Minor League Baseball may be arriving at the inevitable: a cancellation of its 2020 season, locking hundreds of players out of the game for the year.
But there may be hope for some of the league’s top prospects. Per Joe Doyle, agents have been informally advised that Major League Baseball will forego the Minor League Baseball season in favor of a developmental league played entirely in Spring Training locations. Additionally, the league is still reportedly set to expand rosters beyond the originally planned 26.
Minor League Baseball released a statement disputing the report.
If this were to happen, however, the proposed developmental league sounds something similar to the Arizona Fall League. Whether it would be made up of a handful of All-Star teams, a la the Fall League, or 30 teams representing their respective organizations is unknown, but roster spots will be limited either way, and many prospects will ultimately be out of a job for the year.
The Mariners would have to determine whose development takes priority over others. Major League Baseball is reportedly aiming to restart the season well after the draft, which presents the additional question of how draft picks may factor into the equation, especially after the NCAA and high school seasons were shortened.
It feels pretty safe to assume that Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, and other top Mariners prospects would be involved in any sort of developmental league. But after the usual suspects, there are some decisions to play. Do younger players such as Noelvi Marte and Jonatan Clase get a look despite never playing above summer ball, even if they would be set to face a far higher set of competition than they would have at Low-A? Or is their status in the system not enough for the Mariners to take the risk in accelerating their development?
The pitching staff would also be quite the headache for the Mariners to solve. Sam Carlson was expected to make his return to the diamond this season, but may be on his way towards a third-straight year out of game action. Seattle also has a fair amount of relievers on the cusp of Major League Baseball and may not have the ability to get them all on the field in 2020.
This is, of course, not just an issue for the Mariners. There are 29 other organizations that may have to make some unpopular decisions, risking the development of some of their top prospects.
Ultimately, any plan for the continuation of professional baseball in North America is far from set in stone. There are still many hurdles to overcome and the handling of Minor League Baseball is going to be one of the biggest. Considering how often the league’s plans have changed, it feels like we’re still quite a ways away from any sort of resolution.