Wondering how prospect development works in 2020

No matter what happens on baseball’s major league side, the players swatting away another ownership proposal this week as if inhabited by the spirit of Dikembe Mutombo, it appears to be a certainty that the minors will remain shut down until 2021.

Fans keep wondering how the Orioles’ prospects and the rebuild process are going to be impacted.

No one truly knows.

These are unprecedented times and there’s no history to rely upon. All I can do is assume that it won’t be good.

Akin-Pitch-Tighter-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpgWhat happens with young pitchers Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann - to name just three - hasn’t been shared with the public. The Orioles certainly have ideas on how to build innings and experience without real games, but they’re waiting to find out exactly how a shortened season is going to be structured.

Teams apparently will be allowed to carry taxi squads and the Orioles could use it to keep prospects active.

“For me, the taxi squad guys would be those guys, number one because they’re 40-man roster, a bunch of them,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said earlier this week. “And the ones who aren’t are guys that could get their innings against those guys. That would be the taxi squad.”

Brocail has discussed the topic with Chris Holt, the club’s director of pitching after serving last season as minor league pitching coordinator.

“I think Holty is on top of that,” Brocail said. “For me, and this isn’t about leaving out all the other minor league guys, but you draft guys for a specific date in mind and timeline. This impedes the timeline. So for me, guys like Akin and Zimmermann, guys that were in big league camp, I’m hoping those guys that were in big league camp get to participate in it again because if those guys in our minds and upstairs’ minds are going to finish this year in the big leagues ...

“In an 83-game season, 81-game season, 79-game season, whatever it’s going to be, a lot can happen. A lot of good stuff can happen and a lot of bad stuff can happen. Hopefully a lot of bad stuff happens to a lot of good teams. I’m not saying injuries, I’m saying losses. If these are guys that can help us win games - and obviously they are or they’re predicted to be - we’re going to need those guys to be in shape. We’re going to need to make sure that they’re getting the work they needed to develop their careers forward. Because if not, it’s a wasted year. And I don’t want to waste anybody’s year.

“And that’s from our low A-ball pitchers to our prospects. There’s plenty of guys who come out of the middle of the pack that weren’t on anybody’s lists who, all of a sudden something snaps and they go, ‘Oh, this is what they’re talking about.’ And then all of a sudden you have a guy who’s getting outs and throwing harder and utilizing his delivery to a much better level to where you go, ‘Hey, let’s put our eyes on this guy.’”

Brocail has seen it happen through the years, as both a starter and reliever and later in a coaching capacity.

“I pitched with plenty of guys that made it to the big leagues that were 40-round picks, who came out of nowhere and they matured, they got better and all of a sudden they started throwing strikes, they found a breaking ball, they learned how to change speeds and why it’s important. Next thing you know these guys get eight, nine years in the big leagues,” Brocail said.

“I hate using the word ‘prospect’ with certain guys, but those guys were drafted with a thought in mind, with a date in mind.”

The next date of importance in 2020 is the opening of a second spring training, which must happen within the next few weeks. And perhaps the launching of the season by July 4.

By then, we’ll know more about the new rules attached to it.

Brocail wonders whether pitchers optioned to the minors still must stay down for a minimum 15 days.

“I don’t know if that’s changed,” he said. “So if you send a guy out is it going to be 15 days, is it going to be 10 days, is it going to be eight days? I would hope they would lessen that, the amount of days just for the protection of the players. And I’m sure that somebody has brought that up. I guarantee our trainers have thought of that.

“Concessions are going to have to be made on both sides because you’re going to have to give to get.”

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