Minor League Baseball made official on Tuesday what has seemed obvious for weeks: MiLB’s season has been canceled because of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Minor League Baseball made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first time in the organization’s 120-year history that it has called off a full campaign.
“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history that we’ve had a summer without Minor League baseball played,” MiLB president Pat O’Conner said in a statement. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”
If you have or are wondering what that means for the minor-league teams and players, then consider this your lucky click. Below, we’ve attempted to answer five big questions as it pertains to the topic.
1. How will prospects receive instruction this year?
For most prospects, the answer is that they won’t — at least not how they’re accustomed to, and not for the time being.
Many teams are including their top prospects as part of their 60-player pool, that way they can be around the club’s coaches and partake in intrasquad scrimmages and the like. There’s even a chance some of them are called into big-league duty before they would have been otherwise.
Obviously that isn’t the same thing as having a minor-league season, but given the circumstances it’s the best that teams can do.
2. Will there be any instructional or Fall Leagues?
Generally, teams have an instructional league after the season, where younger or inexperienced players come to the facilities and work on their games. Likewise, the league tends to run the Arizona Fall League for players who are further along in their development.
While both of those structured events might still come to pass, a lot hinges on what the situation around the country looks like as it pertains to COVID-19. The Fall League could run up against a potential second wave of coronavirus infections, which would complicate matters.
3. What about winter leagues?
Again, it’s mostly a wait-and-see situation. Presumably some players will make their way to the Dominican Republic, Australia, and other popular winter-ball destinations, but a lot can change during a global pandemic.
4. Are teams still paying their minor leaguers?
Most clubs have agreed to pay their minor leaguers their weekly stipends of $400 at least through the end of July. There are some notable exceptions who haven’t agreed to do the same beyond the end of June.
According to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels, and New York Yankees have yet to indicate their plans on that front.
Presumably most of, if not all of those teams will do the right thing.
5. What happens next with the minors?
Change. And lots of it.
MLB is expected to get its way, which would mean more than 40 teams losing affiliate status. The minors would be realigned, with the bottom levels eliminated. Team and league affiliates would be modified, and so on and so forth.
The exact parameters remain to be seen, but it’s fair to write that the odds are the minors will not look as they did at the end of the 2019 season.
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