On Wednesday, the Asheville Tourists announced that the team has been invited to be the Houston Astros’ Advanced Class A affiliate for the 2021 season and beyond. If the Tourists accept the offer (which is expected), they will become the fourth Minor League affiliate for the Texas team, and the deal will become official in the near future.
The shift to the Astros is the result of a major overhaul + downsizing in Minor + Major League Baseball, specifically with affiliate, or farm, teams + clubs. In case you’re not up on your sports lingo, farm + affiliate teams provide training opportunities for young players who may be invited to play at higher levels. The Tourists were previously a farm team for the Colorado Rockies.
So what is an Advanced Class A affiliate? That refers to the team’s standing in the MiLB hierarchy, which breaks down like this:
- AAA (triple A): The highest level of affiliate team or club. Players from this ranking are most likely to be pulled onto the MLB team.
- AA (double A)
- Class A Advanced / High A: The Tourists’ rank in the hierarchy as a farm team for the Astros.
- Class A / Low A: The Tourists’ rank as a farm team for the Rockies.
Players at all levels are considered professional.
The Tourists previously served as the Astros Class A affiliate in 1967 and again from 1982-93. Astros legend + MLB hall of famer Craig Biggio played on the 1987 team. That season, his batting average was .375 and he stole 31 bases over 64 games.
There are 30 total MLB franchises, and affiliate teams were cut down to four per franchise (for reference, the Rockies had eight farm teams prior to the overhaul). Each MLB franchise now has one AAA team, one AA team, one High A team, and one Low A team. Some franchises also still have developmental teams in Florida, Arizona, and the Dominican Republic. Class A short season / short season and rookie ball teams have been eliminated in the Northeast, Appalachias + the Rockies. The amateur draft season has also been shortened from 40 to 20 weeks.
Forty-three clubs lost their MLB affiliations. Those areas could be saying goodbye to their baseball teams entirely, or some teams could become independent, as they aren’t required to affiliate.