The Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, and Greenville Drive should all be a little more than two weeks into their season right about now.
Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the baseball season, major and minor-league alike, on hold for the time being.
Recently, there have been reports about Major League Baseball potentially putting together a plan that would involve having all 30 clubs play their games this season in one central location, such as Arizona, Florida, or even Texas.
As encouraging as those proposals may seem, what has not been discussed much since MLB suspended spring training last month is when the minor-league season will start, or if there will even be one at all.
According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, “In off-the-record discussions with people all around the game, there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”
Cooper gets into more of the financial and logistical side of things in his article, but in this case, I want to focus on the developmental side. More specifically, if no minor-league games are played in 2020, how would that impact a prospect’s development and career trajectory?
Take Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs for instance. The top prospect acquired by Boston from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade is projected by FanGraphs to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 campaign. Would having no minor-league games to play in this year result in Downs’ ETA being pushed back another year?
That probably still depends on what the 21-year-old does in 2021, but taking away a year to develop and continue to improve in actual games while being under the eyes of the organization is something worth thinking about nonetheless.
As odd as it would be to see MLB games played in front of no fans in one neutral location this year, it might be even weirder to have no minor-league baseball to look forward to in 2020 at all.