What is Minor League Baseball and other frequently asked questions about MiLB.
A sure-fire way to prove you know absolutely NOTHING about baseball is to ask a minor league baseball player any of the following questions:
- “When are you going pro?” (they already are)
- “Are you hoping to get drafted?” (they already were)
- “Do you want to play professional baseball?” (Again, they are getting paid to play… that makes them a professional baseball player)
- “Are you hoping to make it to the big leagues?” (SERIOUSLY?!? No, I’d rather stay in single A, working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week and making less than minimum wage)
- “How can I try out to play on your team?” (You have to get drafted in the MLB draft or sign with an MLB organization as a free agent. Then they’ll send you to the team of their choice.)
In my 16 years of playing pro ball, including a lot of time in the minors, I was asked questions like this more times than I can count. People were usually well meaning. But the moment one of these questions leaves your lips, you expose yourself as knowing nothing about the way pro ball works.
To learn more about the MiLB, aka Minor League baseball (so you don’t embarrass yourself), just keep reading!
(Also, if you have a kid who wants to play professional baseball, this is good info to know.)
What is MiLB?
MiLB stands for Minor League Baseball, as opposed to MLB, which stands for Major League Baseball.
What is Minor league baseball?
Minor League Baseball, or MiLB, is a hierarchy of professional baseball teams that are affiliated with Major League Baseball. Each team of the MLB has their own network of minor league teams (sometimes called “farm teams” or “farm leagues”) which are used for player development. In other words, every MiLB team is contracted to one of the Major League teams.
For example, the New York Yankees’ minor league teams range from the highest level of AAA (or “triple A”, which currently is the Empire State Yankees based out of Rochester, NY) all the way down to their rookie ball teams in the Dominican Republic and Gulf Coast League in Florida.
Who plays in the Minor Leagues?
Nearly every baseball player in the MLB started in the minors. Players start low and work their way up the ladder of minor league levels (sometimes skipping a level or two) until they get to the Major Leagues. The rate at which players advance can be vastly different in each case. You may encounter guys who made it through all the levels and are playing in the big leagues after only 2 years, or you may meet a guy who has been in the MiLB for 15 years.
Also, it is common for players to get called up to the big leagues and then sent back down several times, especially when young or first breaking into the Major Leagues.
Do all baseball players start in the minor leagues?
There have been a handful of players to skip the minors and go straight to the big leagues, but this is very, very rare. Only 2 guys in the last 15 years have done it (Mike Leake in 2010 and Xavier Nady in 2000).
Can I try out to be a professional baseball player?
The best way to become a professional baseball player, and to eventually become a Major League baseball player, is to be picked up in the Major League draft – out of high school, JuCo, or College – in as high a round as possible.
(The exception to this is if you are not from the United States of America. Players coming from Japan, Dominican Republic and other places will be scouted and offered free agent deals)
But if you didn’t get drafted, there’s still a chance you could sign as a non-drafted free agent.
If you are looking to make that happen, you have 2 choices:
- Attend a tryout, such as this tryout for the Atlanta Braves, or
- Play independent baseball, and you may get scouted from there
What you CAN’T do is go to a minor league affiliated team, such as the Rochester Redwings or Tulsa Drillers, and ask to try out for that team.
You CAN tryout for the parent team – the Major League team (if they hold open or invitation only tryouts). The MLB team would pick you up and then assign you to the level/team of their choosing.
And then you work your way up through the Minor League levels.
What are the Minor League levels?
The levels of MiLB are as follows, starting with the highest level and working down to the lowest:
- AAA or triple A is the highest MiLB level, and where players are most likely to be called up to the parent Major League team.
- AA or double A
- Class A advanced or “High A”
- Class A, or “Low A”
- Class A short season or “short season”
- 2 Rookie ball teams – These teams usually play between 70 and 80 games in a season. This is where newly drafted players often start their pro careers.
- There’s also extended spring training where games are played 6 days a week, but is not officially a team.
How much do minor league players make?
A few minor league players make a lot of money (millions), but not very many.
Some make a modest but decent income ($20,000 to $67,000).
More likely they barely make enough to live (live with host families and have parents paying their bills).
The first contract for a newly drafted player is for 7 seasons of minor league play (unless the player signs a Major League contract before the 7 seasons are done).
For those first 7 seasons, players are paid slotted money that changes by level and years of play.
It starts at around $850 a month (less than $5,000 a year) and increases minimally with time and promotion – and thats only during the 5 month baseball season. This is why many players at lower levels live with host families.
Once in triple A, players are making $2,000 – $2,500 a month.
The exception to this is players who are on the 40 man roster. First year roster guys make a minimum of $32,000 a year, while 2nd and 3rd year guys make $67,300 a year.
Once a free agent, players can negotiate their salaries. From experience, I’m going to estimate that minor league free agents can make between $5,000 and $20,000 a month (remember this is only during baseball season).
Occasionally there are players who signed guaranteed Major League contracts and were then sent down to triple A, so they could be making millions of dollars a year.
This is a great article about what life of a minor leaguer is like before free agency.
Who owns the minor league teams?
Each MiLB team is independently owned, but the team’s baseball players are actually employed by the parent organization. For example, a guy playing for the Tulsa Drillers (which is the double A affiliate for the Dodgers) is part of the LA Dodgers organization. The Dodgers pay his paychecks, and the player was probably drafted by the Dodgers to begin with.
Can I try out for an MiLB team?
If you want to play for a minor league team, you must either be drafted out of high school or college, or sign as a non-drafted free agent. Click here to read more about how to get drafted.
I hope you have found this article on “What is minor league baseball?” and other MiLB FAQ’s has been helpful for you. If you have questions or suggestions for additions to this article, I invite you to leave a comment below.
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Who are we? ProBaseballinsider.com, launched in February 2012, is a free resource that exists to help serious baseball players maximize their potential by providing baseball tips and instruction from professional baseball players, as well as best baseball gear recommendations and the Low Liners Blog. PBI founder Doug Bernier debuted with the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and is currently plays AAA for the New York Yankees. During off seasons, Doug lives with his wife and co-founder Sarah, and their 8 month old baby girl, in Palm Beach Gardnes, FL.