The Washington Nationals extended invitations to four minor-league teams on Wednesday, and Fredericksburg is positioned to become the organization’s Low-A affiliate.
“We are thrilled to be continuing an incredible and deep relationship with the Washington Nationals that began with their arrival in D.C. back in 2005,” FredNats Chairman and Owner Art Silber said in statement.
“We’ve enjoyed watching the Nats’ future stars – like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg – grow up and develop in front of our fans. The continuation of our long relationship will allow fans throughout the greater Fredericksburg region to enjoy seeing the next stars of the Nationals play in front of their eyes in our new ballpark opening in 2021 in Fredericksburg.”
With Wednesday’s announcements, Washington’s minor-league structure looks like this: Rochester (AAA), Harrisburg, Pa., (AA) Wilmington, Del., (High-A) and Fredericksburg. Wilmington joins the Nationals organization following a lengthy affiliate relationship with Kansas City Royals.
Washington also parted ways with Hagerstown (previously Low-A) and Fresno, its AAA affiliate for the past two seasons.
While the FredNats are technically moving down a rung on the Nationals’ ladder, a contraction of the overall minor league system ensures that plenty of high-level prospects will start their climb to the Bigs in Fredericksburg. Short-season and rookie ball affiliated leagues are disappearing in 2021 as part of a new agreement with Major League Baseball.
“In complete honesty, I think the caliber of play is going to dramatically increase,” FredNats general manager Nick Hall told The Free Lance-Star. “We can look at High-A, Low-A, all that kind of stuff. But when it comes down to it, the affiliated system went down from six teams to four. The best talent from six leagues is now combined into four.
Accordingly, the 2021 MLB draft will be 20 rounds, half its pre-pandemic length.
“On average, we’re going to be getting guys out here that were drafted in the first few rounds, and that’s huge,” Hall said.
Potential affiliates will receive MLB teams’ formal proposals by Dec. 18 and have 30 days to respond. The new agreements will have a fixed term of 10 years.
Required facilities upgrades or other financial considerations will prove a dealbreaker for some teams, meaning that replacements will need to be brought into the fold before leagues can be set.
Hall said he expects the FredNats will know their league assignment by the new year.
“We’re excited to review all of the details,” he said.
Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045