MINOR MATTERS - IMPERFECT SCENARIO
Baseball America|July 2020
A glimpse of what player development could look like this year in the summer of COVID
JOSH NORRIS

On the Monday following the draft, Major League Baseball lifted its ban on scouting—though it did limit teams to three scouts per event—which meant amateur departments could begin covering the yearly showcase circuit in advance of the 2021 draft.

And in preparation for what looked like a severely shortened major league season—at press time, the negotiations between MLB and the players’ union looked like they would result in a season between 60 and 70 games— the league instructed teams to begin selecting sites within 100 miles of their home parks where their taxi squads could train.

Though the number of players wasn’t official, the aims of the taxi squads were to provide a group of reinforcements for the big league team in case of injury or ineffectiveness and to keep some of their higher-priority prospects in some semblance of game shape.

The taxi squads were also the first hints of in-person player development since the sport shut down on March 12 as a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, it’s been the responsibility of the players to stay in game shape without access to team facilities or even local gyms, which had been shut down in most areas because of the pandemic.

Otherwise, MLB had banned all organized workouts at team facilities, and nobody was sure when the ban would be lifted. In the meantime, prospects were missing out on games, at-bats, and innings of development.

At some point, though—probably after the negotiations in the major leagues reach their conclusion—things will resume as much as the virus will allow. The question is: What will player development look like in 2020?

“Honestly, I think all of us on the player development side—and I don’t want to speak for all the other minor league PD people—I think we’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen with the MLB season,” one National League farm director said. “Until the major league season is resolved, we’re not going to get any answers on the minor league side as far as what we can or can’t do. This uncertainty about when the major league season will start is causing us a lot of uncertainty on the player-development side as well.

“It just feels like once the MLB season gets resolved—how many games are they going to play?—and then as people start to do the numbers on the books and figure out how much that’s going to cost and how much is left over,” he continued, “then MLB is going to probably start to process, ‘What does (Arizona) Fall League look like? How many games is it? How many teams is it? What should we allow teams to do just for safety reasons?’ ”

Until then, just about all that teams are left to do is a check-in with players via phone calls and Zoom chats. Obviously, that is no substitute for in-person, on-field instruction or games during a regular minor league season.

“It’s tough. People just don’t want to hear your voice for very long over phones and calls,” the farm director said. “You definitely don’t want to burn the kids out or the staff out, but you try to create content and use it as a way from them to grow their minds and ask them to send video in so you can still stay connected to them and then just talk about questions they might have.

“It’s been tough. We started out doing some educational stuff online, but you could tell that the players just wanted to get out on the field and play baseball.”

Though a regular minor league season seemed very unlikely in the days following the draft, there had been no official announcement that it was going to be canceled.

Rises in cases of coronavirus across the country, plus continued bans on mass gatherings that would allow more than a few hundred fans in a ballpark at any given time, however, made it incredibly difficult to picture any minor league baseball played at affiliates until 2021.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BASEBALL AMERICAView All

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

Four draft classes that caught our attention for their upside potential

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

RARE AIR

Whether hitting or pitching, Jackson Jobe does things on the field that few have seen

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

KIRBY'S DREAM WORLD

George Kirby has as much helium as any prospect in baseball. Along with Emerson Hancock, he headlines a wave of power pitchers making their way to Seattle.

9 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

UP TO SPEED?

Quality of play in the full-season minor leagues had suffered from the lost 2020 season

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

THE FUTURE IS NOW

Baseball’s golden age of young talent takes center stage at the All-Star Game

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

HISTORIC FINISH

Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are the first teammates to win our College Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season

5 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

Chris Lemonis earned a reputation as a recruiter, but after winning a national title at Mississippi State, he will be remembered as a champion

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

CREATING HIS OWN STORY

The Brewers’ Hedbert Perez may be the son of a Venezuelan baseball icon, but the 18-year-old outfielder is forging his own identity

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

COMING TO FRUITION

Brooks Lee blossoms into a top draft prospect under his father’s tutelage at Cal Poly

6 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021

CATCHING ON QUICK

Emerging young catchers Gabriel Moreno and Francisco Alvarez were gaining helium in prospect circles for their immense offensive upside

10 mins read
Baseball America
August 2021
RELATED STORIES

The most powerful union in sports meets its match

Visitors entering the 30th-floor lobby of Major League Baseball’s old headquarters on Park Avenue in New York a few years back would immediately encounter 30 mannequins, one for each of the league’s teams. The display was impressive, but some players who visited the offices couldn’t help but notice what each mannequin was missing: its head.

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
April 04, 2022

APPLE, MLB ANNOUNCE ‘FRIDAY NIGHT BASEBALL' PACKAGE

Apple will enter the live sports coverage arena with “Friday Night Baseball.”

1 min read
AppleMagazine
March 11, 2022

MLB TELLS ATHLETICS TO EXPLORE RELOCATION IF NO NEW BALLPARK

Major League Baseball instructed the Athletics to explore relocation options as the team tries to secure a new waterfront ballpark it hopes will keep the club in Oakland long-term.

5 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

WWE NETWORK MOVE TO PEACOCK PART OF VERY BUSY SPRING FOR WWE

World Wrestling Entertainment is used to making headlines this time of year leading up to WrestleMania. But the company has more on its plate leading up to its showcase event on April 10 and 11.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
March 12, 2021

The Long Game: Covid Changed The Way We Play, Watch, Cheer

It’s the predictable rhythm of sports that draws us in.

8 mins read
AppleMagazine
March 12, 2021

SHREVEPORT Then & Now

Photos blended and used with permission by Mike and Mark Mangham of Twin Blends Photography. Vintage photos courtesy of Keith Todaro and LSUS Archives and Special Collections. For more blended photos, visit www.facebook.com/twinblendsphotography.

1 min read
The Best of Times
January 2021

ONE SHEET-COLLECTIONS

2020 BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT NEWCOMER ROOKIE CARDS

5 mins read
Sports Card Monthly
January 2021

Golden Present

Memories of Gold Dollars for the Holidays

9 mins read
COINage Magazine
December 2020 - January 2021

PRIZM DRAFT PICKS CAPTURES...THE DRAFT

2020 Panini Prizm Draft Picks Baseball looks to give collectors another option when it comes to chasing some of the earliest cards of the year’s class. Colorful parallels and autographs both appear in quantity at the hobby level with every pack averaging a signature and two Prizms.

1 min read
Sports Card Monthly
November 2020

A Bridge Over the Racial Divide

This ex-baseball player is using his background to bring understanding and advocate for change.

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
September 2020