The West Michigan Whitecaps will become the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.
“We’re thrilled for our fanbase,” said Joe Chamberlin, CEO of the West Michigan Whitecaps. “It means West Michigan will see a higher level of baseball talent, which translates to the opportunity to see more Detroit Tigers prospects, along with Midwest League rival prospects and more fun for the fans!”
The Whitecaps spent the last 24 seasons as the Tigers’ Low A designee. The news comes as part of Major League Baseball’s restructuring of the Minor League Baseball player development system.
“Player development has never been more important to our organization than it is today, and we’re excited to invite West Michigan to move forward as part of the Tigers family as our High A affiliate,” said Al Avila, Detroit Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager. “The Whitecaps have been standout partners for us and do a great job ensuring our players are in the best position for growth and development to become impactful contributors to our organization. I’d especially like to thank Lew Chamberlin, the club’s executives, state and local government officials, and the West Michigan community for their passion and commitment to this great sport.”
The minor league baseball team’s Fifth Third Ballpark is already near or at the level that the MLB wants from the farm system moving forward. Grand Rapids/Comstock Park was named “Top Minor League Market” in the United States by Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal. Since 1994, the Whitecaps have welcomed nearly 11 million fans in its ballpark.
“We’re grateful for the strong relationship and partnership we have enjoyed with the Tigers for more than 24 seasons,” Joe Chamberlin said. “Our mission here remains intact. Bringing fun, community and experiences to West Michigan. Affordable, family entertainment is our job, and we are focused on bringing fans the best season yet in 2021 with a new level of baseball.”
The Detroit Tigers’ player development system moving forward is:
- Toledo Mud Hens: Triple-A
- Erie SeaWolves: Double-A
- West Michigan Whitecaps: Class A-Advanced
- Lakeland Flying Tigers: Single A
In addition to the full-season affiliates, the Tigers will have four rookie-level teams. Two squads will be based at the TigerTown Complex in Lakeland and another pair at the club’s Dominican Academy.
“All of us with the Tigers player development department know how fortunate we are to have such great partners at our affiliates and look forward to continuing these relationships,” said Dave Littlefield, Detroit Tigers vice president of player development. “Each of them stands out across Minor League Baseball for having quality baseball facilities and passionate fan bases, and we’re hopeful to continue having our players develop there for years to come. Moving the Whitecaps to be our Advanced A affiliate will improve our organization’s efficiency in significant ways, including having our High A and Double-A affiliates closer to each other while putting our Single A and rookie-league teams at the same world-class complex in Lakeland.”