Class A (baseball)
Class A, also known as Low-A and Single-A, is the fourth-highest level of play in Minor League Baseball in the United States, below Triple-A, Double-A, and High-A. There are currently 30 teams classified at the Low-A level, one for each team in Major League Baseball, organized into three leagues: Low-A East, Low-A Southeast, and Low-A West. As part of the 2021 reorganization of the minor leagues, the three current Low-A leagues replaced the South Atlantic League, Florida State League, and California League, respectively, the latter two having been High-A leagues.
Class A was originally the highest level of Minor League Baseball, beginning with the earliest classifications, established circa 1890.:15 Teams within leagues at this level had their players' contracts protected and the players were subject to reserve clauses.:15 When the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues – the formal name of Minor League Baseball – was founded in 1901, Class A remained the highest level, restricted to leagues with cities that had an aggregate population of over a million people. Entering the 1902 season, the only Class A leagues were the Eastern League and the Western League—both leagues had eight teams, in cities such as Toronto, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; and Peoria, Illinois.:187 Leagues operating within less populated areas were classified as Class B, Class C, or Class D.
Class A would remain the top classification until Class AA was established in 1912. It would remain the second-highest classification until Class A1 was established in 1936. In 1946, the top two levels changed from being Class AA and Class A1 to being Class AAA and AA, with Class A remaining the third-highest level, above Classes B through D. Class A in 1946 consisted of the Eastern League and the original South Atlantic League (or "Sally League"), with teams in communities such as Vancouver, British Columbia; Omaha, Nebraska; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Charlotte, North Carolina; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Allentown, Pennsylvania. Class A would soon include the Western League (1947–1958), Central League (1948–1951) and Western International League (1952–1954). The Western International League became the Class B Northwest League in 1955, and the Western and Central loops folded.
The hierarchy of Triple-A through Class D would continue until Minor League Baseball restructured in 1963, at which time Classes B through D were abolished, with existing leagues at those levels reassigned into Class A, while the Eastern League and South Atlantic League ascended to Double-A.
In 1965, a Class A Short Season designation was created, for teams playing June–September schedules, primarily meant for new players acquired via the amateur draft. The Class A-Advanced designation was established in 1990, between Class A and Double-A in the minor league hierarchy. Class A and Class A Short Season were considered independent classifications, with Class A having "Full-Season" and Advanced sub-classifications, per the rules governing baseball's minor leagues. The overall hierarchy was:
- Class A-Advanced
- Class A ("Full-Season A")
- Class A Short Season ("Short-Season A")
- Rookie league
Prior to the 2021 season, Major League Baseball restructured the minor leagues, eliminating Class A Short Season, and discontinuing all leagues operating within Minor League Baseball. The existing Class A leagues were replaced with three "Low-A" leagues, while the existing Class A-Advanced leagues were replaced with three "High-A" leagues. The official classification names were updated to Class Low-A and Class High-A, respectively.
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