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What are non-MLB associated baseball league talent equivalents?


We all know how good Yu Darvish’s stats are in Japan, but how good is the competition? Photo unknown via

Editor’s Note: this post was originally published in January of 2012: I have updated it as I have received new information several times since.  But some of the information and statements may be dated based on when it was initially written (like the Yu Darvish comment in the intro).  Over the years I’ve also added in more leagues and more details on existing leagues, including Wood bat leagues and Independent leagues.


I’ve always wondered, since we hear so much about players’ tearing up winter leagues or hear wonderful stat lines from players coming over from foreign countries (as we are now in the Yu Darvish mania).  So what is the talent-equivalent of the various leagues outside of the conventional MLB-AAA-AA-A-rookie levels?  I did a bit of digging around, asking questions and came up with the following approximations.  Feel free to debate if you think otherwise.

Foreign Pro Leagues

  • Japan: the Nippon Professional Baseball League rates, by various accounts, as a mid AAA-level talent league.  Baseball Prospectus’ Clay Davenport did a stat-heavy analysis in 2002 and concluded that the NPB was at least AAA level, perhaps close to MLB level.  However, the prevalence of mediocre players from the US going to Japan and being super-stars seems to indicate that Japan is no better than AAA, and may be a bit weaker.  And, not to claim this is about talent levels per race, but there have only been a very small number of Japanese-born players who were really impact players upon arriving here.
  • Cuba: per Dave Cameron (mentioned in a chat, need the link) the “general consensus” is that the Cuban pro league is about a High-A level of talent.  I wonder if it isn’t higher though, given the immediate impact that a number of Cuban ex-patriots have had immediately upon their arrival in the US (Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu being exhibits 1 and 1-a).  I wonder if this will start rising now that the embargo has eased and the Cuban government has begun allowing its players to legally play elsewhere.
  • Taiwan/China: Taiwan had its own thriving baseball league for a bit, but merged it into the main Chinese league in 2003.  Given the small numbers of Taiwanese-born players who have made it to the majors, and the fact that the league serves mostly as a feeder into the Japanese league, its safe to say that the Chinese league is no better than a high-A level of talent.
  • Korea: As with the Chinese leagues, Korea mostly feeds into the Japanese league.  High-A talent levels.  Might be on the rise though, as more and more 4-A/AAA veterans decamp for Korea instead of Japan.  That may be driven more by money than by competition though.
  • European Leagues: Believe it or not, there are thriving baseball leagues all throughout Europe.  They even have multiple levels of play in certain countries (the Netherlands in particular).  However, based on the levels of talent of players that typically play in Europe, its hard to put the talent levels at anything close to our own Rookie leagues.  In fact, I’d suspect that most European pro teams are no better than a low division 1 college baseball program (such as GW or Catholic U’s teams).
  • Mexican Summer League: listed as a AAA-quality league in places like Baseball-Reference, but studies have shown it isn’t anywhere close.  A-level talent.
  • Leagues elsewhere: there’s leagues just about every where else; wikipedia searches turn up baseball leagues in Australia, Asia, the far pacific.  I didn’t do any research here, assuming that these leagues are one slight notch above amateur leagues in the US.

Winter Leagues

Davenport also did a bit of analysis on the various winter leagues in 2004; I’ve taken his recommendations and adjusted them based roughly on observation over the past few years, since the winter leagues have been shifting in terms of talent attracted in recent years.

Most players who go to winter leagues fall into one of three categories:

  1. Natives of the country looking to provide support for their home town teams and home leagues (the Nats own Ramos, Flores, Pudge, Severino and Perez being good examples)
  2. Players looking to get in additional work after an injury-filled year curtailed their seasons.
  3. Players looking to work on a new pitch, a new swing or some other experimental part of their game.

So, the talent levels in these various leagues are usually all over the road.

  • Dominican Winter League: Seemingly the “best” winter league, having the most ex-patriots playing in the US.  Davenport’s studies from earlier in the decade showed that the talent level is roughly equivalent to AAA talent, an opinion that I still maintain.  Our own Yunesky Maya tore up the DWL last winter, but struggled to be just a serviceable pitcher in Syracuse all year.
  • Puerto Rico Winter League : seems to be the 2nd strongest Winter League, but with slightly fewer MLBers than in the DWL.  So we’ll call it AAA level, but weaker.
  • Venezuela Winter League: The talent levels have dropped for a while, ever since political turmoil has taken over the country.  This is highlighted especially close to home in 2011 with the Wilson Ramos kidnapping case.  However, Nats farmhand Ryan Tatusko was kind enough to provide his opinion on the talent level and calls it “AAA talent.”   I think at best its a low AAA, as the league is clearly lower quality than Puerto Rico.  This last season’s version of the VWL seemed to be more talented that past versions though; perhaps this league is looking to challenge the DWL for pre-eminence in the winter leagues.
  • Mexican Winter League: Its really hard to tell; the winter leagues are quite a bit better than the summer league, at least per Davenport’s studies.  Now?  I’d guess the MWL has degraded a bit and is probably on a par with Venezuela in terms of talent.  AA-level at best.

Other US-based Professional Leagues

  • Arizona Fall League: the AFL rates somewhere between a AA and AAA level by and large, though for several reasons it rates as a very heavy hitter-league (pitcher workloads and ball-parks mostly).  Most of your pro teams send their top prospects from levels below AA and a number of AA and AAA (and even some guys who have MLB experience).  All told, that equates with a “good” AA league.  And since AA leagues are morphing into being populated with a team’s best prospects while AAA leagues are becoming repositories for “spare parts” for the MLB team, more and more the lines are blurred between AAA and AA in terms of “which team could really beat the other.”  Nationals fans saw this pretty clearly during Stephen Strasburg‘s minor league career; he was hit in AA but absolutely dominated AAA teams that seemed to be populated with backup catchers and backup infielders.
  • Independent Leagues: generally rates somewhere around an A-ball or slightly higher equivalent, depending on the league.  They’re usually full of guys who got cut from the MLB rosters and a collection of older veterans trying to hang on.  So, the younger players are (arguably) below rookie-league/short-A levels but the veterans are probably in the AAA level, bringing an average to somewhere in the A-ball range.  Maybe that’s overrating the talent level in these leagues: if the guys typically playing there were that good … they’d still be on affiliated low-A and/or rookie league teams.   Here’s some quick estimates by league:
    • Atlantic League: High AA
    • American Association: High A
    • Can-Am League: High A
    • Frontier League: Low A

College Leagues

  • Regular NCAA Division I College Teams are probably not even as good as a Rookie league team, when balancing the entirety of the roster’s depth.  I had this debate with my father recently, noting that the best Div-1 team in one recent year (South Carolina) was led by a pitcher (Mike Roth) who was a 31st round draft pick in 2011.  College teams only have 11.7 scholarships to use to field a team.  A good chunk of college teams are guys on partial scholarships or are complete walk-ons.  Good college teams may each have a number of pro prospects, but usually only 1 or 2 legitimate prospects.  On the flip side, even a rookie-level team is ENTIRELY comprised of players who were drafted, and will include high school players who signed in lieu of going to college because they were considered good enough at the time to risk signing.  A college team may use a hot pitcher to beat a pro team in a theoretical 3-game series every once in a while, but a team full of professional hitters are eventually going to utterly dominate typical college bullpens, Sunday starters and mid-week players.
  • Top end NCAA Division 1 College Teams, as in teams that are populated with a ton of future Pro talent, are likely the equivalent of the Advanced Short season Short-A leagues like the NY Penn league.  The absolute best Div-1 teams (like a friday night match-up between nationally ranked SEC teams) may broach the equivalent of low-A teams, as discussed in this 2015 Kiley McDaniel chat here.   When a college junior is highly drafted, most scouts advise that they go to at least high-A as a first stop, often saying that they’d be wasting their time in Low-A.  Does this imply that high-end Division 1 teams are more the equivalent of Low-A teams?  It seems so, at least at the upper cream of the crop level.  Consider the talent level on the 2014-2015 Vanderbilt team with multiple first round picks, or the 2018 Florida/Oregone State teams (each of which had 3 first rounders); I’d guess that team on a whole could easily compete with some short-league teams comprised mostly of 20th and 30th round college draftees and perhaps higher.  (Post publishing update May 2016: this question came up in and LA Dodger’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy provided a great answer not to terribly different from mine here.  He thinks the best Div-1 teams would have a chance in a 7-game series against a low-A team, but would probably fall short due to pitching depth.
  • Juco, Division II, Division III: Generally speaking a notch below the low-end Division I teams for obvious reasons.  Perhaps you could make an exception for some of the higher-end Juco leagues out there (like the league that Bryce Harper played in for one year to establish draft eligibility) and claim they’re of a low-division I quality, but that might be a stretch in the grand scheme of things.  So if these leagues aren’t even as strong as a low Division I team, they’re not even close to a pro-level quality.  (Post-publishing update Apr 2016); read the excellent commentary from former Juco player James  Pidutti, who gives some great context for the wide variety of talent in the Juco ranks these days).


Summer Wood-Bat Leagues

We have a thriving college wood bat league industry going on, with college players scattering all over the continent to play summer league baseball with wood bats.  Some of these leagues are better than others; you can write a whole analysis just to try to rank the leagues (in fact, I have, but I’ve yet to publish it because I’m not sure I have it exactly right), so I’ll just use general groupings to try to rank these leagues.

  • Cape Cod League: By far the most dominant wood bat league.  These teams are basically Division I all star teams of players, and the numbers speak for themselves.  1100 alumni have played in the majors (about one out of every seven current major leaguers).  More than  half of the first round draftees last  year were Cape Cod players.  They are the self-proclaimed “greatest amateur league in the world” and there’s no argument.  So how would a Cape Cod team fare when stacked up against a pro league?  I’d put these a step above the best division 1 teams and say these are High-A equivalent teams.
  • Northwoods League: After a step down from Cape Cod is Northwoods, who just had their 141st alumni debut in the majors.  The calibre of players is significantly lower than in the Cape: a quick gander at the rosters for 2015 found just a handful of players from “power conference” teams on each roster.  So I’m putting these teams at the same level as a “run of the mill” Division I team, or below a Rookie League team.
  • The next tier of collegiate leagues, including Coastal Plains, New England Collegiate, West Coast, California Collegiate and the Alaska League: less talent than in Northwoods and thus even further away from any pro level.
  • There are many more college leagues not mentioned here that probably rate as having even less talent than the already named leagues.  That includes our local leagues the Cal Ripken League and the Valley League.

Semi-Pro and Amateur Teams

I’m guessing that when the old Class-B/Class-C/Class-D leagues died out in the 50s, those players then began percolating into what we now see as an improved and thriving College baseball industry, Semi-Pro leagues scattered around the country, and the (now) official Indy league designation.  I always attribute the death of these low-class leagues to the advent of Television, which replaced the (usually) one source of nightly entertainment for small towns across America, which before the mid 50s would have been baseball.

Here in the DC area, there’s a “semi pro” league that is the combination of two long-standing leagues (the “Industrial League” and the “Credit Union” league) that features very good baseball.  Ex division-1 players, ex Pros, good baseball.  Back in the 50s this probably was a class-D level league (assuming that class-B was what has become the rookie leagues and class-C has morphed into the Independent leagues).


Here’s a table summarizing the above data, along with some clarifications from the comments after-the-fact, in order of best to least quality.  (Note; the cut-n-paste below is from 2012; see the descriptions above for some updates to league talents…).

League US Pro Equivalent Estimate
Japan (NPB) Mid AAA
Dominican Winter League Mid AAA
Puerto Rican Winter League Mid-Low AAA
Venezuelan Winter League Low AAA/High AA
Arizona Fall League Low AAA/High AA
Mexican Pacific (Winter) High AA
Atlantic League (Ind) High AA
Mexican Summer High-A/Low AA
Cape Cod League High-A
Cuba High-A
Taiwan/China High-A
Korea High-A
American Association (Ind) High-A
Can-Am League (Ind) High-A
Frontier League (Ind) Low-A
Top Division I (SEC) Short-A
Other Independents Rookie Ball
Division I run of the Mill Below Rookie Ball
Northwoods League Below Rookie Ball
European (Dutch, Italian) Low Division 1
Other upper Tier Wood Bats Low Division 1
Other Foreign (eg Australia) Div II/Div III
Juco Div II/Div III

Do you agree/disagree with these ratings?  Please feel free to comment and discuss.




57 Responses to 'What are non-MLB associated baseball league talent equivalents?'

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  1. The indy leagues are much better than most people think. Do they vary in quality? Absolutely. The Atlantic League is the best, in part because they have no roster rules, but mostly because they a higher salary cap and focus on signing six-year FAs. It’s roughly AA baseball, with the playoff teams able to hang with the AAA also-rans.

    When I was following it, the Can-Am League was roughly a High-A quality league. As noted in the column, this is large part due to each team having 4-5 guys that have or could play at AAA (e.g. Frank Charles with North Shore). A fair amount of guys released from the Carolina League used to hook on in the Can-Am. The American Association, nee the Central Baseball League, nee the Texas-Louisiana League is arguable on par, though it’s a lot like the NL-AL thing: The Can-Am being the pitcher’s league, the AA being the hitter’s league.

    The Frontier League, which is now the oldest continually operating indy in the modern era, is more like Low-A, mostly because of its simple roster rule: 26 or younger. It’s not uncommon for guys to “move up” from the Frontier to the Can-Am or American Association.

    Most of the upstarts — Golden, United, etc.. — are as you describe. All the indys have taken a beating during the Second Depression (or Great Recession), but these leagues have been hit harder because they’re in smaller, midwestern towns or in over-extended bedroom towns in California and Texas.

    Luke Erickson

    9 Jan 12 at 10:40 am

  2. I should have done more delving into the Indy leagues … frankly I had that post written for weeks but kept forgetting about it so I wanted to get it out there before it was totally useless. You ever do that? Look in your drafts and suddenly you have 40 drafts that are a year old on cool topics that you started but never finished? ugh.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jan 12 at 11:17 am

  3. Lots of useful stuff, not to mention you threw one right in Luke’s wheelhouse.

    The only quibble I have is the Japanese leagues. The upper tier of players is close to MLB, it’s just that it gets thinner very fast.

    Mark L

    9 Jan 12 at 8:01 pm

  4. Nice post Todd. Lot of information summarized fairly concisely. I think most of your assessments are pretty spot on. Luke’s comments on the Indy Leagues are also pretty accurate, as they do vary to some fairly wide degrees. Generally speaking, however, you nailed that one as well.

    Aaron S.

    9 Jan 12 at 10:39 pm

  5. European baseball — particularly in those Central and Eastern European countries where baseball was just beginning to take root — is being hurt by baseball/softball’s having been removed from the Olympics. National sports federations in most of Europe receive money from the government and that money is doled out largely to Olympic sports. The talent pipeline that was beginning to develop in the early 2000s is drying up because youth leagues aren’t getting funding for baseball. It’s a shame, because the game was beginning to catch on in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and few other former Warsaw Pact countries; MLB had funded some nice facilities and start-up programs there in the early 1990s. Not to get too political, but the Olympic movement’s decision to drop baseball/softball was significantly fed by animosity toward the Bush administration and the Iraq war.

    Eugene in Oregon

    11 Jan 12 at 9:43 am

  6. Interesting point about the decline of European baseball. I always figured the Olympic committee dropped softball/baseball since they are American sports and another opportunity to basically give gold medals to the USA. But clearly the anti us sentiments globally factor in.

    Todd Boss

    11 Jan 12 at 2:20 pm

  7. There were two leagues in Taiwan that merged into one league in Taiwan. Despite the (slightly confusing to outsiders’) name, the league is solely in Taiwan. So it should not be designated “Taiwan/China”, just simply “Taiwan”. The league there has nothing to do with the actual country of China.



    20 Dec 14 at 2:16 pm

  8. I am an MLB team scout in U.S. and I have worked in japan and Canada and sent players to Europe…..I’d say this list is pretty accurate. Thank you for not even mentioning the pecos league or pacific association… these can almost be a JC team with a few released A ballers on roster…..Not legit……..


    21 Apr 15 at 1:40 pm

  9. Just wanted to comment on the American Association. I agree with the high A rating on average, because, unfortunately there is a significant discrepancy amongst pitchers. Some pitchers have never pitched in affiliated ball or division 1 or 2 schools for that matter. Also, there are pitchers that have pitched in double A and even the bigs. Because of the poor pitching, scouts do not give the players with a high batting average much credence. I wish the pitching was more consistent, and at the higher level! Sometimes the pitching is so bad, the umpires open their strike zone a ton!


    1 Oct 15 at 10:28 pm

  10. Thanks for the feedback Jo!

    Todd Boss

    2 Oct 15 at 11:26 am

  11. Excellent but very confusing question. In my experience JUCO baseball can be very high and semi-low baseball.

    You can get the 1st overall draft pick playing JUCO ball from a powerhouse team of stud players but there also JUCO players that don’t even look like they know how to play baseball. Some programs take almost anybody who did ok in high-school and never win a game.

    Typically though, most JUCO players have a decent ability in baseball, depending on what area of the country. A huge varying degree in skill though.

    I was not effective in JUCO ball and didn’t have much success, yet was immediately signed into affiliated organized professional baseball where I initially flourished against young, low-end minor leaguers.

    Everyone in minor league baseball is pretty good and skilled but a lot of them are rough and unpolished but everyone there, getting signed or drafted has the real deal talent. You’ll see 17 year olds with huge upside, looking absolute silly in rookie ball, who will be stars in the big leagues down the road. You’ll have 24 year olds with 5 years of college under their belt tear up rookie ball and be out of baseball 2 months later….the minor leagues is never what you are now, it is what you might become some day. Age and ceiling is everything.

    Independent baseball is quite good in the stronger leagues mentioned in this article. A league like the Frontier League is mostly former old, exe- solid college guys who weren’t drafted and want to keep playing. The good Indy teams are mostly recent former successful minor leaguers that had accomplished something in a few years of the minor leagues but were let go. Everyone on a good Indy team was usually drafted and proven and not that young.

    European baseball is all over the map. Some teams are great, filled with poised guys who had success in the upper minor leagues, that got old and lost a few steps…you’ll see very washed-up big leaguers in Europe but a lot of the players and teams feature very old and very young locals who are not good at baseball whatsoever on these rosters….my experience in baseball in Europe is…if you are there, you are way past your prime and just want a team to play on.

    You’ll see 95 mile per hour fastballs on the black but you’ll see men well in their 40’s throwing sidearm junk with weak teenagers playing in the outfield. Lots of errors and mistakes in European baseball.

    My opinion from experience is, a good Indy team should beat a decent Division 1 team most of the time….most JUCO teams won’t touch Division 1 teams, but could fare well against European teams.

    Not sure how so many people say Division 1 college could be better than a Low-A farm team….every minor leaguer was either a phenom prodigy in high-school or a stud in college….farm teams usually have the very kids in the land that were all drafted, where most Division 1 schools don’t have anyone drafted.

    James Pidutti

    10 Apr 16 at 2:36 am

  12. Thanks for the Feedback! This article is now nearly 4 years old and may be due for a revisit honestly. I think its safe to say that Cuban baseball, for example, may be a lot better than we thought based on the huge volume of players who are coming over and immediately having an impact. Great feedback on Juco: it could be that we just have to distinguish between Juco teams and leagues. I love the context of the rest of the leagues; if I re-write this I’ll use your feedback and give you credit. Thanks a bunch!

    Todd Boss

    10 Apr 16 at 8:39 am

  13. Hi Todd….no problem…I enjoy discussing these topics, even though the article is almost 4 years old. I will always give a good, honest reply. I speak from past experience.

    I’m not sure about Cuban baseball but obviously there are players in Cuba who would be successful immediately in the big leagues but those players are very rare…you always have to evaluate the whole league as an average.

    JUCO ball is very tough to rate. Safe to say JUCO teams in places like Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, California and Florida are typically very good….with a lot of high end players moving on to bright futures after JUCO but there are many very poor JUCO programs around.

    A division 1 JUCO team from Houston would beat a division 3 team from the northern states 100 times in a row. A lot guys should be playing division 1 university ball but don’t have the grades or don’t want to leave home or be challenged. So many factors to consider.

    Some division 1 college teams would get eaten alive by JUCO powerhouses. Seems the central southern states and California always have the best JUCO teams…the cold climate teams seem to lack behind- in terms of population to draw from and not being able to play outside year round.

    Baseball in general is very hard to rate and predict. I was shocked to see some amazing ball players never even get looked at by pro scouts, yet some pro players were quite poor and found their way onto a pro contract. There are just so many ball players and teams and only so many roster spots, it definitely is not fair and doesn’t make sense.

    The draft and signing for big money is like playing a lucky game of BINGO. I played with guys who signed for 6 or 7 figures that weren’t even good. I played with many guys “who had it all” and slipped through the cracks.

    As a player, your best chance to impress is by being a physically big, high-school player that tears up the competition when scouts are watching. Scouts love to dream and vision what a kid might become some day….that, and out of high-school you have all the bargaining power with scholarships to get drafted high and demand good money….college seniors are ruined because they don’t have anymore chances to be better “next year”, so they have to sign for peanuts.
    Being young is your best ally and signing for more money will give you that much more attention and opportunities. Bat .180 in the minor leagues as an 18 year old with $300 k invested….don’t sweat it one bit…..bat .305 as a 22 year old in the same league with a light bonus and you’ll probably not have a baseball job next week.

    My advice for anyone wanting to advance and “make it” farther along is to not give up and to play baseball anywhere, as long as it is on a baseball team…..scouts always find you, you never ever find them…word will travel and even if you don’t think scouts are watching they are. In 2016, it is easier than ever before to get noticed. If you’re good, you will be found sooner or later I promise.

    It isn’t over until you say it is over and just because 1 or 46 scouts don’t like you doesn’t mean your career is over. Find a school where you are going to play. You might pitch 95 but if you are a freshman at Stanford you might not throw 1 inning. Do what works for you and focus on your strengths….if you throw 84 don’t try and throw 86.

    Indy ball is still a very great league and most Indy players have and would be superstars in college ball. Now more than ever players are getting 2nd, 3rd and 14th chances because if you can play, you will be found. I’m getting off topic but just writing from the heart.

    Remember that college, minor league and Independent ball is not glamorous whatsoever. Players in the minor leagues and in school are usually very poor and roughing it and living in harsh conditions trying to advance….playing baseball past high-school and going to the park every day is usually a lot better than having a real job….I played JUCO in Kansas and it felt like really good baseball….the low end affiliated minor league ball was also very good quality…..the more established Indy baseball was the highest competition and European baseball seemed very watered down…..

    I have read that Italian baseball was comparable to Triple AAA but it felt like it was a good men’s league of amateurs and a few really skilled out of shape minor leaguers.

    Any questions, I will always give a good, honest reply.

    James Pidutti

    11 Apr 16 at 12:52 am

  14. To continue…for aspiring players, you need to find your niche’. If you’re a 5’7 second baseman don’t try to get noticed hitting 510 foot homeruns that will never happen…work with what you’re good at it. The guys in the big leagues got there by getting good at the little things. You can make a team by becoming the best bunter or having the best range. Guys had big league careers and weren’t even contacted by 1 school.

    I’ve seen guys in pro ball nearly untouchable throwing low 80’s and I’ve seen guys throwing 99 get lit up. Work on the things you can control. You can’t make yourself 6’6 but you can work on driving the ball opposite field.

    A pitcher who throws 80 should learn how to pitch and get outs, instead of trying to overpower hitters.

    Baseball is a game of being good at different aspects and being “well rounded.” Hitting behind the runner, working the count, hitting spots, sinking the ball…..the more tools, the better….spending all season trying to hit the upper decks or register 95 on the gun is worthless. Help teams win ballgames. You might hit a double off the fence but struck out 3 times…..wouldn’t you rather have 2 walks?

    In JUCO, several guys had much better numbers, were taller, heavier, threw harder, had better control but most of my league never advanced. I was left-handed with a ton of natural movement and that was my “in.”
    Most guys get noticed when the scouts were there to watch someone else. Of the guys I played with, usually the ones that made it were the ones that weren’t supposed to make it. Do the little things right and never stop learning. Tons of people passed on me but you just need 1 person to believe in you and every single game is a fresh slate to start over.

    James Pidutti

    11 Apr 16 at 1:13 am

  15. […] Posted a missive about “What are non-MLB associated baseball league talent equivalents?” which suddenly got picked up by a major media outlet and I started getting hits from all […]

  16. Korea is seriously underrated here. Korea Baseball Organization has MLB-materials, like Ryu Hyunjin, Kang Jungho or Oh Seunghwan who actually go over there and prove themselves, plus quite a few AAAA level guys who can always sign a cheap MLB contract or at least a minor league contract but choose to stay in Korea and continue a better life. But yes, there are also a bunch of A to even Rookie league level players playing in the same league. So it’s hard to pinpoint average level of KBO but i’d say it’s mid-high AA. And what’s for sure is KBO is way better than Taiwan/Chinese leagues.


    1 May 17 at 3:09 pm

  17. Nix; no argument on KBO being vastly improved from when I originally wrote this piece (January 2012). I did put in a caveat that noted that it was definitely on the rise, for the reasons you mention. I’d agree with your sentiment of it at least being AA now.

    Todd Boss

    1 May 17 at 3:59 pm

  18. As an aside, regarding Todd’s point about Olympic baseball/softball, baseball was not at all an automatic gold medal for the U.S. Of the 5 Olympic gold medals in baseball (1992 to 2008), the U.S. only won one. Cuba won three and South Korea won one. The U.S. Olympic baseball team also got two bronzes and didn’t medal twice.

    The U.S. was pretty dominant in softball, though, winning 3 out of the 4 gold medals awarded.

    Maybe the politics of 2005 were a contributing factor to why baseball and softball were dropped, but they had plenty of other challenges. They’re both basically regional sports with high levels of interest concentrated in some countries in the Americas and Asia. Neither sport has that much participation or interest in Europe, and Europeans make up a large amount of the IOC board and hierarchy. Both sports were only added to the Olympics in the 1990’s, so it’s also not like there was any deep tradition of either sport being a key part of the Summer Olympics.

    The other absolutely major problem for baseball is that MLB players, the best and most famous baseball players in the world, never participated in the Olympics. Even worse, the summer Olympics occur right in the middle of the MLB season, so Olympic baseball goes head-to-head up against MLB in the world’s largest baseball market.

    In any case, baseball and softball are back in the Olympics in 2020. Probably doesn’t hurt that with the games in Tokyo, the host country has an interest in both sports and already has stadiums that can accommodate both sports. We’ll see if baseball and softball stick long-term in the Olympics. I’m pretty dubious that they will, because I don’t see MLB deciding to shut down to send players to the Olympics, and I think not having the top players will always be a sticking point for the IOC.


    20 May 17 at 11:34 pm

  19. I suspect that the Cuban league has declined from High-A to a lower level of talent over the past few years. I do agree that the consensus was High-A equivalent back in 2012 (see, for example).

    Since then, however, tons of talent has left for the U.S. Like several of these leagues, it’s somewhat tough to peg due to the variance in talent. The very best players in Cuba would have been promoted beyond A-ball in the U.S., but there’s also reportedly a long tail of players who would not even be organizational fodder in the U.S. minor leagues.


    22 May 17 at 1:52 pm

  20. Dave: agree totally with your take on Olympic baseball. I’m a huge fan of the WBC and am glad to see it taking over what Olympic baseball always aspired to be.

    Cuban league; yeah definitely; the drain there has been pretty significant. Even when all those players were still there it was tough to gauge its talent level. It seems like perhaps it was like an Independent league … but an Indy league that had guys playing in it who would be all stars if they could find a job in the MLB. So how do you average out the top of a league with its bottom?

    This post needs revisiting; i think its 4 years old now but still gets a ton of looks.

    Todd Boss

    23 May 17 at 10:20 am

  21. anybody care to revise the list?


    10 Sep 17 at 5:12 am

  22. Yeah this post needs revisiting for sure. Its more than 5 years old now and things have changed in some of these leagues.

    Todd Boss

    10 Sep 17 at 8:51 am

  23. where would you rate Cuba in today’s environment? This is the one I find most difficult to rate


    11 Sep 17 at 9:01 am

  24. Also, Is Australia really as bad as aD2/3 school?


    11 Sep 17 at 9:07 am

  25. Australian leagues: I still maintain they’re just a notch above amateur leagues in the US. So that’s probably a D3-level of play honestly. Here’s a good article describing the state of baseball in Australian from 2014 time frame: . The players are basically amateurs getting paid almost nothing per week. Baseball-reference lists a slew of guys who were born there who have played … so maybe its a little better than i’m giving it credit for. But not much.

    Cuba: I agree; its kind of tough to rate Cuba these days. There’s an all-star team full of guys who have come over here from Cuba, but by the many accounts i’ve read the rest of that league is very weak. Even more so now that literally all their top talent has left. I’m guessing its probably closer to indy ball level of talent as opposed to high-A where I rated it previously.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 17 at 10:38 am

  26. I think a case could also be made that Nippon is now AAAA, and Korea is AAA


    11 Sep 17 at 1:09 pm

  27. well, like i said. its 5 years old and lots have changed. Korea has taken big step up for sure.

    Todd Boss

    11 Sep 17 at 1:21 pm

  28. How about the Mexican League and the CPBL? What do you think the equivalents are for those leagues?


    13 Sep 17 at 10:00 am

  29. So, Mexican summer league I think is somewhere between AAA and AA. I say this because you definitely see players making their way from the Mexican league to affiliated baseball here and there, but its rare to find a superstar. Meanwhile its very frequent to see players who get cut out of AAA teams as career minorleaguers/org guys then go to Mexico and play for a number of years.

    Mexican Winter league still to me seems like its weaker than the leading winter leagues (Dominican and Puerto Rico) but that being said the Mexican champs have fared very well in the Carribean WS lately, so maybe i’m wrong.

    China? I’ll probably still say high-A at best. There’s not been a ton of players making their way over here … lists just a handful of Taiwan-born players who have made it to the Majors…

    Todd Boss

    13 Sep 17 at 4:19 pm

  30. where would you place Korea now? We all agree the KBO is vastly improved…I am going to say mid AAA, but I could be wrong on that.


    24 Oct 17 at 10:02 am

  31. Korea now? Yeah definitely big step up, probably mid-AAA as you say. You still see players who couldn’t hack it in the majors go there and succeed, which is kind of the definition of a mid-AAA player.

    Todd Boss

    24 Oct 17 at 10:10 am

  32. Would you say Japan is mid AAAA at this point?


    26 Oct 17 at 2:00 pm

  33. I don’t think Japanese baseball has appreciably changed since I did this. I think its remained the #1 foreign league to the MLB while its nearest competitor (Korea) has leapt up in competitiveness.

    Todd Boss

    26 Oct 17 at 2:33 pm

  34. It sounds as though you have both and Korea at mid-AAA

    Is it possible Japan could be high AAA and Korea low-AAA


    Japan is mid AAA

    Korea is low AAA


    26 Oct 17 at 6:18 pm

  35. At this point … i’d probably have Japan at high-AAA, Korea mid to low-AAA as you mentioned.

    Todd Boss

    27 Oct 17 at 10:26 am

  36. Does anyone know the maximum number of players permitted on KBO & KBO Futures rosters?


    15 Nov 17 at 12:30 am

  37. No idea.

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 17 at 10:00 am

  38. CPBL and TML in Taiwan have nothing to do with China.


    19 Nov 17 at 11:18 pm

  39. …. well except that they’re in China. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    20 Nov 17 at 2:04 pm

  40. […] or the [Frontier League].” The Frontier League, it should be noted, is estimated by some equivalent to Low-A ball. He did say, though, that JWBL players would likely have difficulty with velocity at […]

  41. […] depending on whom you ask, the American Association is roughly equivalent to either Double-A or High-A. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but Palmeiro’s .919 OPS would be second in […]

  42. Hi Todd,

    Came across this article while doing researching about international baseball league, very interesting read I quite enjoyed it. Regarding to the section “Taiwan/China” there are some errors. I’m hoping you can amend that in your article.

    Taiwan and China both have their own baseball league. They are actually quite different in league structure and format. I assumed you got the CPBL and CBL mixed up in your article.

    The CPBL and TML are Taiwanese Leagues that based in Taiwan with all the teams funded by Taiwanese corporations. CPBL was established in 1990 and ended up absorbing its rival the TML in 2003.

    The CBL is the semi-government run baseball league that based in China.

    Anyway, if you have any questions regarding to the CPBL and the TML, I am always happy to talk about it!


    18 Oct 18 at 1:13 am

  43. Suilbor; thanks for the fix! i’ll update the post.

    Todd Boss

    30 Oct 18 at 12:04 pm

  44. Todd, I was wondering where you would rate the Pecos League in the list, and is it the lowest of the Independents?


    8 Nov 18 at 9:28 am

  45. Thanks very much for posting this gives me a good grounding to work with when following the branches and talent around baseball. I also want to add I play in an amateur adult baseball league in Oklahoma City called the OKC Aardvarks and I totally agree with you saying it’s slightly under D3 level play because many of the guys were in Juco up to a few in D1 but average is good Juco to low D3 or NAIA D2

    Ryland Millette

    8 May 19 at 7:07 pm

  46. Sorry let me correct that NCAA D3 level of play not Juco mixed them up.

    Ryland Millette

    8 May 19 at 11:44 pm

  47. Thanks for the Feedback Ryland. I’m a few years now removed from amateur play but my sentiments in this article seem to still hold up. It was initially published in 2012 … that’s a long time ago in our fast changing world of amateur baseball.

    Todd Boss

    9 May 19 at 10:12 am

  48. Where are the Japan and Korean Minor leagues in talent level compared to US organized ball?? Short A? Adv Rookie?

    José Armando

    9 Jul 19 at 8:47 pm

  49. Beats me: I didn’t really know they had minor leagues over there until recently (and this post is many years old). A quick guess? If J-League and K-League are AA/AAA … you’d have to think the lower levels are a couple steps below that.

    Todd Boss

    10 Jul 19 at 2:46 pm

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  51. I played Independent Baseball in 1983 , Intercounty Baseball League in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, from being a Division I Baseball DH , 1b, Catcher at University of Buffalo ( Western New York State). Ex-players from this league that I have talked to, say it is equivalent to A ball.

    Jim Mattison

    4 Mar 20 at 2:17 pm

  52. I’m an Australian baseball fan and would like to see how the Australian Baseball League compares now. When this was first posted in 2012 I’d almost agree with the quality of the Australian league then.

    But even though it’s officially the same competitions, there was massive new investment from 2018 onward which helped the league. I know anecdotally that many US based minor/independent/college baseball players returned to Australia as a result of earning more money.

    The Australian league also offers a rare analysis of comparing quality of different leagues – in the Korean off-season they agreed to introduce a team of what is effectively a Korean minor league all-star selection. What they thought would be a competitive team (ie the best of the Korean minors, so A-level?) got absolutely hammered by the Aussie teams, going 7-33 in their first season and 11-29 even with a reinforced 2nd season.

    However, at the same time I think the variability of talent within the Australian league is higher than other leagues, and this can be seen by simple 10+ run turnarounds within series of same teams which simply doesn’t exist in baseball elsewhere.

    That suggests to me that the Australian league is lower-level to mid-tier AA, marginally better than the Taiwanese league, but carrying both more AAA and A and below talent than that league. Thoughts on that?


    7 Apr 20 at 6:22 pm

  53. Hi Dean, thanks for the input. I too have heard about the increase in talent in Australia, and I like your analysis.

    there’s other examples of leagues that have pretty wide variations in talent; the Atlantic independent league contains small-college washouts all the way to just-cut AAA players. So I can see how that cna happen in other leagues too.

    Todd Boss

    14 Apr 20 at 3:05 pm

  54. Taiwan’s league is entirely based on the island
    Good post


    15 Aug 20 at 6:17 pm

  55. It would really be great to see this article updated for current day (2021). So many changes over the years…I always found this list fascinating


    9 Sep 21 at 5:56 pm

  56. Really enjoyed the article and the comments. However, it’s August 2023. Would love to have an update.

    Bill chamberlin

    7 Aug 23 at 5:57 pm

  57. Yeah, this article should be updated. It has definitely changed, not the least of which is the elimination of the Short-A leagues, which has created new MLB Developmental leagues in their place. I also think the summer wood bat leagues have pivoted in terms of where the talent go, and there’s now a much clearer pecking order of leagues and talent (Cape code, Northwoods, Coastal Plains).

    Todd Boss

    9 Aug 23 at 3:12 pm

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