The Lakewood Blue Claws will not only have a new name in 2021 but also a new classification after the Phillies restructured their minor-league affiliates.
Each major-league team will have just four minor-league affiliates next season and the Phillies announced theirs Wednesday as triple-A Lehigh Valley, double-A Reading, high-A Jersey Shore, and low-A Clearwater.
The BlueClaws, who changed the first part of their name from Lakewood to Jersey Shore in October, are moving up a level after serving as the Phillies’ low-A affiliate since 2001. They will still play at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park.
Clearwater, the Phillies’ Florida home for spring training, has been a minor-league affiliate since 1985. Shifting the Threshers to low-A will allow minor leaguers to begin their careers at the Phillies complex instead of being sent to a minor-league outpost.
The league affiliations for Clearwater and Jersey Shore have not yet been announced.
Lehigh Valley has been the Phillies’ triple-A site since 2008 and Reading has been their double-A affiliate since 1967.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with all four affiliates and their respective communities where we have such longstanding ties,” Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said in a statement.
The Williamsport Crosscutters, who had been the Phillies’ short-season Class A affiliate since 2007, were moved last month to MLB’s new Draft League. The league — which also includes the Trenton Thunder and State College Spikes — will feature draft-eligible college juniors and seniors in a 68-game season from late May to mid-August.
In November, Major League Baseball took over the operations of Minor League Baseball with plans to trim affiliates from 160 teams to 120. In place of short-season affiliates, major-league teams will be able to have minor leaguers play games at their complexes in Arizona and Florida.
“The Jersey Shore BlueClaws are honored and excited to move up to high-A and continue our outstanding partnership with the Phillies,” said BlueClaws president Joe Ricciutti. “Our goals continue to be to provide affordable, family entertainment to the Jersey Shore and provide a top-class environment to develop young players on the field and in the community.”