I would say it was a reasonable projection heading into the offseason, and there have been rumors that suggested it was happening, and now we know it is happening: the minor league season below AAA is being pushed back because of the pandemic. HOWEVA, it is expected to happen. So that’s a win.
JJ Cooper at Baseball America has the scoop:
MLB has told minor league teams what was long expected: the season for many teams will not start on time. Also there are interesting details on the schedules.https://t.co/wArlmjYx7E
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) January 5, 2021
It sounds like the plan is to have AAA players participating in Spring Training at the same time as the big leaguers (which makes sense, since there’s obvious overlap throughout that process), but lower-level minor leaguers will not begin their Spring Training until after the AAA/MLB guys have cleared out.* That’ll mean the AAA season will start around the normal time (again, makes sense since you need to be calling guys up and sending guys down in that first month), but the AA and A-ball seasons will start a month or more later.
To that end, BA reports that those minor league teams have been told to expect their regular season to go as late as early October with no postseason. I would think teams are happy about that change, since it’ll mean more of the season could take place when fans could attend – critical for minor league team revenues. Official schedules won’t come out until the full and final reconfiguration of the 120 minor league teams is in place, and that might not be until February.
Notably, all of this is a small signal that MLB does expect big league Spring Training to take place at the planned time, since you couldn’t then start telling minor league teams to expect a certain schedule if that weren’t the case. Increasingly, it looks like MLB and MiLB (now operated by MLB) are legitimately expecting a full set of seasons this year, barring an additional surprising change in the trajectory of the pandemic (which, to be quite clear, would still need to improve from right now in order for all of this to proceed).
More on the plans here at the BA report. Also, a reminder that, under the new setup, the Cubs have four full-season affiliates – Iowa Cubs (AAA), Tennessee Smokies (AA), South Bend Cubs (High-A), and Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Low-A) – and rookie ball teams in Arizona and the Dominican Republic.
I’m sure I’ll get punched in the mouth soon enough, but I’ve got some optimism right now about the seasons ahead actually happening without major disruptions or fighting or alterations. Just typing that sentence … yeah, I’m an idiot, and I’m definitely going to get punched in the mouth by some leak soon.
*(Query what you do with guys who participate in AAA-level Spring Training but are not ready for AAA by the time camp breaks. I guess those guys would then participate in AA Spring Training? If so, you’d hope they get more compensation than per diem (Spring Training is usually not compensated at a regular rate). Oh, also? If the AA season starts a month+ later than the AAA season, you could see big league teams claiming they want to send certain top prospects to AA to start the year, which conveniently guarantees a delayed call-up to the big leagues should it come midseason.)