The Single-A Frederick Keys will not be part of the Orioles organization in the 2021 season, an industry source confirmed today. The Keys, who have been an O’s affiliate since 1989, will become the sixth team in the MLB Draft League, a new summer amateur wood-bat league expected to attract draft-eligible players.
Baseball America was the first to report the news about Frederick. It appears that Frederick may still have longshot hopes to be an affiliate for some organization in 2021. The Keys could be a franchise Major League Baseball turns to if a team invited to be one of the 120 full-season affiliates for next year turns down that invitation.
For the Orioles, the move leaves Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, Single-A Delmarva and previously short-season Single-A Aberdeen as their likely four full-season affiliates for next season. That information is not confirmed, and we don’t know at which classifications these teams would play. An announcement is expected later today.
The Keys played their first season in 1989 at McCurdy Field and moved to Harry Grove Stadium, their present home, in 1990. Frederick won four Carolina League championships representing the Orioles in 1990, 2005, 2007 and 2011. The last championship team in Frederick included Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop as a double play combination.
The club has a long history of success at the gate and in serving its community. The Keys have been first or second in the Carolina League in attendance for the last eight years. It is possible that some facility shortcomings may have contributed to the Keys’ ouster as an affiliate.
One source indicated the Keys, should they not affiliate with any club for 2021, could pursue an affiliation as soon as for the 2022 season.
The other five members of the MLB Draft League were announced last week. They are Mahoning Valley, State College, Trenton, West Virginia and Williamsport. Four were members of the now-defunct short-season Single-A New York-Penn League, and Trenton was in the Double-A Eastern League.
Here is the Baseball America story on this. (Subscription may be required).
This story will be updated later.