The question has been asked a few times: What happens to Orioles prospects if there is no minor league season? Will they get in games and get some needed reps on the mound and at-bats?
Well, if it is deemed safe, almost certainly the answer is yes. No doubt, the Orioles will find a way for their minor leaguers to get those reps if they get cleared to take the field at some point this summer or fall.
I would feel really badly for all the minor league teams and their fans if there is no minor league season. First of all, fans in all cities would miss out on a summer staple of going to games and taking in fireworks displays, other promotions and the charm of games in the minors. The teams, their employees and their management, already being badly hurt from a business standpoint, would love some home games to at least generate some revenue this year. Even if that’s only 20, 30 or 40 home games.
But the O’s front office, perhaps through the guidance from Major League Baseball, may have to find a way to get players on the field without the usual games. Could teams have their minor leaguers together at their spring training sites to play intrasquad games? Will it be safe to have 150 or more players together under one roof and spread out on several fields?
Another possibility is a smaller group of players - perhaps the most promising prospects and/or those most in need of those innings and at-bats - gather at those sites. That would leave out a lot of players, but it could come to that.
Baseball America proposed something interesting this week. Here is an excerpt from this article:
“We propose taking the Arizona Fall League from six teams to 15, with another 15 in a Florida Fall League. Each club could field its own 30-35 player roster and play at their own spring training stadium, giving each MLB team a chance to provide an excellent developmental experience for a significant number of the team’s best prospects.
“Such a format would create the greatest assemblage of prospects we’ve ever seen. Normally, the AFL has a significant number of top hitting prospects, but very few of the top pitchers because most of them have already reached their innings limits for the year. The limited roster spots also squeeze out some prospects.
“This year, every pitcher and hitter will be struggling to get anywhere close to a normal workload, even if baseball manages to resume this summer. Logically, teams would want to get almost all their best prospects playing time in this newly developed super league unless those players have already graduated to the majors.
As Baseball America points out, this could garner much more interest than the AFL does. In Arizona, several teams are represented on each club. Under this plan, one team would be made up entirely of O’s prospects. There would be some interest to see how the O’s youngsters stacked up against other American League East teams, for instance.
Money always comes into play. In affiliated baseball, each team takes care of its own stadium, concessions, gameday workers, etc. How would that work for this plan? Each team would likely have to foot the bill.
This also leaves out 100 or so players from getting on the field. Sure, it would be nice to see top prospects in such a format, but what about the dozens of others? This is better than no Minor League Baseball at all, but I would guess all teams would want a way to get all their players on the field. Even if meant two months of intrasquad games. But that would still cost money. All of those players would need to be housed and fed.
But maybe the logistics could get worked out. Maybe the top 30 or 40 players get some games in this year or maybe organizations and MLB find a way to get all their minor leaguers playing, even if it is not in the usual leagues and cities.
This would one way to get players on the field. It is safe. But having spent a lot of years getting to know so many good people in front offices on the farm around Birdland, my biggest hope is they get their teams and some revenue back.