How Much Money do Minor League Baseball Players Make?
The mystery of how much a Minor League baseball player makes playing in the MiLB. Some baseball players who were recently drafted in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, who were top prospects, are now playing in the Minor Leagues. There are a lot of different factors that go into how much a Minor League baseball player is getting paid, and we will discuss them in the following blog.
How Professional Baseball Works
First, it is critical to understand how the MLB and the MiLB work together to realize how baseball players end up in what league. You are probably most familiar with the various MLB teams, specifically those in your city, and you might be a bit less familiar with the various MiLB teams.
Major League Baseball
The MLB, Major League Baseball, is the top league for professional baseball players to play in. The league is composed of 30 different teams located in major cities across America. Professional baseball players put in hours of hard work every day to work toward the opportunity to play in the MLB. Now you probably have a favorite player you love to watch play in the MLB but do you know how they got to that level or where they were playing before they started their career in the MLB?
Minor League Baseball
The answer is the MiLB, Minor League Baseball. In all likelihood, your favorite MLB players were once playing for a MiLB team before they were called up to the MLB. There are a total of 206 MiLB teams located in numerous cities across America. So you might be wondering how players are selected to play on an MLB team or a MiLB team and how it all works, or maybe you already know.
The Beginning of a Professional Baseball Career
The beginning of a baseball player's professional career usually begins when they are selected by an MLB team during the First-Year Player Draft in June, also called the Rule 4 Draft. Baseball players are eligible for the draft during the following times
- If they have just graduated from high school, they are eligible to enter the draft immediately.
- After your junior year baseball season at a 4-year University, you are eligible to enter the draft.
- You can enter the draft at any time if you are attending an NAIA school or a JUCO.
If you are curious about how the different MLB Drafts work, please be sure to check out this blog.
During the MLB First-Year Player Draft, each MLB team takes a turn selecting the baseball player of their choice. The Draft usually lasts 40 rounds but has been shorter the past few years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Once a baseball player has been selected during the draft, they begin negotiating a contract with the MLB team that selected them.
During the contract negotiations, the MLB team will likely give the baseball player a signing bonus. In addition, the MLB team will negotiate which MiLB team the baseball player will play on. They will need to decide what level in the MiLB they think the baseball player will fit into best while being challenged. It is very typical for recently drafted baseball players to spend time playing in the MiLB to improve their skills before they get the opportunity to play in the MLB.
Understanding the Different Levels of the MiLB
To understand how much Minor League baseball players make, we will need to understand the different levels the baseball players can play in the MiLB. The MiLB consists of the following levels from most competitive to least competitive:
- AAA, which is also called Triple-A
- AA, which is also called Double-A
- High-A, Which is also called Single-A
- Low-A, which is also called Single-A
- Short season or rookie ball
Each MLB team has a set of MiLB teams they are affiliated with that they send their drafted baseball players to play for.
How Do MiLB Salaries Work
You may have guessed that baseball players playing at the highest level, Triple-A, are making more than baseball players playing at a lower level, like Double-A and Single-A. This is true for the baseball players playing in the Minor Leagues, the amount of money each baseball player makes is based on a pay scale, so the higher level in the MiLB the player plays at, the more they will make.
How Much Do Minor League Baseball Players Make by Level
We have already discussed the different levels in the MiLB, from Triple-A to Double-A to Single-A and rookie or short season. At each level, there is a set minimum weekly salary each baseball player will make, which includes the following:
- Triple-A players earn $700 a week
- Double-A players earn $600 a week
- Single-A players earn $500 a week
- Rookie and short-season players earn $400 a week
These numbers may seem quite low from what you might expect a professional baseball player to be making. It may also shock you that recently professional Minor League baseball salaries were increased by 38% to 72%, which are the salaries displayed above. They are still extremely low, and it is challenging for many players to afford the cost of living only off of their Minor League baseball salary. Before the recent change in salaries for Minor League baseball players, they were only making the following amount weekly:
- Triple-A players earn $502 a week
- Double-A players earn $350 a week
- Single-A players earn $290 a week
- Rookie and short-season players earn $290 a week
Baseball players playing Triple-A, Double-A, and Single-A contribute upwards of 12 hours a day during their five-month season on the baseball field for their salary. They are not paid for the other seven months of the year, part of which includes them attending spring training to prepare for the next year's season. The players playing in rookie and short seasons are only paid for the duration of their three-month season.
In addition to the low salaries and only being paid five months out of the year, Minor League baseball players are also expected to handle costs associated with paying for their own equipment and the costs associated with the clubhouse. The average yearly salary of a Minor League baseball player in 2018 was $15,000 for Triple-A, $9,350 for Double-A, and $6,000 for Single-A. In comparison, the federal poverty line for an individual is $12,880, which shows the difficulty many Minor League players are facing.
How Baseball Players Make a Living
It truly can be a real juggling act for many Minor League baseball players to navigate playing at a high competitive level while worrying about how they will afford to live. Many won’t have the privilege they would like to dedicate all their time to focus on their baseball career, but they will need to seek another job.
Players seek any kind of work they can, and many are able to work in baseball doing one on one coaching and training. Some Minor League players were more fortunate than others and received large signing bonuses from the MLB team that drafted them. These players are lucky enough not to have to worry about finding another job and can focus their time on practicing and improving their skills in baseball. Some of the top draft picks earn six-figure and sometimes even seven-figure signing bonuses and then are sent to play in the Minor Leagues.
Now MLB baseball player’s salaries are significantly higher than baseball players in the MiLB. The MLB minimum salary for a baseball player for the 2021 season is $570,500. The minimum alone shows the discrepancy from the MLB to the MiLB. The average MLB baseball players in 2021 are making a salary of $4.17 million a year.
Why are Minor League Salaries so low
You are probably wondering how MLB teams are able to pay baseball players playing for MiLB teams with such low salaries. The MLB has a unique exemption under the law that makes them eligible to pay extremely low wages that otherwise would seem like monopolistic business practices.
In addition, another law, Save America’s Pastime Act, recently took effect in 2018 that made it legal to exempt Minor League baseball players from being paid the federal minimum wage and rules for overtime pay. The law modified the Fair Labor Standards Act and was put into effect because of pressure from MLB owners and MiLB representatives.
There was little to nothing Minor League Baseball players could do in terms of stopping the law from coming into effect, even when it would be their lives it was affecting. The law gave a significant amount of financial cushion to existing MLB teams by making sure they could continue to pay low wages to Minor League baseball players.
For years Minor League baseball players have been putting pressure on the MLB to increase their salaries so they can have an acceptable living wage. Recently the MLB did increase wages, but as you can see, there is still a good amount of work to be done before baseball players will be satisfied. The salaries baseball players are getting paid in the Minor Leagues also shows just how committed to playing baseball they are and that they play the sport because they love it, not for the money.