Minor league baseball changes help Prospect League expand to 16 teams
QUINCY — Major League Baseball has taken over operations of the minor leagues and downsized operations, and the aftereffects have positively affected the number of teams and quality of players of the Prospect League.
The Clinton LumberKings and Burlington Bees, rivals in the Class A Midwest League for more than 60 years, were trimmed from the Midwest League (along with the Kane County Cougars) and now are members of the Prospect League, a 16-team summer collegiate wood-bat league. Both teams will join the Quincy Gems and Normal CornBelters in the newly-formed West-Great River Division.
The Alton River Dragons and the Johnstown (Pa.) Mill Rats, two expansion teams, have been added as the Prospect League starts this season with its most teams ever.
“It takes a lot of effort and a lot of travel and a lot of persuasion and a lot of conversation and the willingness for people to be a part of the league for this to happen,” commissioner Dennis Bastien said.
Major League Baseball’s draft has been moved from June to July, and the number of rounds has been trimmed from 48 to 20. (Last year’s draft was only five rounds because of the pandemic.) That means more players will return to school in the fall and play in collegiate leagues around the nation this summer. Also, many college players have been awarded a fifth year of eligibility.
Major League Baseball has created two leagues to accommodate some of the extra college players. The Appalachian League, formerly a Rookie-level league, now is a 10-team summer league in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee for rising freshman and sophomores. The MLB Draft League, composed of six teams that were formerly members of three minor leagues on the East Coast, will be a showcase for top draft-eligible prospects.
Some leagues, however, are not playing this year because of the pandemic.
“I just got a list of players from some league in Canada that just shut down,” Gems owner Jimmie Louthan said. “Right now, the talent pool is huge. There’s just a ton of people out there to find. Some of the college guys are staying around a little bit longer.”
The NCAA moved the start of its national baseball tournaments back a week. With games beginning Thursday across the Prospect League, many teams will have skeleton rosters at first as they wait for teams to be eliminated from the postseason.
Now that Bastien has reached the goal of 16 teams he set a few years ago, he’s prepared to alter his expectations.
“Ultimately, at some point way down the road, maybe 24 teams,” he said. “Even last year when we didn’t play, we were always on the phone. We’re always making presentations. We’re sending proposals to national advertisers.”
Louthan wants to see the league expand its footprint to the east to find more competition for the Johnstown and West Virginia franchises.
“West Virginia has the worst travel in the league,” he said. “Instead of focusing on a number of teams, I’d like to see us focus on how we can best benefit the 16 teams that we have now. The best thing for the valuation of our league is if we can go to a prospective team owner and say, ‘Hey, all 16 of our teams are profitable.’ There’s no other (summer college) league in the world that can say that.”
Quincy Gems 2021 Home Schedule
|Saturday, May 29||Clinton LumberKings|
|Sunday, May 30||Normal CornBelters|
|Tuesday, June 1||Springfield Sliders|
|Wednesday, June 2||Springfield Sliders|
|Thursday, June 3||Cape Catfish|
|Sunday, June 6||Clinton LumberKings|
|Tuesday, June 8||Clinton LumberKings|
|Thursday, June 10||O’Fallon Hoots|
|Thursday, June 17||Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp|
|Friday, June 18||Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp|
|Saturday, June 19||Cape Catfish|
|Tuesday, June 22||Burlington Bees|
|Wednesday, June 23||O’Fallon Hoots|
|Friday, June 25||Normal CornBelters|
|Saturday, June 26||Clinton LumberKings|
|Tuesday, June 29||Springfield Sliders|
|Friday, July 2||Normal CornBelters|
|Saturday, July 3||Normal CornBelters|
|Tuesday, July 6||Cape Catfish|
|Wednesday, July 7||Springfield Sliders|
|Thursday, July 8||Normal CornBelters|
|Thursday, July 15||O’Fallon Hoots|
|Saturday, July 17||Burlington Bees|
|Tuesday, July 20||Burlington Bees|
|Wednesday, July 21||Alton River Dragons|
|Thursday, July 22||O’Fallon Hoots|
|Saturday, July 24||Alton River Dragons|
|Wednesday, July 28||Burlington Bees|
|Friday, July 30||Burlington Bees|
|Saturday, July 31||Alton River Dragons|
|Sunday, Aug. 1||Clinton LumberKings|
|*All home games at QU Stadium at 6:30 p.m.|
Quincy Gems 2021 Roster
|1||Andrew Fay||INF||L/R||Quincy, Ill.||John Wood CC|
|3||Bailey Wendell||P||R/R||Springfield, Ill.||Francis Marion (S.C.)|
|8||Ryan Hutchinson||OF||L/L||Sorento, Ill.||McKendree (Ill.)|
|9||Alec Patino||C||L/R||Sioux City, Iowa||Iowa Western CC|
|10||Carter Bither||INF||R/R||Springfield, Mo.||Lindenwood (Mo.)|
|11||Jason Jennerjohn||P||R/R||Hortonville, Wis.||Eastern Illinois|
|12||Brant Hogue||P||L/L||Sioux City, Iowa||Iowa Western CC|
|13||Jake Stipp||P||L/L||Danville, Ill.||Danville Area CC (Ill.)|
|17||Alex Wattermann||INF||R/R||Savage, Minn.||Minnesota-Duluth|
|21||Jack Payne||P||R/R||San Antonio, Texas||Louisiana Tech|
|25||Brayden Eftink||OF||L/R||Cape Girardeau, Mo.||Jefferson College (Mo.)|
|26||Bryce Miller||C||R/R||Franklin, Wis.||Jefferson College (Mo.)|
|27||Bennett Stice||P||R/R||Palmyra, Mo.||Lindenwood (Mo.)|
|28||Matt Schark||INF||R/R||O’Fallon, Mo.||Jefferson College (Mo.)|
|Tyler Carpenter||P||L/L||Boulder, Colo.||Quincy University|
|Brayden Haug||P||R/R||Alton, Ill.||Lindenwood (Mo.)|
|Michael Nunez||P||R/R||Stevenson Ranch, Calif.||Loyola Marymount (Calif.)|
|Connery O’Donnell||P||R/R||Milliken, Colo.||Southeast Missouri State|
|Matt Shover||P||R/R||Barry, Ill.||Knox (Ill.)|
|Logan Tabeling||P||L/R||Tuscola, Ill.||Wright State (Ohio)|
|Ryan Towers||P||L/L||Las Vegas, Nev.||Loyola Marymount (Calif.)|
|Jacob Winstead||P||L/R||Salem, Ore.||Southwestern Oregon CC|
|Gino D’Alessio||INF||R/R||Milwaukee, WIs.||Quincy University|
|Jayce Maag||INF||R/R||Alton, Ill.||Lindenwood (Mo.)|
|Jake Skrine||INF||R/R||Longmont, Colo.||Indiana|
|Danny Sperling||INF||L/R||Port Barrington, Ill.||Southeast Missouri State|
|Trent Youngblood||INF||L/R||Prospect, Ky.||Transylvania (Ky.)|
|Jackson Galloway||OF||R/R||Lee’s Summit, Mo.||Johnson County CC|
|Nick Iannantone||OF||L/R||Plainfield, Ill.||Johnson County CC|
|Dane Thomas||OF||L/R||Palos Park, Ill.||Wright State (Ohio)|
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