T.
... And some of their hat designs, to get an idea of their look.
... And finally, their full home and away jerseys.
The road look is sleek: black and silver, modeled here by Sean Wymer. pic.twitter.com/mgAyoAIbSL— Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (@jgoldstrass) December 9, 2020
It’s even easy to come up with a rally cheer for them: “Go Nuts!” Or if you prefer, their Twitter account also preaches the #LugLife.
you gotta go nuts go nuts go nuts Lugnuts https://t.co/ZsDJewo8Ws— Lansing Lugnuts (@LansingLugnuts) December 9, 2020
Welcome to the A’s family, Lansing Lugnuts! Go Nuts, everyone!
On the sadder side, the Snappers aren’t the only club the A’s are saying goodbye to. With short-season Low-A going away, that means the Vermont Lake Monsters are out for now, as their level no longer exists and they weren’t invited to be part of the Draft Scouting League. They’re not folding, but we’ll have to wait to find out what their future holds.
The Snappers and Lake Monsters have two of my favorite names and logos in the entire minors, so it’s a bummer to lose them. The Snappers have a grumpy turtle holding a bat, and the Lake Monsters have Champ, sort of like New England’s version of the Loch Ness Monster but in Lake Champlain. Vermont had been with the A’s since 2011, and Beloit since 2013. Best of luck to both franchises and thanks for the memories!
In addition to the four 2021 affiliates on the invite list above, every organization also still keeps a Rookie League presence in either Arizona or Florida like they have for decades (the A’s are in Arizona).