There’s going to be even more new in the Carolina League when the 2017 season begins next April, especially locally.
The Carolina Mudcats announced Friday that they would become an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, signing a two-year player development contract with the National League Central Division squad.
“Having met with the Brewers, and in looking at their system, we are confident that we are getting an organization that is loaded with young, talented prospects that we feel will enhance our program” said Carolina Mudcats President and Majority Owner Steve Bryant in a statement. “We are very impressed with the Brewers in that they share with us a desire to develop young talent at the Minor League level.”
Milwaukee’s new player development contract with the Mudcats marks the club’s first such agreement with a Carolina League franchise. The Brewers had previously been affiliated with the High-A Florida State League’s Brevard County Manatees from 2005-16. They were also affiliated with the High-A California League (Stockton, Mudville, High Desert) from 1990-2004.
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“The Brewers are excited to announce a partnership with Steve Bryant and the Carolina Mudcats,” said Brewers General Manager David Stearns. “The organization is committed to developing young talent and we strongly believe that the Mudcats will help us achieve that goal. We look forward to working with our new partner in the Carolina League.”
It is the seventh time the Mudcats — which have played both Double-A and Single-A ball — have changed affiliations since their arrival in North Carolina after Bryant, a Johnston County native, bought the team and moved it from Georgia to the eastern Triangle area. The Mudcats have featured players from the Pirates, Rockies, Marlins, Reds, Indians and Braves previously in their 27-year history.
The Brewers are a organization on the rise, according to Baseball America’s minor league system talent rankings. Milwaukee was ninth in all of pro baseball entering the 2016 season, having moved up each year in the rankings since 2011.
Milwaukee’s lower minor leagues featured a group of strong outfielders this past season, led by Trent Clark, Monte Harrison and Corey Ray.
The Braves, who have the third-ranked system in baseball, have entered a partnership with a Florida State League team in Kissimmee, which relocated from Brevard County.
Carolina officials also talked with the Colorado Rockies about a possible reunion according the MILB.com, but decided on the Brewers.
The move continues the changing tide in the Carolina League, which includes the return minor league baseball to Kinston next April. The Texas Rangers’ Single-A team will play at Grainger Stadium. The Carolina League will expand to 10 teams with the 10th franchise to be a Houston Astros’ affiliate and likely located in Fayetteville.
The Mudcats will begin their 2017 season in the newly expanded Carolina League on Thursday, April 6, 2017 in Frederick against the Keys. Carolina’s home opener is also against the Keys and is scheduled for Thursday, April 13, at Five County Stadium.
The full 2017 season schedule will be released at a later date.