Be it 50 games, 114 games, or something in the middle, the 2020 MLB season feels slightly more likely than ever to get off the ground (especially now that the owners and players have seemingly set the outer bounds of their fight).
The minor league season, however, is a different story.
While big league rosters will still require supplemental players throughout the course of the season, taxi squads and expanded rosters will likely be the only involvement from minor league players this summer. Logistically, medically, and financially speaking, a regular season in the minor leagues is just not feasible.
But there are other options. The prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League (typically scheduled for mid-September to late October) could still happen. In fact, MLB is reportedly considering expanding that league, extending the schedule, and adding a companion league in Florida to make up for the lost time this summer:
MLB is looking at a massively expanded (and potentially longer) Arizona Fall League as well as a companion league in Florida to give MiLB prospects at-bats and innings. Story by @jnorris427 ($).https://t.co/7I26QGXFW3
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 2, 2020
In a normal AFL season, there are six teams, each with prospects from five organizations. But according to Baseball America, a new plan proposes 30 teams (one for each organization) to play at Spring Training sites in Arizona and Florida. There’s even been discussion about a second, lower-level team for each club, as well.
Generally speaking, this all sounds swell. I, for one, would be absolutely thrilled to see some of the Cubs most important prospects, too far away to contribute on the taxi squad, get some legitimate reps in this calendar year. A few specific players that come to mind: Brailyn Marquez would get a chance to work on his changeup, Miguel Amaya could continue growing behind the plate, and wouldn’t you love to see Brennen Davis prove his offensive prowess against some tougher pitching?
If you’re wondering, I’m virtually certain Nico Hoerner will land on either the expanded big league roster or taxi squad, for his glove and position even if the bat isn’t ready, despite the limited minor league experience.
Indeed, the most exciting part of this proposal is dreaming up a hodge-podge roster of the Cubs best prospects from throughout the system who wouldn’t normally cross paths (and seeing them against stud prospects from other teams). Certainly some guys would be tested against much tougher competition than they’d otherwise expect to face this season, but man those games would be fun to see play out.
Naturally, there is a financial hurdle we – and apparently the teams – can’t ignore. According to Baseball America, the usual cost per player for a typical AFL season is roughly $6,000. However, teams are typically sending just 6-7 guys. However, if they send, say, 40 players, that number will go up dramatically based on volume, alone. Unfortunately, that’s not the only consideration. The league might also be longer (which necessarily costs more money), while the associated costs of housing and feeding and training these players might increase because of the pandemic and any associated safety protocols.
Baseball America estimates that what was roughly an $84,000 bill in 2019 for most teams could cost nearly $1 million in 2020.
But I have to imagine that’s a price most teams should be willing to pay NOT to lose out on a full year of development. After all, what’s the value to the Cubs of Brailyn Marquez with three big league caliber pitches heading into 2021, as opposed to 2022? Probably quite a bit more than $1 million.